One of the most tragic, wretchedly heartbreaking traumas for parents is the loss of a child, either neonatal or during childhood, adolescence, or even in their adult years. It’s just not supposed to happen! It feels like a betrayal; it can cause unspeakable suffering.
I was struck by a column by Alison Gopnik titled “A Modern Miracle: The Survival of Children.” She plunges right into the good news:
“Here is a truly remarkable, miraculous, literally death-defying fact about my life. I’ve had three children, four grandchildren, nine nephews and nieces, and six great-nephews and nieces. At 66, I’ve never experienced the tragedy of a child’s death.”
She goes on to provide some history:
“For almost all of human history—for peasants and princes, hunter-gatherers, and city-dwellers, poor and rich—there was a numbing, consistent pattern: one quarter of children died in infancy, and half died before adolescence.”
This began to change around 1850, and today, in developed countries, less than one percent of children die. Ms. Gopnik points to a very interesting aspect of this. She writes:
“I don’t think we have really appreciated the psychological impact of this change and how rapidly and radically it improved human life. We all throughout our lives suffer from trauma, and most go through life with untreated trauma. This is one trauma that is not so prevalently devastating and psychologically crippling in today’s world with the blessings and ‘miracles’ of modern medicine.”