Child. Death. Funeral. Grief. Survival. New normal.
Unfortunately, it is not as rare as you would think. These words stop me cold EVERY SINGLE TIME I see them. Since losing David, my eyes are open to the plight of the bereaved everywhere, especially in my own community. A week ago my own small community faced the loss of one of our own. Payton, was seven and succumbed to a rare brain tumor. His untimely death forces us all to think of our own child, as well as those who have lost children of their own. Since the loss of my son nearly four years ago, I have had the opportunity to meet some wonderful people who have become a part of my journey. One of those that really stands out is my friend and author Jennifer Ross. Jennifer and I had an immediate connection as we bonded over the loss of our precious sons. Quiet and insightful in nature, I can appreciate Jennifer’s thoughtful and supportive ways.
Jennifer Ross is active in the bereavement community, educating others on how to help their loved ones during the throes of grief. Jennifer is also a certified doula and founder of His Grace Is Sufficient blog. Jennifer helps mothers who are struggling with the loss of a child and walks through the heartache with them. Her passion for the Lord grows each day as she strives to bring Him glory through not only the good times but also the hard as well. Jennifer is a HuffPost Blogger (Huffington Post) and has been published on the GriefToolBox. She has also been a contributor in two published books regarding the loss of a child. She can be followed on facebook or Twitter. Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Jennifer. This interview seems very fitting at a time like this. I believe it is vital to share information and offer support as much as possible. If you know somebody who has lost a child or you are that somebody who has a lost a child, you will find resources and support while reading the words of my friend Jennifer. Let’s go back to the day you lost Isaiah and the days immediately following. How did you cope? How would you describe what you felt?
This is a difficult question to answer as I sit here and try to find words to describe of a loss so great. I never imagined this happening to me, and it was an area that I did not want to touch with a single fiber of my being. A little over a year before Isaiah passed, my oldest son almost lost his life due to a brain tumor that had been growing for most of his life (according to his neurosurgeon). I was already on high alert due to worrying about my oldest getting better, and then I faced a pregnancy that was threatening the life of another son. Honestly, I didn’t think that anything would happen to him. I felt that the problems in my pregnancy were going to be a testimony to many, and I would move on in my life raising my boys, and possibly having more children.
The night that I went by ambulance was a new awakening for me — I was no longer invincible, nor my son.
It was not only in losing my son that tore my heart to pieces, but him dying to give me life. That is a feeling all its own. A pit so deep, an ache so painful, I find hard to put into words.
The first way I coped was by going home and holding my three older boys as tightly as possible. They are the very ones that kept me alive. The very reason that I arose every morning. If it weren’t for them, I do not believe that I would have fought for my life as hard as I did. The second way in which I coped was by gathering words together on a blog and sharing my heart with a handful of people around the world, as they would come upon and read/comment on each written post. The women that I met gave me a strength that is only given by one who understands the pain that is endured through the loss of a child. They walked with me, day by day, letting me know that I walked not alone. I am grateful to each of these women, they hold a special place in my heart. After writing for a few years, I took to writing my story — his story — in book form. I wanted to write each piece down so that nothing would be forgotten … especially his memory. I wanted people to know that he was here on this earth, and that he holds a special place in our family, the fourth son, to be exact.
Four and a half years after Isaiah’s Story being published, and his life has touched more lives than I will ever know. I have random people come up to me and let me know how much his story has touched their life, and some on how it has helped them with their own healing in the loss of a child. God allows nothing to be wasted. Nothing.
Regarding the loss of a child, what do you suggest on how to cope with
You have got to feel every single piece of that loss. Take every ache and feel it. Do not stuff it away, waiting to “deal” with it at a later date. It will literally eat you alive. Reach out to other people. People you trust in listening to your heart. A person that is able to sit in silence with you. It is a most sacred journey, where you will find the new person in which you’ve become. You will never be the same again. Ever.
Do you have any resources you
recommend for parents who are grieving? Books? Websites? Scripture?
There aren’t many sources that I have used following the death of Isaiah. I mainly clung to my tribe of Baby Loss Mama’s (BLM’s), but do have a couple of recommendations.
*The following books do have the option of clicking on the picture of the book on Amazon, and it will give you a sample read if you’re interested.
Grief Diaries: Surviving Loss of a Pregnancy (Stories shared by Stephanie Malcolm, Jennifer Ross, and many others.)
This is a book compiled of a beautiful array of women who have compiled their stories of loss. There are so many different ways to grieve, which will be found throughout the pages of this heartfelt book.
The first website that I send all bereaved parents to is Sufficient Grace Ministries. This is an organization that puts 100% heart into the well-being of a parent — “Perinatal hospice support for families receiving a life-limiting diagnosis in pregnancy and emergent support for those who experience the loss of a baby in any gestation.” Kelly Gerken (Founder of SGM) was the first to take me by the hand and walk with me through the darkness, and for that, I am eternally grateful …
The scripture that I have held close to my heart following the death of Isaiah has been Jeremiah 29:11. A handful of months before my son died, I had this verse cut out and held by a magnet on the front of my refrigerator. I found such a peace in those words that made up this verse. After going to the office of the cemetery, where he was laid to rest, I filled out the paperwork selecting a stone that would hold his name and birth/death date carefully etched within that light red granite stone. A couple of days after turning in that very important piece of paper, I looked upon that verse while in my kitchen, but this time the words came alive to me. I quickly dialed the number to that office and asked if it was too late to have a bible verse added to his stone. I called just in time, before the information had been sent — I love how God works that way!
I chose this particular verse as a reminder that God had a plan for the short life lived through Isaiah, as for the plans that God has for my life, as well.
Do you think you can ever heal completely after the loss of a child?
I will never be the same person that I was before the loss of my son, but I’ve chosen to be a better person because of the death of my son. I choose to look at life through a different lens … a lens of compassion, and in pursuit of a deeper love for people. It’s all a choice in the way you choose to travel your personal journey after the loss of a child.
How has your life changed?
I take the time to pause, and take it all in. The beauty that surrounds us is absolutely amazing. I now can find beauty in the weeds that fill a ditch along the road, a thunderstorm that darkens the sky, and even a dandelion that has gone to seed. It seems as though certain things are put into the category of “bad” if they don’t meet our requirements as beautiful. It’s kind of like loss … it’s not what I wanted as a mother, but I have to search for the beauty that is hidden within the darkness.
How has it affected your parenting?
I have become somewhat of a “helicopter mom,” trying to protect my children from anything that can bring harm to them. I do know that this can get to an unhealthy extreme, so I keep myself aware of the decisions that I make regarding their care, and try to let them live a normal childhood. Lots of prayer going on in my life.
How has it affected your relationships with others?
It’s amazing how soon you find out who your friends truly are after the loss of a child. Sure, people get uncomfortable with the whole subject on death, but the person who sits with you for the months/years following such a devastating loss, listening to you share your pain, is a true friend indeed. I haven’t completely cut people from my life due to their lack of involvement after the loss of my son, but I do notice that I am drawn to the people in life who are *AWAKE* to what life is all about. These people are usually the ones who have suffered through some great darkness in life, not just in death, either. They see life and people with a deeper vision on what really matters in life.
How has this affected your faith?
My faith has been slowly built throughout the years (regarding death). God has been my absolute *ALL* throughout these last 8 years. The awesome thing about God … I don’t need to explain one ounce of my pain. He already knows. He knows my thoughts, the pain that consumed my soul for years, and watched each tear fill my eyes, as they ran down my cheeks. Whether I am standing at the grave of my son, laying awake at night staring at the blue numbers on the clock, or smiling as I watch my other boys playing — wondering what Isaiah would have been like, God is ALWAYS there. I am truly never alone. I like to think that there is a small piece of Isaiah with me all of the time. If God is always with me, and Isaiah is with God, then we are still together. Not physically, but through the greatest thing one can carry — love.
As a grieving mom, I know that even though people mean well, things are often said that can be hurtful. Do you have any personal experience with that? What do you recommend not be said to a parent after a loss?
Some things that hurt me that others would say to me after my loss would be the following classic statements: *God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.
*At least you have other healthy living children.Yes, these statements may be correct, but absolutely heartless comments to speak to a parent that just suffered the loss of a child, especially if you have never experienced a loss, because if you have, I can guarantee that those words would never exit your mouth. A loving hug and listening ear can be a priceless gift to offer a bereaved parent. What is one thing you wish others knew after you loss Isaiah? One thing that I want others to know after burying my son, is just that — I buried my son, not my “baby.” I feel like his death is downplayed through the very comment, “I am sorry for the loss of your baby.” The loss has been great, and words will never really allow a person to understand the ache that lingers for a lifetime. (The following link will take you to an article published on The Huffington Post that Jennifer wrote on this subject: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jennifer-ross/he-is-my-son-not-my-baby_b_6070118.html) How is life today?Life is beautiful and difficult, all in one. God has a plan for my life, just as he had a perfect plan for the life of my son. In the first months after loss, I would find myself endlessly wondering why, but I am now at a place in my life where I have found acceptance with the missing of that little boy within my home. His home is heaven, along with a special seat I have made in my heart for him. As I look back throughout these last 8 years, I have seen God use Isaiah’s life in many beautiful ways, and it’s my hope that as the years continue on, God’s perfect plan will slowly be revealed. When I have joined my son in heaven, I know that all will be shown in full. Death is not all my life is centered around. I have a life to live, and need to live it to the fullest. I have 4 boys to raise, and I take that job very seriously. I am currently taking college classes to obtain a degree in counseling/social work. My desire is to help hurting people, and walk with them through the darkness, helping to bring them to the light … with hope.