Helping Others Heal from the Death of a Child

Music as an Aid in Healing

Walking Gracefully with the Wounded

Several years ago I got a call while on my way to a baby shower. It was from one of the mothers of a prisoner I worked with as a chaplain in for 14 years. We had kept communication since she worked in my office. I mentored her for 8 years of her successful transition and we remain friends. She was full of hope as she reunited with her 5 year old daughter, established a home and beome a leader in women's bible studies for her local church. In time, she married and after 15 months, was expecting a baby girl, who had been diagnosed with Down's Syndrome.

Her mother requested that I join them at the hospital. Her daughter had delivered her little girl that morning alive, but unfortunately had died shortly after delivery. We had been praying she would be equipped by the Lord to care for this special child, whom she chose to carry courageously. I assured her that God's sufficiency was enough, but wondered, how would I handle it if it were me? I knew her to love deeply and t He would do a work in them and through them in some way that would bring Him glory, but certainly it would be uncharted territory to navigate for her and her family. We waited, and in the moment, even I had questions. Now I had more.

When I arrived at the hospital, my friend and the family were of course, tearful. I just hugged her and sat beside her for a while. She asked if I would like to go see her sweet little girl. Then it was an emotional crossroad, as I contemplated whether I could hande my own emotions. I honored her request, and made the seemingly long trek down the hall to dedicate the child to the Lord's care, knowing that her spirit was already present with the Lord.

I kept my thoughts to myself, pondering the reality of my faith in my heart. I remembered vaguely the hopelessness I felt because at the time of their deaths. I did not have the faith in Jesus Christ that now sustains me and gives me hope even in the darkest of times. I was and am always grateful for God's extra measure of strength in these times.


Not Afraid to Cry

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Your Own Pain Provides Compassion

My own twin girls died 30 years ago, with a heart defect that was irreparable. I lost one, held out hope and then lost the other. It changed my life for ever. I didn't know the Lord then. I went through years of grief, until a Christian woman recognized my pain and helped me through a healing process. I was a brand new Christian at the time, I got a piece of my heart back through her skillful counseling and care, which also changed my life. I was so grateful, as because of my familiy's silence, I had emerged quite broken. It was if there was some kind of shame on me, as if I had any control over their death. It was part of why I didn't comprehend the whole concept of God because quite frankly He didn't care about me.

Now I had to face that pain all over again. As I walked to the neonatal nursery, my heart was pounding and I could feel the tears welling up. The nurse, as I arrived, was tenderhearted, and asked me if I could help her dress little Hannah so we could take her to her mom to say goodbye. I said yes, and we did just that. Then I sat with little Hannah in my arms ( I still can't believe the grace God gave me, as I had never done this before).

Then an amazing thing happened....As I looked at little Hannah's face and features, I remembered that I had never held Katherine and Karen after their death, because my husband thought it best. I never got to say goodbye to them, and the healing balm of Gilead began to warm my heart and fill me with joy.

God showed me that this was his gift to me in coming to care for another, he cared for me. I sang Blessed be the name of the Lord and even though her little spirit was already with Jesus, I committed her soul to his keeping verbally. I thanked him for my girls' short lives too, and embraced the thought that sometimes his mercy includes death, even for infants who would have to struggle their entire life.

The nurse cried with me as she slipped a beautiful tiny gold ring on her finger. I asked her why she did that and she said the Lord had prompted her to buy the rings as a gift for the privilege of serving as their caretaker before their entrance to heaven. I was so touched.

She was a strong Christian, she said that she didn't know how anyone could do what she does without God in their life to help the parents and families when babies die. As we took Hannah to her parents, I realized why we need each other as Christians. These tough places are the places we learn to be like Jesus, and die to ourselves so His glory shines through.

After this occurred, I was reminded of my own initial grief process, which was an act of kindness shown to me 10 years after my children's death. I was given a copy of the book I'll Hold You in Heaven, which was a beautiful comfort. Providentially, a woman at church recognized my sadness and invited me to her home to talk and go through some steps to help me.

She didn't give me a lot of advice, she let me reflect, write, and cry for a 3 day session which included prayer and music designed to heal my soul. There were just the two of us, and I was so grateful to finally and gratefully release the pain that I held inside for years, since it was never a topic of discussion with my family.

Years later, it still has yet to be acknowledged by them, so I was prompted to write this article. Here are some suggestions for those who don't know how to be around the grieving:

1) You don't have to say much. A simple, I am sorry you are hurting is enough.

2) Hugs are welcome, so long as you don't expect reciprocity.

3) We are numb, and we aren't able to make sense of all of this pain, so please don't say things like "they are in a better place", because we wish we were too.

4) Listen, don't talk because you are uncomfortable, because we can't even concentrate, and small talk is not helpful. Especially when it's about you.

5) Don't say "call me if you need anything". Just do something kind, and don't avoid being uncomfortable. We need you to do what you can, and you always bring food.

6) Send cards after a tragedy or funeral that say I am thinking of you, and praying for you. When the rush of activity is over, reality sets in. Don't forget our hurt doesn't stop after you leave.

7) If you don't know what to say, just say I love you and I am here. Then be there, even when we are feeling ugly or desperate.

8) Keep reminding us that there is hope, by including us in events that celebrate life. Don't avoid inviting us to events because you think we are sad. When we choose to come, be hospitable, but don't fuss over us like we are in need of excessive attention. That makes it worse.

9) Don't put away pictures of our loved ones in your home. If they trigger us to cry, we need to, so don't run for a Kleenex box when a tear appears, just tell us where it is.

10) Be sensitive to our pain, but don't pretend or say that you understand how we feel. You don't even if you have lost your dog or cat. It's not the same, ever.

11) Pray that we will heal, and have a desire to live. That's what is needed the most.

In summary, these are just some of the things that help. Your heart will tell you other beautiful things to do, if you listen. In time things will be better, and we may not be our old self, but that's ok. Grief makes us better in many ways, in time. We have more compassion generally, and we tend to listen more, which you just might need someday.

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Comments 20 comments

ALUR profile image

ALUR 4 years ago from USA

I can't imagine the loss of someone close. It is a tragedy and wound to the soul. I'm not sure "getting over it" is truly healing. Rather I believe embracing death is the next cycle of a new life and dimension helps ease the loss of the physichal. Loved ones never really leave...


Naomi Rose Welty profile image

Naomi Rose Welty 4 years ago from Savannah, GA

Wonderful advice. I'd like to add that when one twin survives and the other one dies, never, ever suggest that everything's okay because "you still have a baby." They are separate events and it's important to recognize each. As to "getting over it," I like what my minister said: "you don't get over it. But you do get used to it. It becomes a part of you."


Dave Mathews profile image

Dave Mathews 4 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

SimpleGiftsofLove: Indeed the passing of each individual, serves to diminish us as a human family, but we can take solice in the knowledge that God's heavenly family increases by one.


KatrineDalMonte 4 years ago

Hi, I can only talk from my own experience. A few years ago I tragically lost someone I loved dearly. It was such a terrible shock, mainly because it was so unexpected. 1 minute there, next gone. Seeing the place of the accident was traumatic, first few weeks I didn't want to talk to anyone, I closed into myself, and suffered terribly, being depressed all the time, having so many questions and not finding any answers. I lost my faith completely. As time went by, I had to come to accept what happened, if I wanted to move on in my life. I found it helped me to read about positive thinking and about religion and philosophy. All that, combined with love of my family, has helped me to transform into a new person, with different views on life and death, existence of higher power etc. I found my faith again, as it's the faith and belief that help in anything we do in life. I also find writing on these topics healing to my soul. Although the pain can never go away, time is a good friend, and my understanding of the fact that my loved one is always with me in my memories and in my heart as spirit can never die is comforting to me.


SimpleGiftsofLove profile image

SimpleGiftsofLove 4 years ago from Colorado Author

Thank you for your empathy and tender heart. You are absolutely right, they are always carried in the heart!


SimpleGiftsofLove profile image

SimpleGiftsofLove 4 years ago from Colorado Author

Thank you Naomi, for sharing that added perspective. Mine died separately, days apart. You are right, it becomes the place where compassion dwells.


SimpleGiftsofLove profile image

SimpleGiftsofLove 4 years ago from Colorado Author

Yes, and they already had two grandmothers and a grandfather awaiting their arrival with Christ, and God. What a reunion it will be!


SimpleGiftsofLove profile image

SimpleGiftsofLove 4 years ago from Colorado Author

Katrine,

A beautiful approach and discovery you have made through your journey through pain, and yes, writing helps and we do have the memory to hold in our hearts. I too, transformed into someone who has been there for others, because I know what it is to walk alone. Fortunately, my husband and I made peace about all of it before he passed years ago, we healed and went forward in a new understanding as well. I am glad you have found comfort.


SimpleGiftsofLove profile image

SimpleGiftsofLove 4 years ago from Colorado Author

Today, March 20 is the anniversary of my twin girls birthday. No one from my family said a word. Again.


SimpleGiftsofLove profile image

SimpleGiftsofLove 4 years ago from Colorado Author

Thank you Alur, I was traveling and missed your comment...thank your for reading.


SimpleGiftsofLove profile image

SimpleGiftsofLove 4 years ago from Colorado Author

Naomi, you present very good advice. Yes it becomes part of our story and compassion for others.


SimpleGiftsofLove profile image

SimpleGiftsofLove 4 years ago from Colorado Author

Dave perhaps when the initial shock is over, that is true.


SimpleGiftsofLove profile image

SimpleGiftsofLove 4 years ago from Colorado Author

Yes Katrine...I understand as I too lost faith for a number of years. It is now stronger than ever before, by virtue of survival.


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

Though I saw your title when it came out, it has taken me a while to be able to read this--how foolish! Thank you for sharing your experiences and the Lord's help and grace through it all. This is precious.


SimpleGiftsofLove profile image

SimpleGiftsofLove 4 years ago from Colorado Author

RTalloni,mow kind and gracious your comments are...I was out of town for awhile and missed your post. What an encouragement to come back to!


LongTimeMother profile image

LongTimeMother 3 years ago from Australia

Thirty years and your family still don't mention your girls? I am SO sorry, SimpleGiftsofLove.

I have no doubt your daughters would be very proud of you, and I am sorry you didn't have the chance to enjoy watching them grow. Thank you for being so supportive of other people.

I think people often mistakenly think they are being kind by not raising a subject that causes a parent pain. Stupid really. It's not like you will have forgotten.

My husband feels uncomfortable with the way I comment on photos of children in the homes of bereaved parents, and share my memories and fun stories of the child. He understands and sees how the parents enjoy and appreciate the chance to talk, but says he just couldn't do it himself. He fears upsetting them.

I am sharing this hub to remind others that parents still feel the pain after losing a child - and it is not a kindness if they don't have anyone to acknowledge it or share that pain with.

Thank you for writing this hub, SimpleGiftsof Love. I am thinking of you - and your daughters!


SimpleGiftsofLove profile image

SimpleGiftsofLove 3 years ago from Colorado Author

What an empathetic response LongTimeMother, I wish you were a personal friend of mine! It's those who are not afraid to explore the realities of life that I enjoy conversing with and spending time with. It's good to know that I can "visit" your site and read from your sensitivity. What a blessing to wake up this morning and read your post. I have been traveling a bit and haven't been on Hubpages at all for a while....but I am pondering ideas for additional writing....thank you again for taking the time to read and to "hear" my heart. I know there are hundreds of thousands of people who bear their grief silently because others don't know what is appropriate.


LongTimeMother profile image

LongTimeMother 3 years ago from Australia

I think it is very important that you keep writing, SimpleGiftsofLove.

I have no idea how many people have visited this particular hub of yours, but I have no doubt it will be of great comfort to many who visit but may not comment. And there will be others who read it and learn from it, making life a little easier for other bereaved parents when their friends have the confidence to talk with them about the children they have lost.

I was looking at some photos from my own travels last night and thinking perhaps I should create some hubs using them. I find that I spend so much time reading other people's stories that I don't seem to find the time to write many hubs of my own. Most of my hubs take way more time and effort than a quick and easy travel hub.

Perhaps we should both try to produce a few light and easy hubs about travel before moving onto topics that require more effort. I'll come by from time to time and see how your new hubs are doing. :)

Take care!


SimpleGiftsofLove profile image

SimpleGiftsofLove 3 years ago from Colorado Author

Thank you for the encouragement. I updated a few things this morning, and you are right. I do the majority of my writing on planes, in hotel rooms, on beaches or mountains or when the snow abounds and I don't want to venture out in it. I appreciate your comments and agree, I am following you, and look forward to sharing thoughts! Blessings!


Vista15 profile image

Vista15 3 years ago from Columbus, OH

Wow. How many words do I get? I don't know if I can put it in a nutshell, but here's a try.

I lost my first baby. I lost my second baby. Then I got 4 keepers over the ensuing years. But a Mother NEVER forgets. I can close my eyes and still see Laurie Kay and Angie Lee's faces. And how long has it been? 1960 and 1961. Today I celebrate their lives every year as MY birthday. I have 12 of them, and when you look past the silliness (IF anyone does) you find the depth of love in my core. I have been accused of being self centered, selfish and arrogant with my 12 birthdays. I really don't care, and in the case of my lost daughters, it keeps me in touch with their spirits/souls (although I feel my youngest daughter is the same soul as Laurie Kay who came back to me 9 years later. Angie Lee went to other parents after I prevented further pregnancies, but came to me in person when she was in her early 20's and we spent 3 years together. We discussed this and both felt it was true. I even had a hand in naming her as she wanted to change her name. I offered Delta Lee and it took her all of 10 minutes to accept it. A whole story in itself.) It also keeps me in touch with my own Inner Child and life is good.

What a great hub. Cudos to you, SimpleGiftsofLove. See my Hub pages by clicking on my picture.

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