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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, Colonel Roy Mustang 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:

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.
    • Professor Callaghan's belief that he's this is what led to his villainous schemes.
  • 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. Harlan himself outlasted his son Neil.
  • 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 or at very least had a heavy hand in his conception. Take that into account and he's outlived a lot of his descendants. Even more if one considers Snoke to be his offspring. Only two of his descendants managed to outlast Palpatine and one died only minutes after him.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Casper's parents in Casper. His death drove his scientist father to build a machine that grabbed his late son's spirit.
  • The Man in the Iron Mask has Athos' son Raoul subjected to The Uriah Gambit by King Louis XIV. Naturally, Athos is pissed off at the King for it.

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.
  • Gone with the Wind:
    • Scarlett and Rhett lose their child Eugenie aka Bonnie Blue, who breaks her neck in a riding accident. Since Bonnie was her parents' favorite kid, both took the loss badly - Scarlett accused Rhett of killing Bonnie for not putting his foot down regarding her riding safety, Rhett drowned his pain in alcohol.
    • There are several other examples, such as Dr. Meade and Hugh Calvert losing their children to war.
  • In The Hunger Games, the very nature of the eponymous competition invokes this for the parents of the losing children or teens, such as Rue's parents, but it prominently happens in Mockingjay to Mrs. Everdeen after her youngest daughter Primrose alias Prim is killed. Even worse, it's later revealed that her death was NOT an accident.

Live-Action TV

  • On Earth-2 in Arrow, Robert Queen survived the shipwreck while Oliver didn't.
  • 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.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In the post-2005 show, 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 with Clara saying in the Series 8 finale that all of the Doctor's children and grandchildren are missing and/or presumed dead.
    • It was authorial intent in the Doctor Who Expanded Universe that Marnal was the Master's father and thus victim to this during the time of the Eighth Doctor (not that Marnal ever gave a damn about his embarrassment of a child) before the Master came back to life. The establishment that the Master had a daughter in the television series suggests that this is the case for them as well, given the Time War.
    • Ashildir/Me in "The Woman Who Lived" outlived every child she had, losing one to the bubonic plague.
  • 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:
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
      • Technically happens to Counselor Troi in "The Child." Ian was a humanoid avatar used by an alien everyone regards him as having passed when the alien departs.
      • 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, "Dark Page", reveals this to be the case for Lwaxana Troi.
      • This trope resolves the conflict in "Journey's End." Having lost two of his sons to the Federation-Cardassian war, Gul Evek will not start another war and risk losing the third.
    • Star Trek: Picard:
      • The fourth episode sees the death of Icheb, Seven of Nine's adopted son, with her being forced to pull a Mercy Kill on him.
      • The seventh episode inflicted this fate on Deanna once again, with her and Riker's son, Thaddeus, succumbing to a silicon-based virus.
  • 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

  • God of War is kicked off because Ares tricked Kratos into killing not only his wife Lysandra, but also his daughter Calliope. In the PS4 game, Kratos' companion is his young son Atreus (whose mother/Kratos' Second Love Faye passed away some time ago) and he's quite determined to not let that happen again.
  • Injustice: Gods Among Us has a similar set-up, with Joker turning his Joker Gas on Superman, driving the maddened Kryptonian to kill Lois and their unborn child.
  • In the prologue of The Last of Us, Joel's daughter Sarah is shot and killed by a panicking soldier. The experience (as well as two decades of surviving the Zombie Apocalypse) has hardened him into a rather bitter and cynical person by the start of the game.
  • In Saints Row 2, Kazuo Akuji ends up outliving his son Shogo, after the latter attempts a suicidal attack on the Boss and Johnny at a funeral that ends with him getting Buried Alive. Kazuo is later fought as the final boss of the Ronins storyline, but he doesn't seem all that bothered by his son's death.
  • In Mortal Kombat, Hanzo Hasashi's young son Satoshi was murdered alongside his mother Harumi and the rest of the Shirai Ryu. His death is one of the many reasons why Hanzo, now Scorpion, is literally Hell-bent on getting his Revenge.
  • In Tekken, Dr. Bosconovitch created the Robot Girl Alisa basing himself on his dead daughter, also named Alisa.

Visual Novels

Western Animation

  • Family Guy: Peter Griffin outlasted his child Bertram who was killed by Stewie and Brian. Not that Peter was ever aware of Bertram.
    • As a result of Black Comedy and Negative Continuity, Peter and Lois have outlived Peter Griffin Jr. (shaken too hard by Peter as way to get him to stop crying), a girl (implied to have been killed by Meg when Chris was very young) and Dave Griffin (Stewie's twin whom he killed in the womb).
  • Grand Pear (Applejack's maternal grandfather) and Granny Smith (Applejack's paternal grandmother) in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. To be fair, Applejack's parents are never outright said to have passed, but it's pretty heavily implied.
  • In The Simpsons, both Homer and Abe express the hope that they'll outlive their children.
  • Kenny's parents. Frequently.
  • Much to White Diamond's shock and horror in Steven Universe, Pink Diamond (AKA Rose Quartz) is confirmed to have been Killed Off for Real via Death by Childbirth, fulfilling this trope.
  • Tales of Arcadia:
    • In Trollhunters, Gunmar is enraged to learn that Bular died before him. It's also said that Nancy Domzalski lost her son to a cruise ship that sank, leaving her to raise Toby.
    • In 3Below, Varvatos Vex's backstory has his whole family dying in a terrorist attack on Satellite-9.
  • Queen Honerva (AKA Witch Haggar) in Voltron: Legendary Defender suffered from The Dark Side Will Make You Forget for most of the series. When she gets her memories back, and pulls the Sincline mecha out of the Quintessence Field, she's heartbroken to find that her son Lotor is dead, and completely loses it.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, before the start of the series, Uncle Iroh's son Lu Ten died during the siege of Ba Sing Se. Iroh took his death so hard that he abandoned the siege and retired from the Fire Nation army. Incidentally, this event led to his Heel Face Turn in his backstory, and to him being VERY protective of his nephew Zuko.
  • Vandal Savage in Young Justice has outlived many of the children he's sired over his 50,000 years of life, either because they fell in battle, they didn't inherit his immortality or they got Age Without Youth and he pulled a Mercy Kill on them.
  • Across the Multiverse in Rick and Morty, many Ricks have outlived their Mortys, sometimes even killing them.
    • The Tragic Villain Psycho for Hire Jaguar outlived his beloved daughter. Revealing this was the last mistake that the Agency Director ever made.
    • Morty is very likely a victim of this given that his half-Gazorpian child, Morty Jr., aged to becoming an old man in less than 24 hours.
  • Pedro in Solar Opposites is killed by the Duke's forces while his father Enrique lives on.

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".
  • William Shakespeare and his wife Anne buried their son Hamnet at the tender age of eleven years old.
  • When Freddie Mercury passed in 1991, both his parents were still alive.
  • Percy and Mary Shelley famously outlived three of their four children.
  • Happens in places with high infant mortality rates.
  • Emperor Franz Josef I of Austria Hungary and his wife Empress Elisabeth aka Sissi lost two of their four kids: Sophie died of tifus at age 2, Rudolf (also the heir to the throne) died at age 30 in the confusing Mayerling Incident. Both deaths greatly traumatized Sissi, especially Sophie's.
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