The Death of a Child

The Ultimate Curveball of a Parent's Lifetime

Grandma's Definition of Curveball

I interviewed my grandmother over the phone. When asked what she felt a curveball was, she told me that she thought a curveball is an unexpected event that you never planned for, and that has significant impact on your life. My grandmother’s ultimate curveball was the death of her son, and my uncle, Mitch. This event had a huge impact on my family.

Life Trajectory

A person’s life expectancy as a baby boomer was set at around 70-80. My uncle died at age 33 of a heart attack. This was not expected. Heart attacks normally aren’t expected, but this wasn’t even in the realm of possibility for my family. My dad and his family were completely blindsided.

Sociocultural Expectations

No parent expects to bury their child. My grandparents had to help to plan their child’s funeral. This violates all sorts of sociocultural expectations, because society expects the children to bury their parents. This event also affected many more people than just my grandparents. My dad expected to be able to get advice from his older brother for many years. My cousins expected their father to live to see them go to college and get married and have kids of their own.

Cohort Effects

It is hard to determine whether my uncle's death had any cohort or historical causes because it was a non-normative event for the Baby Boomer cohort, most of which are retiring right about now. If anything, this was caused by sociocultural pressures of fatherhood and of eating unhealthy foods. It was a tragedy that could not have been foreseen.