LETTER: Parents who are loved and lost

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The Independent Online
From Dr Brian Herd

Sir: James Fenton states ("The death of a mother, the pride of a child", 4 September): "while every child dreads losing a parent, nothing gives a child greater pleasure than the thought that a parent has achieved something extraordinary". I suggest both statements are misleading.

Happily, children rarely contemplate the possibility of losing a parent. Security and continuity of love are taken for granted. The reverse is undeniably the case; most parents say the loss of a child is their worst fear. The pain of bereavement is no less when the son or daughter is an adult.

I question, too, how much pleasure a child derives, in childhood, from a parent achieving extraordinary feats. Most children prefer their parents to be as much like those of their peers as possible.

Climbers climb because they must, and no one should condemn them for making their choice. They have the ability to assess the risks of a climb, but then suppress the thought that an accident really might happen to them. A previous successful escape from a perilous situation reinforces this delusion. When disaster strikes, reflections that they died doing what they loved, or that they achieved a difficult climb, give little comfort to those who loved and lost them.

Yours faithfully,

Brian Herd



5 September