Motherhood, I’m afraid, did not come naturally to me. The initial weeks with my first newborn were the most harrowing I had experienced. So two years later when my second baby was due I had very low expectations. How pleasant it was to find that things fell into place after our second child, Josiah was born.
I had been dreading the responsibility of caring for two children on my own. But on my husband, Adrian’s, first day of work, Ella and I sat in the morning sunshine playing and talking as baby Josiah slept peacefully. It was beautiful and I was thriving.
Then, just two days before Josiah would have been 12 weeks old, he died – suddenly and unexpectedly in his cot. It was midday. I had been eating lunch with Ella. I went into his room to wake him for his lunchtime feed. In an instant it was like I knew that God had been preparing me for this moment. Even so, I panicked, I called emergency services, I ran to my neighbour’s for help, I pleaded with the Lord to give my son back to me and I committed his little soul into the Father’s hands.
It is two years now since Josiah was called home. As I look back I can truly say that we are changed people. We are stronger and much more aware of God’s love because of how he sustained us through our valley. In a more concrete sense we are living for our future in heaven, ever mindful of the hope Jesus’ resurrection brings. We know, because of God’s promises in the Bible, that we will be reunited with our son and that a day is coming when Jesus will wipe away our tears forever.
But what about the here and now, how do we face life in this world without Josiah? I want to suggest that fellow Christians, however inadequate they may feel, can play an important role in the healing of parents who have lost a baby. Most people didn’t know what to say or how to comfort us. But God used others in their weakness to provide us with his comfort and strength.
We were in shock. We were like little children. We didn’t know what to do with ourselves. I have always liked to be in control but for the first time in my life I surrendered to my utter helplessness and relied on others for everything.
Our local church family could not have been more faithful in loving us at this time. We called a couple in our church to the hospital minutes after Josiah’s resuscitation attempt ceased. Fran spoke to me the words of God from Scripture as I held my baby for the very last time. She reassured me of his safety in the arms of Jesus.
On the second evening after Josiah’s death our church family met to pray for us and to hear from another couple in our church whose baby had died years earlier to learn how they could best support us. As friends and family came to comfort us, our church family worked in the background to prepare meals, clean our home – not to mention organising and catering for the funeral.
For a time I felt detached from my church family as we’d been occupied for weeks with friends from out of town. When we started to participate in fellowship again it was overwhelming to discover how our grief was shared. Even now, two years down the track, Josiah is not forgotten. People continue to share how their lives have been affected by him and just recently we were given a book where people have written their memories about Josiah for us to keep.
No one felt particularly equipped for the task of caring for us as bereaved parents. Even so, the way we have been cared for by our church has been a testimony of Jesus’ love to the town in which we live.
GOD IS GOOD
The temptation in suffering is to doubt the goodness of God. Yet, at Josiah’s funeral my Father opened his address with the words, “God is good.” How could the grandfather of a deceased infant, an only grandson, say with confidence such words?
We have not always felt like God has been good to us as we have grieved for Josiah. But at these times we had to look at the character of God in the Bible, rather than relying on our emotions.
God was certainly good to us in providing such a loving church family. Not to mention many friends and family members who have been faithful in prayer for us even to this day. He has also been good to us in blessing us with a new child, Claire, to care for. She was born on my 30th birthday just one year after Josiah died. She is truly a gift from God.
It was only appropriate that we gave expression to God’s goodness on Josiah’s grave plaque as we chose the opening verse of Psalm 106, “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his steadfast love endures forever.” We also chose Jesus’ words from John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me shall live even though he dies.”
God is good! We are grateful for each precious day God gave us to spend with Josiah. After he died there was a time when I thought I would never be happy again. But I am happy. And Josiah’s death has created in me a greater longing for the coming of the Lord’s wonderful kingdom where infants will not die and Jesus himself will wipe away our tears. CW
TIPS ON MANAGING GRIEF
Arm yourself with the Word of God. Know it well and think through the issue of suffering and God’s goodness before you find yourself emotionally entangled. John Dickson’s If I were God I’d end all the suffering is a concise look at the issue. See Don Carson’s How Long O Lord for something more in-depth.
Never underestimate the importance of prayer. Pray faithfully for your friend who has lost a baby. They will be encouraged to know you have been regularly uplifting them before the Lord
Make specific offers rather than a vague, “Let me know if I can help.”
Remember. It still touches me when I receive an email or card from a friend who has remembered Josiah’s birthday or the anniversary of his death.
If you feel inadequate recognise that it’s better to say something rather than avoiding the person or the issue.
Understand that grief is exhausting so don’t place expectations on someone in grief. And remember that grief goes on for a long time.
For the bereaved
Recognise that people find it hard to know how to deal with you. Even when they say dumb things, try to see their kind intentions.
If you want to cry – cry! Don’t waste your precious energy bottling up tears for fear of making others feel uncomfortable. I have found it so much better for relationships to be open.
In a marriage recognise that each will have a different path of grief. Support each other as best you can but seek outside support as well. Give each other the space to grieve differently.
You will now have a life-long conversation with your children about death as their levels of understanding change. Future children too will have questions about the sibling they never met. Embrace this as an opportunity to teach your children about eternity. Joey O’Connor’s, Children and Grief, is an excellent resource.