The news came by way of text from my daughter-in-law as I was mentally laying out plans for my Saturday. Good friends of theirs and ours…28 weeks pregnant…had lost their baby…eclampsia…they were in labor at the hospital. News of this kind is like a kick in the gut to any parent who has lost a child. It takes you back to the moment you learned of your own child’s death. The roiling stomach, the knot in your chest making every breath difficult; it all comes crashing back. My Saturday plans melted away like an ice cube in the July heat.
This is a wonderful young couple, full of life and love and so excited to become parents to their sweet baby daughter. He grew up in our neighborhood, joining Wesley and Ryan on the swim team, attending basketball games together and participating in other adventures of boyhood. We fell in love with her through their years of dating and marriage. This shouldn’t happen to them. Not this! Not them! I’m torn between screaming and railing at the forces of nature and curling up in a ball to protect myself from the onslaught of these horrible feelings.
So what to do? I know too little and I know too much.
Too little, because there is nothing that I, or anyone else, can do to make them feel better. We can love them and offer support. We can take food and other items that might bring a few brief moments respite from their pain. We can pray for them. But now they begin the long and painful process of grieving the lost hopes and dreams of their child.
Too much, because I know the soul-wrenching pain of that process. There is no way around it. You have to go through it. It begins with one breath…after another…after another. Eventually you can look ahead to the next few minutes, then hours, then days. You can survive…but only after you’ve dealt with the horror, the guilt, the emptiness, the sadness that accompanies you along the way.
And I know too much because I know how quickly, how unexpectedly, how easily a precious child can be gone from your life. That knowledge changes you. In ways from which you never recover. Even 12 years later, news of “it” happening again can throw you back into the black hole of grief.