Death of a Child
“N o t h i n g prepared me for the deaths of my children.” Few things in life are more unexpected and painful and disorienting. The following articles were written by women, believing women, who went through that ordeal.
Joy – just for today
Psalm 118:24 “This is the day which the Lord has brought about; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”
My life has been a living testimony of what the Lord has done. I got clean and sober from drugs and alcohol and married when I was six months sober. The Lord gave us a beautiful baby boy who arrived into the world three months earlier than his due date.
When I was finally able to hold him, we named our son Elisha. He was the most amazing child, full of wonder and joy. What a gift he was to me and to our family.
But when the Lord took Elisha home to live with Him in heaven when he was 22 years old as a result of complications from dental
work, my world fell apart. The joy of my heart left this earth, leaving me alone, full of pain, sorrow and despair. Brokenness has a way of creeping in and robbing me of my joy, sorrow has a way of eroding daily life, stripping me of my strength, and grief has a way of suffocating and covering me up like a blanket pulled over my head causing me to be unable to breathe in the goodness of life. In one fell swoop, my life was taken from me, and I was robbed of the opportunity to spend one more day with my beautiful gift from the Lord.
Psalm 139:7 says, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence?” No matter where I go, there You are; I cannot hide from the Living God any more than I can hide from myself and from my pain and the gaping hole that is left in my soul as a result of losing my child. It’s only been 14 months since his death, and the grief has not yet subsided. The emptiness that I am experiencing is still so fresh and raw, but there is One who can meet me right now, right where I am today. There is One who has the ability to pierce the darkness of night that has fallen on my world; there is One who is more than able to pick me up out of the pit that I have dug for myself, once again, and there is One who can soothe my hurts and pour the balm of Gilead into the giant wound that has been left as a result of having my son ripped out of my life.
All I have to do is “seek Him with all my heart and He will be found by me,” (Jeremiah 29:13) and that is exactly what I have done because there is nothing left here in this world that brings me any hope, there is no person who can see me, there is no one on this earth who can walk with me on this lonely journey, but there is One who can, and so day after day, morning after morning I search for Him.
And when I seek Him, I find my Lord and my Savior who gives me hope for just one more day, who gives me the strength to get up and go to work, who gives me the ability to face another day without my child and who saturates me with His love, His character, His wisdom, His presence and infuses me with His extraordinary attitude that I need to move forward and live the life that God has created me to live.
Each day I have a choice, I can choose to be bitter about the loss of my son or I can choose to live with the hope and the joy that I will have when that day comes when I will one day see him again. And so today, I will say, “this is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it”.
A Shining Light
2 Peter 1:19 “We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the Morning Star rises in your hearts.”
As I have matured and grown in my relationship with God, my understanding of God has changed. When I was young, even though my biological father claimed to be a Christian, he used the Bible to scare my sisters and me, and he painted an image of a mean ogre in the sky who would swoop down and smash us like little ants, striking us dead if we didn’t obey, if we told our secrets, if we didn’t act like he expected us to act. Not surprisingly I was obsessed with an unhealthy fear that I would go to hell when I died.
As a result, I have always had an overwhelming fear of death, but as I’ve come to know who God is and how much He loves me, my belief that God was ashamed of me, that He was mad at me and that He had abandoned me as a child is now gone. I have found that as a result of the traumatic events of my childhood, God has enhanced my spiritual senses, and I have become more aware of spiritual truth. It’s almost like the Lord gave me this beautiful gift to compensate for the ugliness that occurred in my life, and the nearness to the things of the Lord are sometimes more vivid and more apparent to me than to other people.
One lady who became quadriplegic as a teenager as a result of a diving accident, describes her paralysis as the best thing that ever happened to her, and her wheelchair as a gift of grace. I understand what she means because as I look back on that little frightened girl who now has become an adult, as I have reconciled myself to her and to my past, I can honestly say I am so thankful for the gift of spiritual insight that suffering has produced in my life.
Joshua 3:4 “Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before.” Everything that occurs in life is new and different, and with every new step I walk on this earth, I must take into consideration that “I have not passed this way before,” whether it is a job, a relationship, a new baby, a church, an exercise program, a hobby or the death of my child. All of these events are new to me, and when I arrive at each of these events, God will direct me in everything I need to do.
Isaiah 60:2 says, “See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and His glory appears over you.” God has strategically placed His children into families, companies, the marketplace, hospitals, schools and situations so as the world becomes darker, His glory will shine brighter in those who belong to Him.
In these last days the Scriptures talk about how there will be darkness, and the world as we know it is becoming increasingly more evil, increasingly darker. As wickedness prevails and goodness diminishes, the Scriptures are being fulfilled right before our very eyes. Believers who are alive when Jesus returns will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the only truth, the only light that shines in the murky darkness of this fallen world is the Word of God and those who have hidden His Word into their hearts.
I have found that the goodness of grief and the grace of suffering have flooded my senses with what is truly important. I look around, and I see nothing but petty and trivial things. The flood of my sorrow seems to penetrate and blast its way through the smoke and mirrors and anything that is not real. I have a sense of nearness to God’s kingdom and to eternity like never before. It’s almost as if the death of my child has amplified God’s still small whisper to a roar in my soul that is telling me there is a sense of urgency, that I must be aware, that I must decrease, that He must increase, that there is more to this life than just the mundane trivial things that have no meaning anymore and that heaven is closer now than ever before.
Perhaps it is my longing to be where my child is and to be relieved of all the burdens and cares that have tethered me to this earth, or maybe, just maybe, the time is so very near that I can sense the day dawning and the Morning Star rising in my heart.
He Heals the Brokenhearted
Psalm 147:3-5 “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; His understanding has no limit.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about how special and unique the Lord created a mother’s love for her child. It is like no other love found on this earth. It is a protective and fierce love, a deep and unconditional love that belongs only to that child. It is a love that is unequaled and unusual in that a mother is truly willing to lay her life down for that child.
That is exactly what she does the moment that baby comes into the world. She puts herself on the back burner and places her child before her each and every day. With every single decision she makes, she makes it for the sake of that child’s well-being and for that child’s future.
There was a bond that occurred in the womb when the Lord attached my child to me with a life-giving rope called an umbilical cord, and that rope forever links me and my son together. From the moment I first held him, I knew a completely different and distinctive kind of love.
When the Lord took my child to his eternal home in heaven, a huge piece of me left this earth and only a part of me remains here. The Lord says that He heals the brokenhearted and binds up our wounds, but He doesn’t say how long that process will take. I believe for us mothers who have lost children, that part of ourselves will never ever return to us until we see our children once more face to face in heaven.
But in the meantime, our God is still great and mighty in power, and His understanding is limitless. He truly understands this type of love because God sent His one and only Son to earth so that we would know His heart, so that we would understand His protective, fierce love, His deep and unconditional love that is unique and unequivocal that is only reserved for His children.
The Bible talks a lot about the brokenhearted and those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
After the death of my precious child, I was inconsolable; I cried myself to sleep with guttural cries that came from the deep substrata of my soul; the pain and ache that consumed me as a result of losing my son seemed to me that it would overtake me and I would truly die. When I woke the next morning, the ache in my heart was even greater and the hole in my family was evident by the fact that he was no longer here on this earth and the knowledge that my family is now incomplete just broke me and for just a moment, my faith wavered.
I reached for my phone and there from my pastor was a message telling me that there were ten things that God wanted me to remember during this time, ten promises He wanted me to know.
- I will give rest.
- I will strengthen you.
- I will answer you.
- I believe in you.
- I will bless you.
- I am for you.
- I will not fail you.
- I will provide for you.
- I will be with you.
- I will love you.
As I opened the Word for my morning devotion and I asked myself, “Why do I doubt His love for me, when He is so faithful?” I know if I had His perspective that I would understand why He took such a beautiful gift He had given me away; I would understand His purpose and His plan for my life from here on out, but at this moment and time I do not understand. All I know is the pain and sorrow, the grief and the heartache are fresh and raw.
Once again, He brings me to my life verse, “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
The One You Love
John 11:3 “So the sisters sent word to Jesus, ‘Lord, the one you love is sick.’”
The story of Lazarus is one I have pondered upon a lot since the death of my child because there was always a hope, even at the very end, that the Lord would heal my son and raise him up out of his bed. And I’m not talking just heal him from the aspiration pneumonia that finally took his life, but from the cerebral palsy and the cognitive disability that he suffered from since the day he was born.
I had deep longings of being that one person in this modern-day age that could say God had reached down and touched my child, and he was instantaneously and miraculously healed. But that didn’t happen, at least not on this side of heaven.
In the dark days that followed his death, I did question whether the Lord really loved me. Even though the Lord has declared His love for me over and over, in the midst of this difficulty, in the center of the storm raging around me, often times I lost my way. I took my eyes off my Savior and forgot that I belonged to Him. I began sinking into the depth of the sea of discouragement, sorrow and grief. I came to a place where I questioned His love for me.
2 Peter 1:3 says, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.”
So, the real question is, do I really know Him? Do I really know personally and intimately the One who died on the cross for me; do I have a personal relationship with the One who invited me into God’s throne room; do I really and truly know this Jesus who came to earth who loved me with an everlasting love? Have I completely abandoned myself to the Lord and have I experienced His divine nature; have I made Him the Lord of my life; am I content to defer to Him and have I allowed Him to take control of each and every situation that arises?
My love for Him is so fickle and it changes from day to day, moment by moment, but His love for me never ever changes.
Jeremiah 31:3 says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” If God promises me that He loves me with an everlasting love, then why is it so difficult for me to believe? Because just like Mary and Martha who wondered where Jesus was when their brother Lazarus died, so oftentimes I wonder where my Lord is in the midst of tragic circumstances.
Where was He when my parents divorced? Where was He when I lost my job? Where was He when my child was diagnosed with a disability? Where was He when my loved one died? Tough questions.
But it was there in that hospital room that I felt His presence; it was there in the final hours before my child’s death that a peace entered the room; it was there in that moment of time that I felt His love for me and my tiny little family, and it was there that I knew that one He loved would be truly healed and made whole.
And when the Lord took my son home, I knew my prayers had been answered. Not how I had imagined them, but answered nonetheless.
Romans 14:22 “Happy is he who does not condemn himself.”
There is an old saying, “You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from nesting in your hair.” When we are grieving it sometimes feels like our brain is working overtime. We often go over in our minds the should’ve, could’ve, and if-only thoughts. It seems we are in the cycle of negative thoughts.
Negative thoughts can often become a habit if we let them. These thoughts can become exaggerated and can soon become destructive. It is so important that we learn to capture every thought and to try to change the negative thoughts to positive thoughts.
I think as moms probably the biggest negative thought is guilt. As mothers and women, we are often our worst enemy, often feeling like we have never done enough. When we feel overwhelmed with guilt or any other negative feeling we are struggling with the need to stop and pray. We are not perfect; no one is.
Take your negative thoughts to God and leave them there. We need to forgive ourselves and to understand that we often did the best we could with what we knew at the time. For each of us who for one reason or another is blaming herself for the loss of her child we need to realize even if we could have done something to change the outcome we cannot continue to second guess life and death.
God knew the number of our child’s days long before they were given to us. Negative thoughts are part of the grief process, but they should not become a permanent part of our emotions. When we have a negative thought, we need to try to change it to a positive before it becomes a habit which in turn becomes our destiny. There is nothing good that can come from a life that is surrounded by negative thoughts. We can learn from our mistakes and then we must move forward.
Paul reminds us in order to have joy we must not condemn ourselves and not let the birds of sorrow nest in our hair. Lord, we know You forgive us daily for our mistakes; help us to forgive ourselves.
Reprograming the Mind
Isaiah 43:18 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.”
For the longest time after Katie died I would place myself back in that hospital room, and I wanted to go back in time and have a do-over. In my shock and disbelief, I had been unable to even comprehend what was taking place. At a time like that I was unable to understand the finality of this loss.
In my mind I would see myself crawling into the hospital bed, not paying attention to all the machines and tubes that she was hooked up to. There is so much I wanted to have said to her. How proud I was to have her as my daughter. How much I would miss her sweet smiling face first thing in the morning. I will miss listening to Sarah and Katie talking and laughing in the middle of the hallway about what had happened at school, and I will not get to watch how this relationship would continue to grow and deepen. I loved watching her run down the stairs to meet her friends dressed in pajama bottoms. I will miss going to the grocery store and walking by some product she liked but was too expensive and telling her with a twinkle in my eye that maybe someday when she was rich we could afford it.
The most important thing I would want her to know is just how much I loved her, and I pray more than anything that she knew that. I cannot relive that day, but I can look toward to the future and imagine what I will tell her when we are reunited in heaven.
I will tell her how much I have changed because of the person she was. How my life had a purpose that I never could have imagined. How because of her life I have been able to share my story and hopefully have changed hearts because of her.
The most important thing I will be able to tell Katie is how much I loved her. The proof of my love is in the fact that I have continued to live my life and have made her life and death matter. Her death was a defining moment in my life but I have chosen to not let it keep me in that hospital room. I have chosen to carry her with me into the future.
Lord, let us make our children proud of us; help us to make their life and death matter. Let us show them in our continuing to live that we loved them.
The Right Focus
1 Timothy 6:12 “Fight the good fight of faith.”
When we find out we are going to become a mom we try to do everything right to make sure we have a healthy baby. Once our child is born we soon learn this child has changed our lives. We no longer think of ourselves first, but that child takes center stage. We will give up our lives for that child. If we saw that our child was in danger, we would lay our lives on the line to save that child. We would die for them.
Now that our child is gone we need to ask ourselves, “Can I live for them?” Can you live on for your child? Not just existing, but making a decision to live a life that would make them proud of you.
Recently I was asked, “If your deceased child were here and we were to ask him what he would want for you as their mom, he would answer, ‘I would want my mom to be happy.’” I know when you are in deep grief, it is hard to find anything to be happy about.
I challenge you this week to start to find something to be thankful for, something to smile about. We need to carry on for our children so we can leave them and us a legacy that would make them proud of who we are.
“Make me your laborer. Let me not dream of ever looking back. Let not my knees be feeble, hands be slack. Oh, make me strong to labor, strong to bear, from the rising of the morning till the stars appear.”
Jeremiah 31:13 “Then maidens will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness: I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.”
We are getting ready for our annual camping trip to celebrate the life of our daughter Katie. Family and friends join us every year to remember her. It has been twelve years since Katie went home to be with the Lord.
As I think back to where we were twelve years ago, I cannot believe we are the same people. Twelve years ago we buried her. The heaviness of that day was unbearable. Twelve years later when we go to the cemetery, there is still a realization that she is not here with us physically, but her presence is felt in each and every person. This annual cemetery visit has become such a blessing for all of us. The Lord has healed our broken hearts more than I could have ever imagined. We have made it a tradition at night as we turn on music that we sing the night away, young and old alike. He has turned our mourning into singing. Lord, I thank You for Your healing power. We have been truly blessed
I Have Not Changed
O God, I do not understand. The tragedies that crush our lives, that scour our hearts with their abrasiveness, that steal from us the very air we breathe. Why? Why do hideous, penetrating words destroy relationships and imprison those who once loved in the cold of solitude? Why do the elements of nature unleash their wrath and forever scar the ones who stand in their path? Why do children die in tortured bodies? Why are the priceless possessions of life stolen from the victim of abuse? Why?
My child, it is not for you to understand, but to trust, and to rest. I have not changed. Let your tears fall heavy upon my feet, and I will lift you in my arms and draw you to my breast. I have not changed. I love. I care. My heart despises evil, but it beats in constant affection for my child. Believe the love I have for you, and know I will weave the darkest strands of life together with the golden rays of my purposes and accomplish a goodness that can only come from my hands. I have not changed.
But Father, the pain torments me. It swells. It crashes. It consumes. Its haunting call casts shadows of fear and hopelessness. Sleepless nights awaken to days of constant anxious thoughts and unrelenting heaviness.
My daughter, I have not changed. Your pain will keep your head upon my breast. Your weariness will let me carry you through the darkness and will restrain you from the foolishness of confronting the fears and hopelessness all on your own. I have not changed. My grace awaits your need, and it pours profusely from my heart of love. Your pain will have its season and I will never, never leave you. I will strengthen you, and beauty will emerge from the ashes. I have not changed.
Sometimes, God, you just seem so far, so very far away. I call into the darkness and longingly plead for the silence to break. Are you still there? Are you listening? The doubts can pursue, and the questions gnaw at the faith I desperately want to cling to.
Precious, precious child. I have not changed. I am the God of your yesterdays, and I am the God of today, and even of tomorrow. Be still. Rest. Find in me all that your heart cries out for. And you will know that I am God. I have not changed.
That Very Special Place
The nestling had fallen from its nest, just as his sibling had done. The sibling’s injuries snuffed out his life rather quickly, but this one was uninjured, and a fighter. Naked still of future feathers, barely able to hobble, but a beak open and wanting something to quench its thirst.
Probably with more heart than wisdom, we attempted to warm the very infant bird and dropper fed him some water attempting to inject small bits of a protein concoction. And for a few days, our little friend held onto life, his very small chirps encouraging us to keep trying. But eventually we found his body cold and lifeless. We were all a bit sad.
An object lesson with which to teach our children of the sad, unpredictable side of life.
An opportunity to share more fully the very special place God has for the children, and the big people, who have loved Him.
Sadness does accompany death, especially when we have loved and given deeply to the one who has died. Grief is a darkness of emotions, a raw emptiness, a cry for life to once again have meaning and purpose.
We are encouraged though as believers that we do not need to grieve as those who have no hope. We do have hope. Paul told the Corinthians that when the believer is absent from his earthly body, he has found a new presence and body with God.
Jesus Himself taught that God’s eternal dwelling place was called “Heaven.” He also taught that when He finished on earth what God wanted Him to do, He would return to His Father’s eternal dwelling place and prepare a place for us so we can share it with Him.
We understand heaven still more by what it is not. There shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain. There will be nothing unclean, nothing stained by sin, no practicing of sin. There will be no sin. Heaven will be a place of unimaginable beauty and perfection. Our hope of heaven would be meaningless though apart from the reunions that will take place. Saturated and overflowing with the love, the peace, the joy, the holiness, and the very presence of our God, in heaven, we will be embraced, literally, physically, by the arms of the One who stretched out His arms amidst the cruelties of earth and died for us to make heaven our hope……and home.
Just as David recognized he would someday go to his child who died, so too, as believers, we will reunite with our own loved ones, and grief will be fully and completely replaced by the joy of those reunions as the permanence of our hope is lived out through the eons and eons of eternity.
Children do have a simplicity about them that believes quickly, their beliefs uncomplicated by doubt or hesitancy. Sometimes I would like to just be a child, awed by the truth and hope of eternity, of heaven, and of the God who makes it all possible. Hope would become much more tangible.
I can only imagine…………
“I can only imagine what it will be like – to walk by Your side, to have Your face before me, to worship You forever, to be surrounded by Your glory ……….. what will my heart feel? Will I dance for You, Jesus, or in awe of You be still? Will I stand in Your presence or to my knees will I fall? Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all? I can only imagine; I can only imagine”.
Those words are sung frequently at the memorial services of loved ones who are already living the reality of those words. With intensity and a pulsing, escalating crescendo, the truth of our hope fills the chapel, the sanctuary, the meeting place of friends and loved ones.
The words comfort us because in those moments, earth is transcended and heaven becomes very, very real. I have never heard those words sung though more beautifully, more passionately than when I have stood in the midst of a hundred moms whose children have already been embraced by Jesus in the very, very real surroundings of heaven in all of its perfection.
As they sing, they see Jesus, nail-scarred hands welcoming them, their personhood transfixed as they bow, shout or weep in the presence of the One who has made it all possible, and they see too, the outreached arms and joy-filled faces of babies, small children, older children – all of whom left earth all too abruptly, as earthly perspective would have it. In the presence of Jesus, emptiness suddenly is bursting with fulness, the rawness of mourning is transformed into unspeakable joy. I watch the faces of other moms even as I swell with my own emotions, holding on to those moments that etch the certainty of my hope deeply within my own heart. Faces, uplifted. Faces, encouraged. Faces, tears streaming from hearts that feel suddenly alive. What will it be like??? What will my heart feel??? I can only imagine, truly, I can only imagine.
God is real. My hope is real. Its foundation is secure. All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by His great mercy that we have been born again because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance – an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay……..
So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. The joy is in my expectation even in the midst of trials, difficulties, and tragedy. Within the very real heaven that my heart longs for, broken bodies will be made whole. Confusion will be clarified. The senseless will find purpose. Tears will cease, and the desperation of emotions will be quieted. I will be embraced by the One who has loved me since He first thought of me. And I will be embraced by the child, the parent, the spouse, the loved one, who has already been living the reality of heaven and has been waiting for me.
I can only imagine.
Way back when our two oldest boys were still very young, our church sent us to Africa. For them and for us, it was “a trip with a purpose.” Our boys actually went with us, and they immersed themselves with us living on a mission compound, finding the intricacies in a country that was largely poverty stricken, and weaving our lives together with the national believers. Worship transcended the language barrier, just as warm handshakes and smiles expressed the love we had in our hearts for a people different from us in many ways, and yet a people we felt very close to as we shared together in a common faith.
Many missionaries return home recognizing that they went to give, and they received far more than they gave. We had very similar feelings. “Poverty stricken” doesn’t adequately describe some people who rank lowest on the economic scale.
But our most vivid memory of that trip was watching an offering being taken, an offering to assist those who were poorer than the poor. And we watched those who had so very little give out of their near barrenness to help those who had even less.
Barrenness has different faces, and I sit often with moms who know the barrenness that comes when a child dies. Life was too short, cut off by seemingly senseless tragedy, and the heart of a mom grieves deeply, intensely, lost in the darkness of her pain.
Yet, she finds herself wrapped in the warmth of God’s love, comforted by His faithful presence, strengthened and enabled by His grace, reaching for the good and the purposes He still has for her.
A group of moms recently gathered locally for mutual encouragement and reminders of the hope God offers. Some were very fresh in their grief, and others were walking their journey, still mindful of their loss, still “poverty stricken” in very real ways, but walking forward, reaching for that good and for those purposes.
As I contemplated the moms around me, I realized I was seeing what I saw in Africa, as those farther along in their journeys gave to those who were really just beginning. A hug, a listening ear, an understanding heart, a word of encouragement, sometimes a tangible gift, sometimes gifts of time, energy, and resources. They gave what they could to those who had still less. I was blessed. Just as I was in Africa.
Giving. Not out of our abundance, but giving because we have something to give. And that something may be small, but it is also, heartfelt. It may be tangible. It may not be. Others may notice, but more than likely, they won’t. But the one you give to will notice. And you will make a difference. Giving, because God has given to you, and though you may not have a lot to give, you know you have enough to share with another, and you will both be blessed.