Finding Healing after Losing a Child.

4 Feb

At one time durring Floklife Brenden began inexplicably crying. He wasnt sad, just the liquid. Early adulthood is a time when one gets married, and has children.  Right?  But what happens when everything that seemed to be moving ahead comes to a grinding halt.  In the middle of settling into their adult lives, some emerging adults come face to face with one of the hardest situations that they will ever face – the death of a child.  Insights of this article come from the parents of Emma, Beckham, Savannah, Noah, and Oliver.  I am thankful for their willingness to share in order to give hope to others.

1.  Refuse to cast blame.

Whenever tragedy strikes there is a tendency to blame either yourself, your spouse or others around you.   One mother reflects that “The hardest thing had to be questioning myself about what I might have done differently.”  Feelings of regret and second-guessing your actions, only brings confusion, shame, and guilt.  One mother expresses she carried an all-consuming weight from, “having guilt that there was something I did or could have done to change the outcome.”

You cannot blame yourself, and you cannot blame your partner.  This is especially true when a couple in their early stage of marriage go through the loss of a child.  A tragedy of this size will be the anvil upon which your marriage will be strengthened or broken.  Staying aware of the condition of your relationship is crucial in the midst of your pain.  One father states, “Listen to your partner-you don’t have to have an answer for them. Love them through their thoughts. Anger and pain can bring out the monsters in all of us-we say things we don’t mean and we lash out to ease our pain.”

One wife expresses how their marriage emerged differently.  She said, “my husband saw me for who I am-underneath my strength. I never realized that my strength and independence made it almost impossible for him to be a leader.”  Another parents states that “We became closer, more understanding and patient with each other.”  In the good days and bad, remember that you are together.

While blaming your spouse may seem irrational to you, many parents speak of various irrational thoughts that they experienced during grief including:  guilt over playing with remaining children, desires to go pick-up their child (as if the child were just away), and confusion in their standing with God.  One mother said that she felt, “Part of me thought I was going insane. Part of me wished I could go insane and thereby have permission to do insane things.”

 2.  Allow different paths of healing.

As you begin to heal, you must understand that you and your spouse heal in different ways, and at different speeds.  Along that journey, a couple must be careful not to judge one another, but be patient with each other.  One partner may need to cry while another seeks silence.  One partner may want to visit a gravesite, while another cannot even bear the thought.  One may want pictures displayed while another must put them away.  Healing for some comes through action and serving others, while others come through building memories.  One partner is not right while the other is wrong.  Both can heal in their own ways.

When there is no fear of judgment, each spouse can talk openly about how they feel.  “Give your spouse time and grace. We all grieve differently and we need to be respectful of that. We also need to be open in how we are feeling and not bottle it up.”  One mother said, “I think the biggest thing that helped us was that we were honest and open with each other in how we were doing and respected each other for our feelings.”  Encourage and allow your spouse to heal in the ways that fits their journey.

3.  Refuse Isolation.

Young adult - head on armsTragedy of any time often causes isolation because others are not sure how to respond, and therefore withdraw.  People will want to help, but often don’t know how.  Have someone that you are close to, a partner, sister, best friend, parent…someone who can step in and let others know what you need.  This person can tell people when to give you space, or when to come running with a meal or house cleaning.  You need people to help you through.  The body of Christ is called to “Grieve with those who grieve.”  Let others know of your grief, and let them grieve with you.

Losing a child often brings a wave of isolation upon the couple.  Whenever they share the grief, they feel as if others do not understand, and never will.  One person described the typical response, “”oh that is so sad……hey how about that game the other night!’”  She realized, “that my loss and pain is at the forefront of my every thought -it touched every aspect of my life.  While you are touched deeply by this loss, others will appear to move on, leaving you behind.”  You will feel as if there is no one who cares or understands.  One mother describes the separation, “No one else got to feel him, or have that connection with him. It’s very different than other times of grief, and a lonely process.”

This depth of grief causes people to want to disengage from the normal rhythms of life.  However, it is now that they most need their support systems (including friends, church, and work, etc.), and to find additional support.  Many couples find grief support groups, or counseling extremely helpful.   You must make conscious decisions to reengage with others.

4.  Preparing for the journey ahead.

Many couples explain how losing a child is not something from which you can make a quick recovery.  One father writes, “Be gentle with yourself.  Give yourself all the time you need to grieve.  Don’t rush it.  For me, a year was just the beginning.  Really embrace the grief process.  Only you know how long and in what ways you need to grieve, heal, and find a new normal.”

Mourning is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of healing.  Unpredictable events in your life will trigger tears, and renewed sense of loss.  One mother writes that once she was hit by the loss when she was, “sewing Easter dresses for my 5 little girls and realizing that it should have been 6.”   These times of sorrow serve as a reminder that this world is not the end, and we long for a world completely free of pain and sorrow.

Psalm 30:5 says that “Weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning.”  One mother writes that, “The morning will take longer to come this time, a lot longer, give yourself permission to take your time grieving, but it will come.”  These words may not bring immediate comfort, but they should give you hope.  Your healing will come.

 5.  Remember the source of your healing.

cross and treeEach person shared how God met them in their healing process.  “More than anything else what has helped me is sensing God’s gracious touches at every point in my grief and healing process.  I have felt God’s presence at every step.  He hears every note of my lament and is graciously meeting my pain in ways that heal me.  I have clung to the truth that God knows what it is like to lose a Son.”

No one would ask for such pain in their lives, and many spend years asking the question why?   However the answers always seem to come up lacking.  One parent writes, “Later I wanted to know why God would give us this experience. I knew he had a purpose and I clung to that thought. I later realized, I was better to not know why as it would not be a good enough reason for me. When I get to Heaven, I can ask God why, but I really won’t care then.”  Healing doesn’t come through an answer, but through God.

Ultimately, we will not in this lifetime know or understand the mind of God.  One parent found direction in J.R.R. Tolkien’s book, The Lord of the Rings when Frodo tells Gandolf that he wishes the ring had never come to him.  Gandolf replies, “So do all who live to see such times but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

Today is given to you.  I know your journey is hard.  “Try to hang onto the truths that God loves you more than you could ever imagine.  Sometimes you can’t feel it, all you can do is know that it’s true and hang on for the ride.”

I pray that today, you will have the strength to cling to Him.

(I write this article because two close family members lost babies this year at birth.  So I write this article in memory of precious Victoria and beautiful Sawyer, who Uncle David never got to hold, but look forward to seeing again.  I also write for their parents, that somehow in their journey, they might know they are not alone.)    

Recommended Books (by those who have been through it): Is God to Blame?  By Greg Boyd I Will Carry You.  By Angie Smith Tear Soup.  By Pat Schwiebert Heaven is for Real. By Todd Burpo Born to Fly:  An Infant’s Journey to God.  By Cindy Claussen Lament for a Son.  By Nicholas Wolterstorff.

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