There is no sorrow quite so heart rending as the death of a little child.
~Dr. J. Vernon McGee in Death of a Little Child
Nothing in life is quite so earth-shattering or destabilizing to a person as the death of his or her child. If the child dies when they are young, several years old or older, friends and family usually rally around the parents and family, a religious service of goodbye is held, and closure (of sorts) and support is garnered for the survivors, at least for a little while. A mother usually has a photo album to pour through, stories to recount, and a treasure trove of memories upon which she can validate her child’s life and influence.
That’s not often the case for parents of a baby who has not survived a premature birth, one who has arrived on gestational time, but stillborn, has died soon after birth due to health problems, or been miscarried early in pregnancy. In those cases, grieving often becomes more difficult.
How do you grieve for a tiny baby, no bigger than your palm? A baby unresponsive to your voice and your tender, loving strokes? A baby whose eyes never opened to witness or reflect your love or for you to gaze lovingly upon. A baby you didn’t have time to interact with; a baby whose personality you can only guess at or conjure up ideas about. A baby who didn’t have an opportunity to “make his mark on the world.” A baby who left your body too early and about whom you spend hours imagining facial features, hair color, and shape and form. A baby you want to name, if only you knew the sex.
So often you feel as though you’re grieving alone because you are grieving alone. Because you’ve been left alone. As often happens, when others haven’t seen, haven’t touched, or haven’t heard, the departed person doesn’t really exist for them.
As Dr. McGee says in his booklet, Death of a Little Child: “The child had no opportunity to perform a work nor was there any time given to develop character.”
The death is often unexpected and swift, and the goodbyes are brief.
And you and your spouse are often left to grieve alone. Your friends and family can’t relate or don’t know what to say, and they go on their way—sadly oblivious or feeling uncomfortable—leaving your hearts to agonize alone.
Just how do you grieve such a loss?
Through the next several weeks we’ll explore that grief. For now, though, I want to encourage you with some important things to remember:
~ A life’s importance should not be measured by its length.
~ Your precious baby’s life began at conception and immediately began to “count for something” and make an impact on its world at that point.
~ Your baby and her life, although brief, counted, just as much as your life, your other children—as much as any other human being.
~ Your baby’s life was not a mistake. His life had an important, God-ordained mission, and it was completed.
~ And while your baby’s earthly life may have ended, his life is not over! It continues in heaven, in the presence of God and other believing loved ones who have gone on ahead of you to their eternal home. When you gaze at the heavens, remember that you have someone special waiting for you there!
As Dr. McGee wrote so eloquently: The presence of your child’s life “turned your thoughts to the best, its helplessness brought out your strength and protection, and its loveliness roused your tenderness and love. Its influence will linger in your heart as long as you live.”
Undoubtedly, you were made a better person because of your precious child’s life.
While all of those encouraging truths and good thoughts won’t automatically erase or negate your anguish, they may help you navigate your present tormenting valley of grief—a valley you may be new to, or a valley you did not really navigate well many years ago.
In the next several weeks, we’ll walk through this valley together.
It is my prayer that we’ll emerge whole, and at peace, on the other side.
So, until next week,
Thanks for joining me!