Waves of pain swept over me. The contractions were intensifying. I took deep, shaky breaths and held on tightly to my tummy. My baby was coming—he was going to be born—but I was not ready for him.
He was only 16 weeks old.
Even though I was told that he had already passed on in the morning, deep in the recesses of my heart, I was still wishing for a miracle from God—a miracle of healing, a miracle of restoration. But it never happened.
I will always remember that fateful day. What was supposed to be a routine antenatal check became a nightmare. I was 14 weeks into my second pregnancy, and my usually cheerful gynecologist was exceptionally quiet and solemn while conducting the ultrasound.
“There’s something wrong with your baby,” he said. Those dreaded words sent my world tumbling. It sparked off a series of tests, which revealed that baby Gideon had Edward’s Syndrome, or trisomy 18, a rare chromosomal condition that often results in severe defects leading to stillbirth or early infant death.
“Why me? Why my baby?” I thought. I was young. I had no family history of miscarriages or chromosomal abnormalities. Edward’s Syndrome happens randomly in 1 out of 5,000 live births, so why my child?
My gynecologist repeatedly advised my husband and me to abort our child, citing high possibility of serious heart and intellectual defects. But we knew that even with trisomy 18, Gideon was loved by God and us. Thus, we rejected the suggestion and went on our knees to pray. We wept, we prayed, we pleaded with the Lord to heal our child. If God could raise Lazarus from the dead, healing our child was no big feat, we told ourselves.
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But it was not to be. God decided to bring Gideon home, welcoming him into His arms instead of healing him. As much as our hope was in the Lord, and we knew that we would one day carry Gideon in our arms, my husband and I were devastated. The pain of losing my child renewed afresh in me the pain of losing my own mother to cancer when I was a young adult. The grief was unbearable.
For days and months after, I wrestled with the Lord. I was sad and angry . . . yet relieved. I was dismayed to have lost my child, angry and disappointed that God chose not to heal my son when He could, and upset that life carried on while my son and I seemed forgotten. Yet, I was also relieved that we didn’t have to go through the emotional and mental turmoil of seeing our son suffer and having to care for a special needs child.
At the same time, I was upset with myself for having these thoughts. It was a whirlwind of emotions, but in those moments, the Spirit of God ministered to me with these insights.
1. God Understands Our Grief
In my darkest moments when I felt like no one understood or truly cared, the Lord reminded me of John 11:33–35, the scene in which Lazarus’ sisters wept over his death.
Despite being “blamed” for not coming earlier to heal Lazarus, Jesus was grieved and moved in His Spirit. The Bible says that “He wept” (v. 35). Two simple words, but they reminded me that Jesus shared in Mary and Martha’s sorrow and pain. They didn’t grieve alone; Jesus was grieving with them. For me, those two words hit home.
When we hurt, God hurts as well. When my heart is broken, God’s heart breaks too.
When we hurt, God hurts as well. When my heart is broken, God’s heart breaks too. God isn’t aloof or afar. He was and is with us, and He grieves together with us.
Not only that, He can understand and empathise with our pain of losing our loved ones. After all, He lost His one and only begotten and beloved Son, whom He sent to the cross to bear the sins of the world (John 3:16). If God saw His Son suffer and die first-hand, how could He not understand my pain of losing both my child and mother? Knowing that God shares in my pain gave me great comfort.
2. We Can Trust God’s Faithfulness, Even When We Don’t Understand Why
When I was 20, my mother passed away from cancer. During my season of mourning, I asked God repeatedly why He allowed her to be ill, why He didn’t heal her, and why her, of all people? And when I found out about Gideon’s condition, I asked the same questions: Why, Lord? Why me? Why my child? Why didn’t You heal him?
In Romans 8:32, Paul writes: “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”
It blows my mind to consider how God could possibly let and watch his Son die. As a mother of four, I cannot fathom losing any more of my children. So how could God? As I struggled to wrap my mind around this thought, it struck me that the answer is simply: God loves me, so He gave His only Son for me.
While the loss of my child and mum may have seemed meaningless to me, I could trust in God’s faithfulness—even when I didn’t understand why. God showed His faithfulness in His love for me.
While the loss of my child and mum may have seemed meaningless to me, I could trust in God’s faithfulness—even when I didn’t understand why.
After going through these seasons of questioning, grieving, and anger, I realised that I may never find out—at least in this lifetime—why God chose to take my mum and son home so early. But it is all right. Over time, I have learnt that God, who loves me, “in all things . . . works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Shortly after losing Gideon, God granted me another child, and a son at that! To me, that was testament to how the Lord gives and takes away (Job 1:21), and how He makes everything beautiful in its time (Ecclesiastes 3:11). All I have to do is to trust Him.
3. God Welcomes Us to Bare Our Hearts to Him
Across the book of Psalms, we read of the psalmists pouring out their hearts to God. Their grief, pain, anger, disappointment were all laid bare before the Lord.
In Psalm 13:1–2, for example, David lamented: “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?”
God’s heart is big enough to embrace all our emotions.
Likewise, the suffering Job asked God why He didn’t answer him (Job 30:20), and even wondered if his afflictions were caused by God.
In his pain and suffering, Job was completely honest with God and forthright with his feelings. Yet God did not condemn those thoughts. Instead, He opened Job’s eyes to His sovereignty as the omnipowerful, omniscient, and omnipresent Creator (Job 38–41).
Even though God did not address Job’s whys to his suffering, His response was more than sufficient to quiet and restore Job’s weary and hurting soul. God’s heart is big enough to embrace all our emotions.
What the Church Can Do During Seasons of Grief
During my seasons of grief, people have shown their kindness in various ways—some helpful, others not so much, though all done in a genuine spirit of love. Here are some ways that we, as a church community, can do to show our love to those who are grieving.
1. Resist offering platitudes or well-meaning advice
As tempting as it may be to offer advice such as, “time will heal all pain”, or “it is better this way as there’s less suffering”, these words do not add meaning or provide comfort to those who are grieving, especially when the loss is recent.
We also need to be sensitive about sharing Bible verses. Those grieving may already be familiar with these verses, and unless the Lord convicts and touches their hearts, these verses may come across as cliches or mere banalities.
2. Give the individual time and space to grieve and heal
Not everyone wants to be with others during times of grief. Some may prefer to be alone or to be surrounded by their closer family members or friends. If appropriate, we might want to consider sending an occasional text message reminding them that they are remembered and loved.
Sometimes, simply being present with someone who is grieving is more than enough; words may not be needed.
Sometimes, simply being present with someone who is grieving is more than enough; words may not be needed. It may be good to first check if he or she would appreciate the company. We can ask the Spirit of God for His wisdom and guidance as we seek to encourage and minister to those who are mourning.
3. Offer practical help
Are there kids to be fed? Are there errands to be run? Bringing food over, running errands, or even delivering a cup of coffee are wonderful and practical ways to show love to someone who is grieving.
God loves us, and loves those whom we have lost more dearly than we ever could.
In hindsight, I am thankful that the Lord chose to take Gideon and my mother home. I know that they are in a better place, free from suffering and given new bodies in Christ. I know that the Lord has wiped away every tear from their eyes (Revelation 21:4). And I know that one day, I will be reunited with them (1 Thessalonians 4:13–18).
Because of these promises of God, we can have hope. Because of the goodness of the Lord, we can be confident that all the days of our lives, and those of our loved ones, were written in His book before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16).
God loves us, and loves those whom we have lost more dearly than we ever could. May we take heart and find hope in these truths.