We just lost our baby. At 22 weeks.

Grief is one of those primordial human emotions, along with shame, that was born in the darkness of sin. Like shame, grief has its positives and negatives. I truly and deeply feel the loss of our child; the pain and emptiness is pervasive and life-altering. 

But I must ask myself, why am I grieving? Just as shame can only exist in reference to a true good–that is, the beauty and goodness of the human body–grief can only exist in reference to the beauty and goodness of human life. 

I am grieving because death is not supposed to happen. It shouldn’t be this way. I am grieving because my son should be alive. I should be able to hold him and love him and give him all he needs to grow into a beautiful son of God. My grief reminds me of both the wonder of life as created by God and the loss of this precious life, my son. Sadly, the mere knowledge that life is good and beautiful cannot comfort me in my complete devastation.

Tradition says that the Book of Job is the oldest book in the Bible. It is no surprise, then, that it is a work about grief. Job asks but does not give a clear answer to the question of human suffering, particularly in light of all that we know about God. The problem of theodicy, the official term for attempting to explain why a good God permits evil, has enraptured theologians throughout the ages. For me, who until this week has lived a rather fortunate life without any major personal tragedies, the problem of theodicy has now become personal. 

Psalm 77, which I prayed over the body of my dead son, asks: 

Will the Lord spurn forever

and never again be favorable?

Has his steadfast love forever ceased?

Are his promises at an end for all time?

Has God forgotten to be gracious?

Has he in anger shut up his compassion?

I cried these words more than prayed them, as tears dripped on the screen of my phone. Why has the all-powerful God allowed this to happen? Is he all-powerful? If so, he must not be good. A good God does not will an innocent child to die. Is he good? If so, then he must not be all-powerful. An all-powerful God can make happen whatever it is that he wants. Did he really will my son to die? This is theodicy in a nutshell. 

But Psalm 77 continues:

I will remember the deeds of the Lord;

yes, I will remember your wonders of old.

I will ponder all your work,

and meditate on your mighty deeds.

Your way, O God, is holy.

What god is great like our God?

You are the God who works wonders;

you have made known your might among the peoples.

You with your arm redeemed your people,

the children of Jacob and Joseph. 

Our hope is born of remembrance. God has acted in history to redeem mankind. He saved the Israelites from slavery and bore them out of Egypt to the promised land. The Psalmist seems to be saying, “Do not doubt the God that did this for you and your people.” Like Job, the Psalmist does not provide a direct answer to the question of why God would allow my son’s death. Rather, it is a plea for me to trust in him. Even when we feel like spurning God and turning away from him, God’s historical act of redemption, brought to its fullness in the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, shines in the darkness.

Do not forget the greatness and goodness of God, our faith teaches us. Sin and the effects of sin never make sense. They are, in a fundamental way, irrational. But when I meditate on the goodness and greatness of God, I can see a way forward from the darkness of grief. 

Still, this is not enough. The truth of God’s goodness reveals the path, but I must walk it. Knowledge of God’s historical act raises my eyes toward his light, and I want to go to him, but my grief feels like cement around my feet. Faith in his promise can open up the way, but the content of faith would be meaningless without love. It is love that attracts and impels.

A few years ago, Pope Francis spoke about grief during his Wednesday audience. He said: 

For parents, surviving their own children is particularly heartbreaking; it contradicts the fundamental nature of the very relationships that give meaning to the family. The loss of a son or daughter is like time stopping altogether: it opens a chasm that swallows both past and future. Death, which takes away a little child or young person, is a blow to the promises, to the gifts and the sacrifices of love joyfully brought to the life we gave birth to. 

I am amazed that our Christian faith goes beyond mere remembering. It does more than just provide information about what to do and what has been accomplished. As Pope Francis has said, our God is a God who himself wept; he experienced, as man, the loss of a loved one. God “weeps with the tears of a father and mother.” Accordingly, Francis suggests that more should be done, as a Church, to grieve with parents through loss, saying,“It is necessary that Pastors and all Christians express in a more concrete way the meaning of the faith in regards to the family experience of grief. We should not deny them the right to weep.”

I am very privileged to live in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, where I believe this task has been faithfully accomplished. Here, they offer this wonderful rite that honors the life that was and to reinvigorate Christian hope in parents. 

In faith, we are united to Jesus who himself suffered death, and in his Resurrection bears his family to new life. As Francis reminds us, 

God’s work of love is stronger than the work of death. … Let us remember Jesus’ deed: ‘And Jesus gave him back to his mother’, so he will do with all our loved ones and with us when we meet again, when death will be definitively conquered in us. It was conquered by Jesus’ Cross. Jesus will give us all back to the family!

I am still in pain, but what joy there is to be loved by Jesus, united to him in his grief, through faith in his Resurrection.

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15 Responses

  1. Avatar Steven Rafferty says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss and pain im praying for you and your wife.

  2. Avatar Andreas says:

    I’m very sorry for your loss Daniel. My baby sister died when I was 3 – I remember it well, and my mother also had a miscarriage afterwards, these incidents has made a wound in my heart that a whole lifetime has not been able to soothe. Cry, grieve, be angry, own your grief and do not be ashamed. My parents choose another strategy and trust me, you do not want to go down that road.

  3. Avatar Marie says:

    Daniel- My sincerest sympathies to you, your wife and extended family. My prayers are with you all during this most difficult and painful time.

  4. Avatar Jude says:

    I am sorry for your loss, My sympathies to you and your family.

  5. Avatar Anne Lastman says:

    Hi Daniel I am so sorry for your loss and send my love to you and your wife and families. Indeed it is a time of silence, tears, questioning but please not shame.
    Having worked in the grief and loss area for nigh on 24 years i can say with certainty that there is no shame in grief. Its a response of soul weeping for loss of its home. Especially in miscarriage there is no shame but very much an expected and understood and expected reaction.
    At 22 weeks there had been much bonding which had occurred between baby and parents.
    Plans for name, future, education yes even room colour et al had been discussed with so much love. The anticipation was palpable not only by parents but extended family. A new tree had been planted in the Amiri garden which would continue to eternity and so Daniel your grief is good because it causes you to forever remember that a little one had passed briefly passed by our life, said hello and “I love you my parents, and we’ll meet again in a short while.
    You are and will remain my parents into eternity.”Hold on to this Daniel. You and his mother hold on to memory of him who has loved you.
    I speak from the heart Daniel. Apart from work experience I lost my son Mark less than a year ago.
    It was a time of unreal. I wondered around not talking, thinking. Nothing.
    As we buried him I held his hand (in heart and mind) just like when he was a little boy (he was adult-depression and its effect-intentional) and as he went i told him not to look back at us his work here finished but to look straight ahead to the one waiting to hold him.
    Nearly a year later i look at his photo and say its ok we will come together again. I loved being his mum thank you for choosing me.
    Daniel, your baby passed by and completed his work, added a new dimension to yours and your wife’s life then left.
    Grieve for a while and thank God and your child that you two were given the privilege of being his
    Parents not only for 22 weeks but for eternity
    God bless you and family. Anne

  6. Avatar Yaya says:

    I am sorry for your loss. Be assured of my prayers for you and your wife.

    God hold you both close.

  7. Avatar chris dorf says:

    Thank you for sharing and for your thoughts on grief Dan.
    My 2 closest cousins, 13 and 19, each slowly died over 2 years from congestive heart failure when I was 12 and 17. It became a long teenage journey for me as I pondered there deaths and my being alive. All I can say is that it contributed greatly to who I became as an adult as I often visited their graves and kept them in mind and heart.
    May God sustain you in this hour of the loss of your child.

  8. Avatar Pete Vickery says:

    God bless you and your family at this difficult time Daniel.

  9. Avatar Christopher Lake says:

    I’m so, so very sorry for your loss, Daniel. I’ve lost many family members and friends over the years, and some of those losses were sudden, unexpected, and traumatic– but I have never lost a child. I will pray for you and your wife that God brings both of you His consolation in this time.

  10. Avatar anthony says:

    May God grant you peace of heart and mind after the loss of your baby; you have a saint to pray for you! God Bless and my sincere condolences to you and all your family. Amen

  11. Avatar Ralph says:

    Daniel,

    I am very sorry for your loss. I will keep you and your family in my prayers.

  12. Avatar Katherine says:

    I am so very very sad to read this. May God comfort you and your wife and family. Your precious child is not lost and you will see him again. It is so hard to be separated – just unimagineable. May God comfort you and give joy to your little one in heaven until you meet.

  13. Avatar Manuel Dauvin says:

    Thank you for the precious window into your sorrow…and for including through it a view of the divine horizon. From a father who has also lost I send you my sincerest sympathies.
    As the husband of a wife who has lost I pray for your strength. ..the road she now travels will be very long and lonely. The grief of a mother for her child has a dimension that can only be touched by the husband as from without: as his hand on her pregnant belly.
    She uniquely felt a life to which you had limited access and the new life filled that secret garden with intimate hope. The loss…be strong. God has made a man capable of moving on so that humanity would not end in the depth of a mother’s grief. You are God’s bosom for your family and from your words I see grace will guide you through it.
    Again. Thankyou and you are in our prayers.

  14. Avatar Lazarus says:

    Daniel,

    I am very sorry for your loss. I will pray and offer spiritual works for you and your family.

  15. Avatar Maria Cotter says:

    I am so very sorry for your loss! Words can’t express. God bless you and your wife. Parents of a beautiful, eternal soul who will live forever.

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