130 Little Cries~Study 4. Responses to Fatalities after They Occurred: How We Should Think about Intants’ Deaths (2)~

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2. Responses of Parents to Fatalities

One of our greatest tragedies is to lose a child. Sudden deaths, in particular, produce in the parents’ minds sorrow, anger and many other complex emotions.

After the death of baby Keiichi, a parents’ association was organized at Takenozuka Baby Center. Mr. and Mrs. Azuma joined the association as special members in the hope of making it a better nursery. While they were happy that the death of their son led to the association which would certainly help improve the nursery, they nonetheless felt a great sense of alienation and isolation because their son was no longer at the nursery.

Facing the reality that they cannot get their child back no matter what they do, these parents would like to find out, above anything else, under what specific circumstances their child died. To such a question, most nurseries fail to provide a satisfactory answer.

Without being able to obtain a convincing account of their child’s death, and facing the nursery’s refusal to admit culpability for fear of claim for damages, there is not a slim chance that their wish to make their child’s brief life and his death socially meaningful will ever be realized.

The reality of today’s society and its childcare system is such that parents raising questions about a fatality are viewed as asking for compensation for damages rather than questioning the quality of childcare. This reality makes the tragedy doubly hard to bear for the parents.

Mothers in particular are blamed for working for income, leaving their children to the care of others. Whether the parents go to court for damages or settle out of court, they become socially isolated as they receive little understanding support from people around them. This situation is vividly described by Mr. and Mrs. Izuta who are continuing their court fight in Yamagata City.

The husband and wife who are ignorant of legal technicalities continue the court battle, bickering and consoling each other at different times, having no one but the lawyer to turn to for help. This is a long and hard journey. Nevertheless we keep going because of the anger and sorrow over our child’s death and our desire to find something meaningful. We feel helpless because many people cheer us on, but no one gives us concrete support.

Once the parents receive monetary compensation for damages, they lose their voice vis-a-vis society and the nursery as the case is considered settled.

When someone asked Keiichi-chan’s mother “Do you want money that bad?” while she was struggling to collect signatures on a court petition, she momentarily felt she lost all the energy in her body. This episode attests to the cold reality of public mentality which is harsh to parents who seek to find only consolation in making the death of their child socially meaningful.

What should parents who lost their child do? It may be cruel for us to ask of them, but the important thing for them is to demand that the nursery in question account for the course of events leading to the death, the cause of death, and problems in childcare practices at the nursery. This should be a minimum requirement.

Furthermore, they should persistently explore ways to improve childcare practices if they are to make the death of their child meaningful. It would be an onerous task, but that is the only way they can give meaning to the brief life and sudden death of their child.

The responses of other parents who had their children in a nursery where a fatality occurred were generally poor. Learning that there occurred a fatality, they should naturally be expected to ask the nursery to explain why the fatality occurred, if there are problems in the nursery’s childcare practices, and what aspects need be improved. Unfortunately, however, we learned of no such movement. Neither was there the development of a widespread movement to support the parents who lost their child.

It may be that this timid reaction of other parents to a fatality arise from the fact that they have entrusted their children to the care of the nursery. In other words, they cannot negotiate with the nursery from a position of strength because the nursery holds their children as hostages, so to speak. Nevertheless, we think they should make a necessary minimum demand of the nursery because it is the matter of safeguarding the life of their own children.

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