November 12, 2021
Author: Andrea Maher
When I was an adolescent growing up in our tight-knit neighborhood of Philadelphia, I remember three families that experienced the death of a child. One classmate was hit by a car, (which had me looking both ways a zillion times before crossing our busy street). The daughter of a close family friend put on her best Sunday clothes, sat in her parent’s car in the garage and turned on the engine. (Whenever I passed her house, I would fixate on the horror of her dressing up for such an earth-shattering moment). And a little boy passed due to a rare form of cancer. All three tragedies impacted my thinking, even though I was too young to recognize how deeply. It created within me a vicarious wonder about loss and sorrow.
We all know that any premature death is one too many. But recently, it occurred to me as we were sharing prayer requests in a small group, how many people I personally know that have experienced the loss of a child — including myself. The substantial rise in these numbers declare a much deeper epidemic in this generation. While sadly, many have been drug related; many have not. It seems we are surrounded by a plethora of unnatural occurrences in the loss of our young that demands attention and words of hope and encouragement.
The relationship between a parent and a child is among the most sacred in life. It is part of the natural order that a child will outlive his parents. This type of loss leaves an enormous gap as the heart knows a large part of it has been permanently and irreparably damaged. It has been said that coping with the death of a child requires some of the hardest work one will ever do. Many will be haunted by how their child died; grief is a rough journey, regardless of the circumstances.
Parents will always have that unending desire to hold, touch, hug, or have one more conversation with that child again. Emotional triggers linger quietly beneath the surface and erupt at the most unexpected moments like seeing someone who resembles your child, hearing a song, or shopping and seeing their favorite food. All these years later, I can still get overwhelmed with intense sadness when I look at our family portrait — the last one taken with my son. Not only do my eyes fixate on the picture but my heart can easily transfix on that evening like it was just yesterday. The words, if only I knew that was our last moment as a family, find space in my mind and must be brushed away quickly. “What if’s” and “If only’s” lead nowhere but down… down… down.
So as the holidays approach, I want to encourage all those who have experienced loss, and any friends or family who are traveling that road with them, to remember what the Bible wants us to know about grief— that it will not last forever. Revelations 21:4 promises us, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, for the former things have passed away.”
You may not feel that way at this moment, but there are Scriptures that you can memorize and tuck away in your heart that will become your default lifeline when those dark moments creep up on you. And they will!
“Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble” (Psalm 19:9).
God gives us these promises and many more throughout the Scriptures so that we can know He is with us in our most despondent moments. We may not be able to feel Him but He feels us. In the book of Isaiah, it says this about Jesus: “He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.”
And then one day, when you are able, He will enable you to comfort and call back to someone else who is struggling under the weight of sorrow. “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us” (2 Corinthians 1:4).
Do you want to give a special gift this holiday season—then give of yourself and walk alongside someone who is traveling this very tough road recognizing the weight of the burden they are carrying on their back? Encourage with words or just be a listening ear.
Understand that grief brings confusion and some parents can feel betrayed by God. Show love during those moments and only be concerned if that person stays in a dark place for a prolonged period of time. It is also important to pray for those who are grieving to not allow negative emotions of guilt, regret, and fear to consume them.
The closer the grieved person gets to know the character of God—which by the way they can see most readily in you through your service to them — the more success they will have surrendering their sadness to Him thereby allowing Him to enter into their sorrows. The weight is much too heavy for human hands, but be that reminder that God is present through your hands, and it will allow them to understand that He is waiting to take hold of their hands to bring them into His arms of comfort.
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Andrea Maher is the former editor-in-chief of PARENT ABC’S a monthly magazine. Her writings have been featured in local newspapers and parenting publications nationwide. She is the author of LETTERS TO MY SON: Soley a God Story and SLAMMED: Overcoming Tragedy in the Wave of Grief.
She is the executive director of the Be Still Foundation, a ministry that disseminates hope and encouragement to families in crisis. She has been married to her husband John for 44 years and has four children, and 10 grandchildren. https://bestillfoundation.org