Good grief

Last week was a tough one in the life of our church family. One of our staff members gave birth to her fourth child, only to have that sweet little life end just a few days later. This sudden loss came as a surprise to everyone. Many in our church body mobilized quickly to surround this family with prayer, meals, and whatever kind of support we could think of to provide.

The night before little Lucy died, my friends (who I pray with regularly) decided to get together to pray for her and her hurting family. We were planning to meet at the church offices, but changed our plans once I talked to Lucy’s mama. She wanted us to come to her instead, to pray over her and with her in her home. This surprised me because I expected her to want space and rest. We did as she asked, though, with grateful surprise. Needless to say, that evening blessed all of us.

God chose to answer our earnest prayers in a different way than we had hoped when he welcomed Lucy into his arms the following afternoon. Over the next several days as we helped to plan Lucy’s graveside and memorial service, her family continued to surprise me. Rather than a traditional funeral, they wanted a worship service. As we all gathered to sing and seek God’s comfort together, Lucy’s mama led us all as she pulled her tired body to her feet on the front row. We all followed, standing to praise God even in the middle of all the hurt and tears.

I learned a lot from Lucy’s family this week. Rather than shutting people out, they have welcomed people in. Rather than only grieving privately, they have not been afraid to remove their masks and grieve publicly. Rather than asking to be left alone, they have welcomed us all into their home and into their hurt.

There is so much wisdom in the way this family has responded in their grief. They are grieving deeply, but in the way God created us to grieve: in community. They have not isolated themselves, as so many of us (myself included) would be tempted to do, but have recognized an important truth: they are members of the body of Christ. And in that body, “if one member suffers, all suffer together” (1 Corinthians 12:26).

I have seen this week how the body of Christ is supposed to function, and I am so encouraged by it. I am encouraged that I am a member of a body that is willing to suffer together and help one another. I am also encouraged by Lucy’s family as they have courageously welcomed us in and accepted that help. More than anything, though, I am grateful that God designed us to be connected to each other and that we don’t have to do this life alone.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

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5 thoughts on “Good grief

  1. This strikes close to home. In recent years, I have had a deepening heart for pregnancy and infant loss. It is by far the hardest part of my job, well beyond long hours, workload, and insane charting. It is the support needed to guide and care for my patients and their families in the immediate stages of grief. There are sights and sounds and touches I will never ever forget in those moments…telling the family the horrific news, being present as that child is birthed, bathing/dressing/photographing a once-alive child, placing that child in his/her parents arms for the first time, praying over/with families as their infants are blessed/baptized…moments where God’s tenderness pierces through when the situation just doesn’t make sense. I am learning so much and yet there is so much to learn. I’ve recently joined the Bereavement Committee at work to be a part of making this a better process for our families and nurses in our unit. Every time I care of a family experiencing this, I remember your words to me regarding leaving and then returning to nursing “Could it be that God is calling you back to nursing because He has something He wants to heal and teach you?” There is so much of this happening it is hard to put into words…

    • Erin, I am so glad that God has you right where you are. What a unique position and opportunity you have to step into people’s lives when they are possibly their most vulnerable and needy and open. It’s easy to shut down later… but you are there when families are raw and possibly very open to receive the comfort and presence of God. I know God has a lot of plans for you, but it seems you are ordained to be where you are for now. I’m proud of you and glad you are doing what you’re doing!

  2. It brings me such joy to read how you and your friends sensed the Spirit’s leading in this situation and how you responded accordingly. I prayed for Lucy with all of you (I saw John’s post.) This family’s openness as they embrace their grief is encouraging. Grieving in community is foreign to our American culture – I feel it is something significant that was lost through the years. I sense a resurgence of this as God awakens our hearts to the reality of the pain that so many of us share, if but we would only share and talk about it.

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