Sunday, February 27, 2011

Life after Losing a Child

Everyone has pain.

Not everyone heals and shines afterwards. So, what is the difference? How can some come through life-altering tragedies with a song in their heart and a spring in their step while others are broken, bitter and angry for life?

The depth of the pain, the reality of the experience, and the joy of the healing--it's all REAL. And I want to tell you about it.

After our first child died (Anneli's twin, Timothy, at 22 weeks gestation) I recognized the need to walk through grief. I had been given the name and telephone number of a woman who had also lost a twin child while still pregnant and proceeded to give live birth to the second twin. I dialed the number and listened as this woman recounted her story. Our losses were similar. But something was different...she was the most bitter person I had ever come into contact with.

"How can I not be bitter?" I asked myself and God. The biggest thing I learned from this woman was that I didn't want to be like her.

Shortly before I became pregnant with the twins I had read and prayed a verse from I Corinthians chapter 3. It talks about building up on your foundation of Jesus. It says,
"If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person's work." verses 12-13
I noted how gold, silver and costly stones were not readily available. But that wood, hay and straw were. Anyone could just go for a walk and pick up those latter three for free along the way. It is much harder to acquire gold, silver and costly stones. They aren't just lying around for the taking! This makes them precious.

So I prayed that I would have a faith full of



and costly stones.

And then my dream of twins came crashing to a tragic end. He was gone. There was nothing we could do but watch his body get smaller and smaller on every subsequent ultrasound. It was painful, of course, but for a girl who'd prayed to have twins since childhood, it was pure torture.

This bitter woman showing me what I could potentially look like two years down the road. I didn't want to be like her. Enter the verse from Isaiah...

I will give you the treasures of darkness
riches stored in secret places,
so that you may know that I am the Lord,
the God of Israel, who summons you by name.
                                             Isaiah 45:3

I realized that those costly stones were the very same "treasures of darkness" and that they were as good as "riches stored in secret places." If I wanted to have faith that was marked of such things as gold, silver and costly stones, then I needed to go digging. Digging/mining into the tragedy God allowed into my life.

I truly believe that God has gifts for us in our tragedies. No one will escape pain in life. It's true. Jesus said so!  I went after those gifts hidden in the darkness of tragedy as if my life depended upon it. For me, this meant reading books about others' losses, crying extensively, journaling, writing poetry and talking with trusted friends.

Each time we lost a child, I learned more. By the time of Oskar's homegoing, I was a well experienced griever. I already had hammered through the question, "Why is this happening to me if God is good?" and I knew He was with me. Because of my prior experience in grief, I got to skip through some of the initial stages.

Grief is a cyclical process. You can study the different stages of it, but you will realize that they do not come to you in any particular order. And once they've gone, this doesn't mean they won't be back. But here's what I found encouraging: each time the same stage revisited me, I was different. Greater amounts of gold had been added to my foundation. I was newly equipped with what it took to rise to the next level in the cycle. Like a winding staircase that keeps passing "north," my grief had been here before, but felt a little different. I was a little different. I saw change. I saw growth in myself and this was encouraging.

If you are going through something painful in your life, what are you doing with your grief? Are you choosing to chew on it like a cow chews its cud? Are you letting bitterness fester in your heart? Are you slamming the door on your faith because you cannot fathom how God could let this happen to you?

I cry out to you: come in your pain to Jesus.

He is bigger than you, and therefore He does not need to explain His choices to you. This is so hard for us, because we rest on our logic. We have this thing for needing to understand. But sometimes, in the economy of God, we simply cannot. Give that "right" over.

He is more loving than you can possibly imagine, whether or not you believe this. His love is so deep and long and wide and high that no angel or demon or sin or tragedy can divide, pull, remove or dissolve God's love for us. (see Romans 8:38-39)

As crazy as it may seem against the backdrop of your tragedy, God has a plan for your life.

Listen to these sweet words from Isaiah chapter 35:

Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.
The burning sand will become a pool
the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
In the haunts where jackals once lay,
grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.

I love that!! In the very place where your pain now resides, God will redeem it with good things. Has He given my babies back to me from the dead? No. Has He given me another set of twins? Not yet. But He has done something beautiful--

"To all who mourn in Israel, He will give a crown of BEAUTY for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair." Isaiah 61:3
Delight in the hope and promise from this Scripture from Psalm 126:5-6 as well:

Those who plant in tears will harvest with SHOUTS OF JOY. Those who went off with HEAVY HEARTS will come home LAUGHING, with ARMLOADS OF BLESSING.

Come view your tragedy as an opportunity. An invitation for you to come and mine in the secret places. This is off the beaten path. It's a place that not all will dare to go. But you will. You will not allow this tragedy to crush you. You will NOT allow this wound to mar you so that you permanently limp.

Not everyone will emerge with deepened faith. 

But some do. Will you?


  1. Amy, thanks so much for sharing your experience! Your testimony is and will be a blessing to others!

  2. Inspirational. Wish I would have learned this lesson years ago. But then again, the struggle was the lesson.

    There is a song by Selah that is very special to me that sings: " ... when anything that's shattered is laid before the Lord, just watch and see, it will not be unredeemed." ♥


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