“But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” 2 Samuel 12: 23 (NASB)
A fellow Georgia writer’s son died in a motorcycle accident this weekend. My heart goes out to her and her family. She joins a club that no one ever wants to belong to—those of us who have had to grieve the loss of our child. It doesn’t matter whether the child is a newborn or an adult when the loss occurs, the loss scars us for the rest of our lives. I once knew a lady who lost one of her children at birth, and she still ached for him over sixty years later.
It occurs to me that this is a club as old as time. The first members were Adam and Eve. It was the first major consequence of sin as Adam and Eve faced a devastation beyond anything they could imagine. I can almost guarantee they would have much preferred that the Lord take them instead.
King David was also a member of this club. Actually we’re told of David’s grief at the loss of two different sons, the first son of Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 12 and Absalom in 2 Samuel 19. Absalom was trying to take away David’s kingdom at the time but that didn’t lessen David’s grief. He still echoed the refrain, “Would I had died instead of you.” There’s just something about the loss of our children that goes against the natural order of things. We think children are supposed to bury aged parents after a long and happy life, not parents bury children after a life cut short.
When David’s first son died, he’d been praying and fasting for days that the Lord would spare him so much that his servants feared to give him the news that the child had actually died. When the loss actually occurred, they couldn’t understand either when he got up and washed his face, went to the house of the Lord and worshiped, and ate the food set before him. I can identify with this. When Kara died, I’d already been through thirteen months of knowing death was coming. By the time it arrived, I’d already been through a major portion of the grief process. That didn’t make it any less devastating either.
Other people who’ve never been through such a loss don’t know how to react to grieving parent. Sometimes they say things they think are helpful but really aren’t. No, God didn’t need another angel! No, it’s not God’s will! It’s not his will that any should perish. Death is a natural consequence of sin. But it is not God’s will. It’s sometimes a result of our own or other’s stupid choices, but it’s never God’s first choice. Sheila Sober has written a book called My Precious Little One: Helping Those Who Have Lost a Child. In it, she quotes me as well as many others who’ve been through this. If you know someone facing loss, I recommend it to you.
In a nutshell, my advice is if you don’t know what to say, you don’t have to say anything at all. Just give me a hug when I need it. It’s been almost eight years now, but I can guarantee you on August 12th I’ll need a hug. The official date of Kara’s death is August 13th, but the 12th was the day I saw the light go out of her eyes, and it never came back. And no, I’ll never get over it. But I did learn to live with it. One day at a time. By leaning on the Lord. He is my Strength.