There is no specific word in the English language to describe a parent who has lost a child. A wife without her husband is a widow. A husband without a wife is a widower. A child bereft of parents is an orphan. A parent whose child has predeceased them … is an undefined hollow of hurt.
Miscarriage. Sudden infant death. Suicide. Illness. Accident. Death steals a child from this world and then robs the remaining parents of an expressed identity.
Yet God, himself, knows such devastating grief. God was Father when Jesus carried a cross and when he was nailed to its rough beams. God remained Father when Jesus cried out his last words and when he released his final breath. God continued as Father when the still body of his Son was laid in a tomb.
God lives on today as Father of a risen Son who brings every parent the hope that a child can live again. Even when death leaves them unidentified in grief.
What do you call a Heavenly Father who sacrifices his Son for the universe? For you and for me? Father. Still Father. Into our hollow of hurt, he still comes.
When there are no words in the glossary of grief to describe the pain of loss, God names himself Father and calls us his children. No matter what other names we are called — or uncalled in grief — God always calls us children, lavishing us with love.
“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that’s what we are!” (1 John 3:3)