My thoughts and prayers for the past two weeks have been with some dear friends who lost their son in a terrible tragedy. They are laboring under an extremely heavy burden, and I am greatly concerned about them, their marriage, and their family. I am worried about their physical health but even more concerned about their spiritual and emotional health. I pray for them daily with faith that their relationships with each other will be strengthened by this terrible experience.
I have never lost a child to death, but I have four siblings who did - two sisters and two brothers. My sisters lost infant sons - one was a day old and the other less than a year old. One brother lost a teenage daughter, and the other a young adult son with children of his own. Two deaths were from health problems, one from SIDS, and one from suicide. The son of a third brother lost his infant son less than a year ago from an accident.
I asked a couple of my siblings about their experiences of losing children, and I came away a wiser person. I asked my older brother if losing his teenage daughter was anything like losing our mother. He explained that both experiences were painful; however, he eventually got past the pain of losing a parent but never stopped mourning the death of his daughter. My elderly grandmother said about the same thing after burying one of her sons. She said that burying a child was worse than burying a spouse. My other brother died of cancer a couple of years after the death of his son by suicide, and I never had an opportunity to ask him.
I asked an older sister about her experience of losing a newborn baby. I was particularly interested in how the loss affected her marriage. She indicated that she and her husband grew closer through the experience; however, another couple in their congregation lost a child about the same time and ended up divorcing. Divorce seems to be a fairly common occurrence after the death of a child, but none of my siblings or my nephew divorced. I have never asked my younger sister, but she and her husband seem to have grown closer also. All of my siblings speak of their deceased children fairly often and believe they will see them again. The parents who lost young children have faith that they will have the opportunity to rear their babies in the next life and be with them throughout eternity.
An uncle of my young friend spoke at the memorial service and referenced a scripture story that illustrates the difficulty of losing a child. He spoke about Jacob (Israel) and his son Joseph. Jacob dearly loved Joseph and favored him, which made his ten older brothers jealous. One day they sold him to some Midianites who took Joseph to Egypt. The brothers took Joseph’s coat of many colors and dipped it in the blood of a young goat. When Jacob saw the bloody coat, he “rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days. And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him” (Genesis 37:34-35; emphasis added). Jacob continued to mourn for Joseph until he saw his son again in Egypt.
The death of a child at any age or any cause seems to be particularly difficult to bear. This type of mourning never goes away but is an adversity that one must learn to endure in order to simply survive. There are two ways that we can be of help to those suffering. We can mourn with them, and we can encourage them to turn their hearts to God. The best way to carry this heavy burden is to take upon oneself the yoke of Jesus Christ and allow Him to help carry the load. He alone knows how each person feels and can apply the necessary care to endure. He alone can be with them every minute of every hour. May God bless all grieving parents and particularly my dear family members and friends, and may we give them the support that they need.