How do parents adjust after leaving a child in a hot car?

I can not imagine the anguish one must feel upon discovering they have done the unthinkable: killed their own child by leaving him or her in a car on a hot day. Having two little ones myself, I can’t even fathom how I would even go on after such a thing.

Anyway, I just saw a headline about some left-in-car deaths already this year and it got me to thinking about how people *do *adjust in the months and years afterward. I imagine these people aren’t all self-absorbed monsters or drug-addled zombies, most of them, I would think are just regular people who messed up beyond belief. Anyone know of any stories out there that they could link to that discuss the aftereffects of this? Anyone have any first-hand knowledge of someone who did this? I couldn’t find anything via Google aside from reports of this sort of thing happening.

ETA: I put this in GQ because I’m looking for actual links, but perhaps this would be better suited for another forum?

If you haven’t seen it, this Pulitzer Prize winning article is required reading on the subject.

Here’s a (Pulitzer Prize winning) Washington Post article Fatal Distraction that does about as good a job as is possible of answering the question. Warning: long, engaging, heart-rending.

(This took forever to post, and was scooped in the meantime.)

I saw a fiction book in the review pile at work a few months ago that dealt with this subject, but I can’t remember the title, and Google hasn’t helped. Any ideas?

I have to say, as a parent, that was one of the toughest things I have ever read.

You don’t even have to be a parent. I’ve read that article a couple of times over the years and every time it makes me want to cry.

Thanks for posting that article. That was very insightful. And Hermitian, I agree. It actually took me a couple of hours to get through it. I’d read a paragraph or two and then go do something else.

I have come face to face with a handful of parents who inadvertently caused their child’s death. One phrase comes to mind that describes them: Pitiable and incomprehensible demoralization.

One dad had to be restrained from drowning himself.

The cited article is hard to read, but quite good.

I’m not crying, I’m absolutely terrified. Especially this sentence:

FIFTEEN TO TWENTY-FIVE TIMES A YEAR?!? :eek: :eek: :frowning: :frowning: :frowning: :frowning:

Actually, when I think about it I’m a little surprised the number’s that small, considering how much time kids spend in cars and how often the parent doing the driving is the only adult present.

I hereby resolve that as a pedestrian I’m going to be more vigilant about glancing into parked cars in parking lots. Even as an uninvolved non-parent, how awful would it be to read about a child’s hyperthermia death and realize that I must have gone past that very car earlier in the day but just not noticed the child? :eek:

I won’t even try to read that link. I am getting ready to have my third child tomorrow and I can’t even imagine the heartbreak involved in forgetting your child is in the car and their subsequent death. How awful

Awesome article - I can’t imagine what those parents are going through.

I’ve met one mother who left her two boys in the car while she partied in a hotel room. She was being prosecuted for the crime and was a shambling wreck of a person in that time. Utterly destroyed, just like her sons.

Believe me, you are better off not opening the link. I read part of the details of how the end can occur and I regret it.

And I’m not even a parent, just an uncle and great-uncle.

I first read it a few years ago, and I got through the whole article ok. After becoming a parent, I got about a paragraph in and go “No thanks, I’m out!” and quickly close the browser.

I had one of these incidents as a 9-1-1 call. The parent absolutely could not speak.

[hijack] Woot!! Go April!! When come back bring pix. [/hijack]

I read that article one of the earlier times we discussed this and I have to say, without exaggeration, it’s probably the most memorable and affecting thing I’ve ever read. I’m still haunted by it, and by one of the descriptions in it.

I just cannot imagine how the parents go on after this - either of them. It’s so easy to say, but nonetheless true, that losing a child must be the worst thing a parent can face. I surprised myself by finding that one of my reactions to having a second child was confusion - I thought I had known that had anything fatal ever happened to my first, my only possible action would have been to die with her. Now here was a second, and I knew that was not an option, even if it ever had been. But to know that something you had done, or failed to do, caused the death of your child, in such a manner - how could you live? I don’t place the blame at all on the parent - especially after reading that article. We have all let our attention slip (god, yesterday my 2 year old went missing in the Singapore aquarium for the longest 5 minutes of my life) and there but for the grace of god etc. It’s unbearable to comprehend.

As am I. Here’s one of the most haunting sentences:

It’s difficult to imagine something more horrible than what must have been her reaction the moment she turned and looked into the back seat.

Here’s a suggestion that occurred to me while reading the article.

Keep a huge, bright stuffed animal in the back seat of your car. Every time you put your kid in his car seat, put the animal in the front passenger seat, with the seat belt around it. Only put the animal there when your child is in his car seat. When you’re getting out of the car, you’re more likely to notice the animal than an empty seat. You’ll know right away that your kid’s still in the car.

Does this make sense? Is this something like what some people already do?

That was a pretty good article.

In response to the OP, I imagine its something they never get over. It is like a hole in their heart that will never be filled. I think raising awareness about the issue is important. I wonder how many parents had heard of this phenomenon before losing their own child.