The Grief of Chinese Parents Who Lose Their Only Children


Note: The bombings at the Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15, struck close to home for us. Our team is based in Boston; our office is just a block away from where the attacks took place. Thank you for praying for our city and particularly for the victims and their families. Please continue to hold them in prayer.


Last week we learned that the attacks in Boston brought immeasurable grief to a family in China.


Lu Lingzi, a 23-year-old Boston University graduate student, was one of three people killed in the Boston Marathon attacks on April 15. She was a native of Shenyang, China, and she was her parents’ only child.


ABC News described her parents’ grief after speaking with Lu’s father:


Speaking through sobs, Lu's father told ABC News in a telephone interview today from his home in northeast China, "This is an extremely painful time for our family."


He said the family has declined several interview requests because, "Every time we speak about this, it is like a dagger in our hearts."


Lu's father said he is in the process of obtaining a visa so he can travel to the United States to claim his daughter's body. She was the only child in a family that adhered to China's one-child policy, he said.


Lu’s parents had scraped together savings in order to help her pursue a graduate degree in statistics in Boston. Her father told of her numerous academic achievements with pride, making it clear that she had embraced every opportunity her parents’ sacrifices had given to her.


Like other only children in China, Lingzi Lu embodied all of her parent’s future hopes and their legacy. She was their promise for wellbeing in old age, too—in China, a child is a parent’s “Social Security”.


Now, Lu’s parents are childless. As Dr. Toni Falbo, a professor at the University of Texas, told ABC: “Everyone is devastated by the loss of a child, but this is like pulling the rug out from under them, without any obvious sense of recovery.”


Sadly, Lingzi Lu’s parents aren’t the only ones in China to face an uncertain future after losing an only child.


Chinese State Media Discusses Plight of Parents who Lose an Only Child


Late last month, over a hundred bereaved parents gathered in Shanghai to release balloons in memory of their children. The Shanghai Daily, a branch of China’s state-run media, covered the occasion and noted the reason for their unusual circumstance.


These parents experience grief, but they also struggle with an added frustration unique to China.  They are among at least 7,000 couples in Shanghai who have lost the only child they were permitted to have under the nation’s One-Child Policy.


According to Tang Chenjia, a social worker who helps such parents, most would have had more children if not for the policy. The Shanghai Daily wrote:


“We hope these parents could turn sorrow into hope through prayer," said Tang Chenjia, a social worker with Shanghai Star Harbor Center, an organization that helps parents whose children died. Tang said the parents usually turn pessimistic. Some became shut-ins or lose their health while others become neighborhood troublemakers.


Tang’s organization is asking the Chinese government to do more for parents who lose their only child. “Most of the parents are in their 50s and 60s, and had only one child due to China's one-child policy,” Tang told the Shanghai Daily.


Right now, the city government gives a stipend to bereaved parents of only children. Yet many do not meet the strict eligibility requirements—for instance, the Shanghai Daily noted that parents are only eligible for a stipend if their child dies after reaching 16 years of age. Even parents who do get this stipend find that it does little to ensure their care in old age. Shanghai gives parents a one-time payment of 5,000 RMB (about $810 USD), and then 150 RMB (about $24 USD) monthly per parent once the parents reach retirement age. In Shanghai, where the cost of living is soaring, the Star Harbor Center is pushing for the government to more—and it’s encouraging to see that the state media is publicizing their efforts.


Please keep Lu Lingzi’s family, and every other bereaved Chinese family, in your prayers.


Top Image: Parents release balloons in honor of their lost children. (Shanghai Daily)


by Kat Lewis, All Girls Allowed

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