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Pieta michelangelo

"No parent should bury their child", some say.

Well, sometimes that cannot be avoided. Everyone is liable to die, and while it's more likely that parents will die before their children, sometimes the opposite happens: a father, a mother, a Parental Substitute, etc. will be unable to stop the death of their son, daughter, ward, etc. and then will have to deal with the consequences.

The reasons, logically, can vary. At times, the "child" figure can succumb to illness. At others, they're done in by other living beings (humans, animals, aliens, etc.) in different circumstances. At others, they do themselves in. The key here is that this does NOT happen thanks to the parents' actions: either someone/something else does the younger person in. And the parents' reactions can vary as well, from depression to Despair Event Horizon crossing, to seeking Revenge against anyone who took the child away forever, etc.

Compare Offing the Offspring, where the parental figure is the one who does the child one in. Can be potentially worse for The Ageless (if they have or adopt kids).

Logically, it's Truth in Television and an Awful Truth that all parents can potentially face at one or another point.

As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.

Examples of Outliving One's Offspring include:

Anime and Manga

  • Astro Boy's whole plot is kicked off when Dr. Tenma's son Tobio dies in an accident and he creates Astro as a Replacement Goldfish.
  • In the Cutey Honey first anime, Dr. Kisaragi used his dead daughter's image as a basis for Honey herself. Unlike Dr. Tenma, he loved Honey all the same and tells her so before dying.
  • In the Nanoha franchise, Precia Testarossa completely lost it when her daughter Alicia died of illness. She first created Fate as a clone of her (and ended up abusing her for not being a copy of her "sister"), then centered her Mad Scientist plans on finding a way to actually revive her.
  • Private Actress:
    • The first chapter has Shiho being hired by a rich man's secretary to impersonate a girl named Miyuu who's supposed to have died with her mother in terrible and weird circumstances, and whose body was never found. The girl's father, Sendou, is about to die of illness and his biggest wish is to see Miyuu one last time... so the secretary asks Shiho to pretend to be a living Miyuu so he'll die happy. The man does realize that Shiho isn't Miyuu, but doesn't tell her to her face; after his death, aside of her pay she's is given a poetry book and a letter where he explains this and thanks Shiho for being by his side in his last days.
    • Another case plays with it and Reincarnation: an artisan's eldest daughter was the victim of a Serial Killer 16 years ago and he pretty much went mad as a result (plus he's implied to suffer memory gaps due to brain damage after an accident), so the man's now-adult youngest daughter hires Shiho to pretend that she is the reincarnation of her late sister and help the emotionally-shattered father to deal with the cruel loss. Not only it works, but they find the killer and capture him.
    • The Boarding School case involves the mysterious death of a junior high-aged Cute Bookworm, Fuyuka Sakuragi, whose parents suspect that she was literally bullied to death. So they hire Shiho to infiltrate the school and see if they're right. They are. And the culprit is the local Alpha Bitch, Kana Juumonji.
  • Later in GoLion / Lion Voltron, two episodes involve dealing with the Team Dad Raible/Coran's biggest regret: the deaths/disappearances of both his wife and his infant son during the fall of Altea/Arus. Especially when a boy named Saint/Garret shows up and many leads point at him being said son, giving the team hope that the trope was averted... It wasn't: the guy's son had truly died/been spirited to Another Dimension, and the boy was either a Galra spy (GL) or an android (Voltron)
    • At the very end, it turns out that Witch Honerva was the mother of Emperor Daibazaal. One finds out after Daibazaal's son Sincline has killed him (or better said, succeeded on getting him killed by the good guys), which gets her mad enough to betray her grandson. Logically, this is censored in Voltron.
    • Halfway through the series, one of the Beastman was created from a woman from the Gorgon race, who had just lost her child and her people due to The Plague. Her maternal instincts were still intact, however, and she ends up bonding with Hiroshi.
  • Digimon franchise:
    • In the original, Koushiro Izumi was adopted by his uncle and aunt not only because of his parents' deaths, but because right around the same time said aunt and uncle lost their own baby son. They kept it a secret to not needlessly hurt him, but Koushiro found out anyway; later, they explain everything and say that they love him for their own person, not as a Replacement Goldfish.
    • In 02, Ken Ichijouji's older brother Osamu was fatally hit by a car. Not only this doesn't "fix" Ken's The Unfavorite deal, but it saddles him with guilt since they had a huge fight few before his death.
  • It regularly happens in the Gundam metaseries, of course:
    • In the original one, Sovereign Degwin Zabi lost his third son Saslo in an assassination attempt (the same one that heavily scarred his second son Dozle) years before the series took place, and the death of his youngest son Garma in the war is what makes him fall in despair.
    • In Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, Nicol Amalfi's parents Yuri and Romina are seen mourning for him after he dies in battle.
  • MANY Sympathetic Murderers from Detective Conan fit here, killing their Asshole Victims for having caused the deaths of their children.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist deals with this in all its incarnations:
    • Pinako Rockbell's son and daughter-in-law, Winry's parents Yuriy and Sarah, were doctors who died in the Ishvalan War. The exact circumstances differ depending on the version: in the 2003 anime, Roy was forced to execute them and ended up heavily traumatized over it; whereas in both the manga and the Brotherhood anime, they were accidentally killed by Scar, who couldn't control his newfound alchemy powers (and had Scar not done it, Kimblee would've executed them anyway under orders of the higher-ups).
    • Izumi and Sieg's son was a stillborn, and Izumi's reason to be an Ill Girl is that she lost her reproductive organs when she tried an Equivalent Exchange to revive him. She also tells the Elrics that she empathizes with their desire to bring back their Missing Mom due to this.
    • In the 2003 anime, Envy is the Homunculus "born" from Dante and Hohenheim's attempt to recover their lost son, whereas Wrath is the "product" of Izumi's own try to do the same.
  • Mitsuru Adachi uses this trope at least twice as Wham! Episodes:
    • In Touch, Kazuya Uesugi gets fatally hit by a car 1/3 into the story. This means Shingo and Haruko outlive their kid, and his older twin brother Tatsuya becomes an Angsty Surviving Twin.
    • Everything in Cross Game changes when Wakaba, the Tsukishima family's second daughter and Kou's girlfriend, dies in a summer camp accident at the end of the first part.
  • The plot of Ano Hana begins years after the death of Meiko/Menma. Her parents Manabu and Irene have quite the difficulties handling their grief over her. Especially the latter.
  • In Ooku, several of Ienari's kids die. His wife Shige totally loses it when not only her son perishes, but she's accused of having killed him via poisoning his sweets to frame her husband's mistress O-Shiga. The real killer is Ienari's mother Harusada. And it turns out Shige is not as crazy as she pretends to be, and in fact both she AND O-Shiga are planning their Revenge...
  • In Dragon Ball Z, Vegeta winds up losing his son, Trunks, twice. First, after Future Trunks was blown in half by Super Perfect Cell with a Death Beam, and second when Kid Buu destroyed the Earth with his Planet Buster Bomb attack (taking Gohan, Goten and Piccolo with it, additionally affecting Goku, since the former two are his sons). It hits harder watching this happen to Vegeta, since we see his genuine response in witnessing Trunks's death both times - going ballistic, futilely attacking Cell despite him being leagues stronger than Vegeta, and chewing out Goku for opting to save Mr. Satan, Bee and Dende over their children instead. Though to be fair, Vegeta was dead himself when the younger Trunks died. And he'd already died once before Trunks had even been conceived.
  • Jo Jo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • Erina Pendleton-Joestar outlived her son George, an Ace Pilot from World War I, when he was murdered by one of Dio Brando's last zombies. For a little while near the end of Battle Tendency, she believed that she'd outlived her grandson Joseph as well. It was fortunately averted with the comical reveal of Joseph's survival.
    • When Noriaki Kakyoin dies in the final battle against DIO and The World, among his many final thoughts are his still-alive parents back home in Japan, before his mind drifts to the final question that puzzled him.

Art

  • Pictured above: The Pietá by Michelangelo, representing Mary holding on to her son Jesus's corpse after he's taken down from the cross.

Comic Books

Fairy Tales

Fanfics

  • If I Could Start Again has Odin and Frigga's second son, Baldur, having died an hour after birth. As the author points out, Frigga logically had to be publicly pregnant with a child that would die young as no one called out Loki suddenly appearing out of nowhere.

Film

  • Though she's not his biological mother, Aunt Cass outlives Tadashi in Big Hero 6.
  • It's not really focused on much, but Marlin in Finding Nemo outlives all but one of his hundreds of unborn children.
  • In Knives Out, Harlan's mother is still around to grieve him. For reference, Harlan was 85 years old at the time of his passing.
  • The Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Miriam Sharpe in Captain America: Civil War outlived her son Charlie, who was among the casualties of Ultron's attack. As was Zemo's son: it's what drives his feud against the Avengers.
    • With the exception of Nebula, Thanos outlives the entirety of the Black Order in Avengers: Infinity War.
    • In Avengers: Endgame, all three of Hawkeye's kids fall victim to the Snap. Likewise, Past!Thanos is the last of the time travellers to disintegrate, once again outlasting the Black Order.
  • The Rise of Skywalker reveals that, during the Time Skip between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, Emperor Palpatine's son was killed, on the orders of his not-quite-dead father... and Palpatine fully intends to outlive his granddaughter as well.
    • It goes even further, as Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith #25 established that Palpatine is also Anakin's father. Take that into account and he's outlived a lot of descendants. Even more if one considers Snoke to be his offspring.
  • Star Trek:
  • Tallahassee lost his son to the zombies in Zombieland.
  • In The Godfather, Sonny Corleone is gunned down in an ambush while his father Vito is recovering from his own gunshot wounds. Finding out that Sonny's dead is what spurs Vito to make peace with the rest of the mafia families.
    • In The Godfather: Part III - The Death of Michael Corleone, an assassin shoots at Michael... but kills his daughter Mary instead.
  • Shown in Anastasia, in which Dowager Empress Maria outlives both her son, Tsar Nicholas II, and four of his five children. Truth in Televisionthe real-life Dowager Empress was in Paris at the time of the Russian Revolution, and thus survived it.
  • In Pinocchio, Geppetto goes through this when Pinocchio is apparently killed by Monstro the Whale while pulling his father to safety. Fortunately, this is subverted as the Blue Fairy rewards Pinocchio's heroism by reviving him and turning him into a real boy.
  • This is revealed to be part of Manny's backstory in Ice Age. His wife and child were killed by cavemen, and that's why he's become so bitter and cynical.

Literature

  • The Bible, logically, has multiple examples. The most famous ones include: the deaths of all the Egyptian first-born sons as part of the Tenth Plague, Naomi losing her two sons (one of them being Ruth's first husband), the resurrection of a boy whose widowed mom is friends with the prophet Elisha, the deaths of at least three of David's sons (Amnon, Absalom and his unnamed first kid with Bathsheba), the ten brothers tortured to death by the Persian King Antioch's guards in front of their mother before she's killed as well, the Massacre of the Innocents where all the boys under two years old around Bethlehem were executed under Herod's orders, the death and raising of Jairus's Ill Girl daughter, Jesus's own death on the cross in front of his mother Mary, etc.
  • Harry Potter:
    • The Diggories outlive poor Cedric in The Goblet of Fire. There's a heartbreaking scene at the end where Harry must relay the news to them, and Cedric's dad Amos is pretty much sobbing through it.
    • Fred Weasley is among the casualties of the Battle of Hogwarts, invoking this for both Arthur and Molly.
  • In the Star Wars Legends continuity, Han and Leia outlive two of their three children, Anakin and Jacen, with Anakin dying in the Yuuzhan Vong war and Jacen getting offed by their one surviving child, Jaina, after his Face Heel Turn.
  • In the Bad Future portion of A Christmas Carol, Bob Cratchit and his wife outlive their youngest son Tiny Tim because Scrooge refused to give Bob enough money to pay for the lifesaving medical care that Tim needed. Fortunately, this vision helps lead to Scrooge's Heel Face Turn and, in the real world, Tim ends up surviving.

Live-Action TV

  • King George III in the third series of Blackadder.
    • Subverted in the finale of the first series. It looks like Richard and Gertrude will outlive Edmund, who is barely clinging to life, but Percy poisoned the whole vat of wine, not just a specific set of goblets, and the royal court dropped dead after toasting Edmund.
  • The Punisher's crusade in Daredevil is started by the death of his family, his daughter in particular.
  • In Doctor Who, it's mentioned that the entirety of the Doctor's biological family is dead, presumably including his children. Gallifrey later shows up safe and sound, but there's no mention of his family.
  • In Game of Thrones, all three of Cersei and Jaime's children die.
  • Riverdale:
    • Clifford and Penelope Blossom outlive poor Jason. Because Clifford killed him. When Clifford, and later his identical twin brother Claudius, die, poor Nana Blossom outlives both of her sons.
    • Midge Klump is killed by the Black Hood in the latter half of Season 2 leaving her mother to grieve in the worst way possible.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • In the third season episode, "The Offspring", Data constructs an offspring, only for her positronic matrix to suffer a cascade failure.
    • The seventh season episode, "The Dark Page", reveals this to be the case for Lwaxana Troi.
  • As J'onn J'onzz is the Last of His Kind on Supergirl, he's outlived his daughters.
  • RoboCop: The Series sees Alex Murphy's parents alive and dealing with this, as they're unaware their son was resurrected as the titular cyborg. "Corporate Raiders" ended with Alex's father, Russell, learning the truth and Alex swearing him to keep it a secret.

Music

  • Luis Alberto Spinetta's song "Era en Abril" ("It happened in April") is from the perspective of a couple struggling to deal with the miscarriage of their son.

Mythology

  • Classical Mythology:
    • Niobe, with her seven sons and seven daughters, boasted of being greater than the goddess Leto who only had two children. As Disproportionate Retribution, Leto had Artemis and Apollo kill all of Niobe's children.
    • In The Tragedy of Herakles, the eponymous hero is driven mad by Hera, leading him to kill everyone around him, including his children.

Video Games

Visual Novels

Western Animation

Real Life

  • Enzo Ferrari famously outlived his son Alfredo "Dino" Ferrari, who passed at 24. In his honour, Ferrari named an engine he'd worked on, the Dino, after him.
  • Pro-wrestling legend Fritz Von Erich had six sons - and outlived them all except for his second son, Kevin.
    • His oldest son, Jack, was killed in a freak accident at the tender age of six in 1959.
    • His third son, David, died in 1984 after suffering a heart attack in his hotel room while on tour in Japan.
      • David also outlived his daughter, Natasha, who died in infancy.
    • His fifth son, Mike, committed suicide in 1987, overdosing on painkillers. Mike never wanted to be a wrestler, but was pressured into the business by Fritz, and the pressure only got worse after David died and Mike was handpicked to be his replacement.
    • His youngest son, Chris, committed suicide in 1991, shooting himself in the head with a hunting rifle. Unlike Mike, Chris really wanted to be a wrestler, but due to his small size (he was listed as 5 feet, 7 inches and weighing 201 pounds) and a medical history of asthma, he had little chance of succeeding.
    • His fourth son, Kerry (the most successful of the boys, as he defeated Ric Flair to be the NWA World's Heavyweight Champion in 1984), committed suicide in 1993, shooting himself in the chest with a sawn-off shotgun. His marriage was falling apart and he had been arrested twice for drug possession. According to Bret Hart, Kerry had been planning for months to take his own life.
  • Eric Clapton's son Connor died in 1991 at the age of four, after falling out of an open bedroom window on the 53rd floor of a Manhattan apartment building. This was the basis for the song "Tears in Heaven".
  • Happens in places with high infant mortality rates.
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