For the most part our worst fears are never realised. That early morning phone call, the late night knock, turn out to be things we can deal with. Sadly, tragically, for the parents of the students in Berkeley, it was a worst nightmare come true.
It is the thing we parents most fear and the reality of which, thankfully, eludes most of us. Although just typing those words almost fills me with dread, for truly we do not know the day nor the hour.
Grief too is something we hope to elude, but cannot.
There are two types of mourning associated with this event, an understandable public outpouring brought about by the magnitude of what happened. But the real grief is etched in the faces and the lives of loved ones, that broad family of relatives and friends who knew the dead and the injured and whose lives have been altered forever by that split second in Berkeley when the balcony gave way.
I can see it in the face of my daughter who knew many of them, although her blessedunmentioned sadness can be nothing compared with that of their families.
I too, a hard-hearted reporter, felt the chill of tragedy as the names seeped out.
"You remember Lorcan Miller? He used to come to the children's parties," said my wife as the news unfolded, a beautiful little blonde boy.
But the truth is, I don't. Although, I remember dropping my daughter at his granny's house for the return leg of the party.
Now I see the face of a young man, confident and bright, looking out at me from the newspaper and feel ineffably sad to see his and the faces of the other young people whose lives ended in the blink of an eye.
Young people don't fear death, that is why they behave the way they do. That is why many of us look back in wonder at how we ourselves survived those carefree years.
People will talk about closure, but there can be no closure for the loved ones and they will remember young, beautiful people who blazed brightly, but all too briefly.
As parents, we expect a certain level of grief.
For us middle-class southsiders, it's the dreaded call from Wes, 'Come and collect your daughter', or the angry taxi man after one of them has had too much to drink and committed the unforgivable sin of vomiting in the back of the car.
But these are mere hiccups on the journey of our fears.
As someone who has lived with other people's tragedy, you never want to experience that pain... The sorrow we have too often seen etched on other people's faces.
We all cope differently, not only with our children but with the lives they lead, and no matter how old they grow, they always remain that, our children.
To see them go too soon must be unbearable, because no matter what we say, or no matter how much we can sometimes disagree, they will always remain our children.