Never a Disappointment

Gayle blogs on how we feel six months on.

We were warned when we discovered Zachary’s condition that people would put their foot in it sometimes. People don’t know what to say, they don’t say anything at all, they say the wrong thing.. Even knowing this it doesn’t lessen the hurt you feel when someone inadvertantly says something tactless.

Just two weeks after Zachary died we were with some friends who prayed for us. This was a nice gesture and we appreciated their love and support. However, we left the meeting feeling hurt and completely misunderstood. One prayer was that we ‘wouldn’t be so sad’. Six months down the line this seems quite an innoccuous statement, but at the time it bruised us to hear it from a good friend: after a couple of months of knowing our son’s condition, anticipating carrying him to full term only to watch him die, then discovering that his heart had stopped, delivering our dead son, holding him in our arms and looking into his face and then holding a funeral service for him just a week before, being encouraged ‘not to feel so sad’ felt trite and utterly insensitive. Yes, pray for more comfort; but to be ‘less sad’ for losing the son who you had desired to be part of your family, who you had hopes and dreams for?! In the same meeting, someone spoke whose words essentially implied that we were living in the past and that we should move on into the future. This might be appropriate if our son hadn’t died just two weeks prior and if we weren’t still in the throes of grief. We felt two big feet stamp on our hearts that day.

Then just the other day I bumped into someone from our church who asked me whether I had ‘got over [our] disappointment’? Maybe he was trying to be polite with his words, making us the subject matter rather than talking about our son, but it revealed he knew very little about our experience and our loss. Our son Zachary was no disappointment. It was heartbreaking to discover he wasn’t going to live, it was tremendously difficult to carry him knowing he wouldn’t be a living member of our family, but he was no mistake or misfortune. Our son will forever be a privilege to us – a privilege that we were able to know him even for that short period of time and a privilege that he lived as long as he did so that we could deliver and hold him together as his parents and tell him that we love him. These words put another stamp on my heart.

We have had many people come forward to offer their condolences, and some have shared their stories of how they have had to deliver their dead child. I have immense admiration and respect for what they did and know that they empathise fully with us. Sometimes people try to be nice, but sometimes they get it wrong and I wish they didn’t try so hard. Grace is there to forgive those who have wounded our hearts with their words but it doesn’t always take the impact of them away immediately. Sometimes, the best support to give, when words are not enough to express sadness, is just quiet companionship on the challenging road ahead.

4 Comments on “Never a Disappointment

  1. hi Peter, I'm not sure if I posted this at the time, but there is a wonderful book by Sarah Williams called "The Shaming of the strong" which describes her journey through the pregnancy and birth of a baby that they too knew would be stillborn. I read it some time ago.
    I can still only imagine the pain that you have gone through in the last 6 months but I have greatly appreciated that you choose to share it with us your blog.

  2. Peter,
    This is a very helpful testimony of the sensitivities of grief and that the Body of Christ (and all for that matter) need to be at least informed if not actually trained in ministering to and around those who are in mourning. I'd like to make use of your words in some form for that purpose in my own parish. Thank you for sharing this courageously – that is, with the possibility of being read by the very people in that prayer circle you mention. God's strength by his very presence to you and your family.

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