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A Prayer Through Tears
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in over a dozen newspapers. This week I focused on Canada and the Olympics. Since that has limited interest to some of my American readers, who are basking in Phelps' glory, I thought I'd reprint one of my favourite columns from a few years ago.

This particular column garnered me more email than any other. It inspired me to start writing more about Christopher (up until then I had always found it too painful) because it obviously touched people. And best of all, this appeared in secular newspapers.

In a few days I’ll take my girls to the cemetery, for one of our regular visits on the anniversary of their brother’s death. It’s been eight years now, but the pain still hits when you least expect it.

Last week, in my hometown, another set of parents endured the unimaginable, this time because their seven-year-old drowned in a tragic accident. I’m sure, though, that they are not the only ones with fresh wounds. There are others who are grieving today: parents who have miscarried, or lost a baby like I did, or had accidents, whether or not it hit the news. Even if it happened long ago, such grief does not just evaporate. After my son died, I realized that one cannot comfort a grieving parent as one would like to, because there are no words. But one can listen, one can hug, and one can pray. And so I would like to share some of my thoughts and prayers for those of us who have entered this horrible fraternity of grieving parents, in the hopes that it may help some of you, too.

When a child dies it feels as if the physical laws of the universe have been violated. You needed that child far more than you need the very oxygen you breathe, and yet that child is gone, and your lungs keep working. Your very breath is a betrayal, and squeezes your chest worse than any violence ever could. So I pray that you will be able to take each breath, and that eventually simply living won’t hurt like this anymore.

And I pray that in your grief you and your spouse will be able to turn to each other. The death of a child strains a marriage in a way little else does. It’s not fair, but you face a crossroads. I pray you will walk this valley together, and that the journey will strengthen you, rather than separate you.

I pray that people will surround you with practical help, that they will hug and that they will listen. I pray that your friends won’t scatter because they feel awkward, but that they will be patient, even when the grief seems to be lasting longer than others think it should. I pray that if your grief is from a miscarriage or a stillbirth, people will still understand the depth of your pain.

I also pray that you will be able to take each day as it comes. When a child dies, and especially a baby who did not have the chance to become part of your daily routine, on the outside it is almost as if he or she never existed. And yet, for you that child was your very heart. If you let go of the grief, it is as if you are letting go of the last thing that ties you to your baby. Remember, though, that grief is not something that disappears. Sometimes grief is overt, but other times you feel fine. I pray that you will embrace those moments when you feel peace, because there will be moments—even if it’s days, weeks, or years later—when the grief will return, unbidden, in full
force. Be grateful for good days and do not feel guilty for them. Smiling is not betraying your child.

At the same time, I pray that when those good days become the norm, even if it’s years down the road, that you will not feel like you are going crazy if the grief suddenly hits you hard again. You’re not regressing, or starting at square one. This is the way of grief, and know that it never completely disappears. If we are honest, we probably wouldn’t want it any other way. So I pray that in those moments when you can’t breathe again that you will still experience peace, and know that this intensity will again subside.

I pray that you will remember that everyday that passes is not one more day further away from your child, but instead one more day that you are closer to meeting him or her again.

And finally, I pray that one day you will be able to remember with laughter, and not just with tears.


If you have a friend who is grieving, or if you yourself are enduring a big loss, my book How Big Is Your Umbrella can help. It's a short, encouraging read about the things we yell at God, and what He whispers back.

If you're more the listening type, you can download talks that I gave on the subject, including Do You Believe God Loves You? and the conference, Extreme Makeover, both of which contain Christopher's story. You can also choose CDs of them both.

And finally, if you just want a copy of this column in book form, it's available in Reality Check, my collection of columns, which is on super special just until Labor Day!

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At 2:41 PM , Blogger Wifey said…

What a beautiful column. You have such a gift with words. I'm sure they've helped and healed many. Smiles.


At 10:22 AM , Blogger Tara said…

Tomorrow will be 6 years since I miscarried twins. I'm hoping to have a blog post finished and posted by then!


At 4:16 PM , Blogger Katrina said…

This is really beautiful, Sheila. Thank you for sharing it, not just with us, but with the many who read it in newspapers, the ones who were grieving...or who one day would, and your words would come back to their minds and offer some measure of comfort.

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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