Last week was Baby Loss Awareness Week. Dan Martin and his wife, Anna, lost their son, Jed, when he was just three weeks old. He explains how the Church can help those who are bereaved


Source: Photo by Aditi Sharma:

People who have lost a baby are hurting in so many ways. At the centre of it all, they have lost a dearly loved person. They are coming to terms with the loss of an entire future; of hopes and expectations for the coming months and years. Their minds are slow and numbed as grief dominates their inner circuitry. Simple tasks take 20 times longer than usual. Communication is a struggle.

Perhaps one spouse desperately wants to talk, while the other is shut down. Perhaps replying to messages feels overwhelming. Perhaps going to church and finding themselves amid a huddle of well-meaning people feels impossible. Grief, unsupported, can have a tragic way of isolating people.

The metaphor of carrying burdens is, after all, one of effort and fatigue

Then there’s the mother’s physical suffering, as her body gives physical reminders of the baby they have lost. There’s the practical strain: taxes still need to be paid, the car needs repairing, bins need emptying. And what about any other children involved? Profoundly sensitive to grief in their own way, they look to their parents for how to process this bleak season. Lord Jesus, you who are near to the broken-hearted, please help us know how to love those who grieve!

Bearing the burdens

Galatians 6:2 says “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” When Jesus was asked about how we obey the law of God, he told the story of the Good Samaritan, who willingly received the burden of caring for his fellow human (Luke 10:25-37). To love someone sincerely is to commit yourself to them in a way that will cost you something, sooner or later. The metaphor of carrying burdens is, after all, one of effort and fatigue.

But we love because he first loved us. Jesus himself is the true Good Samaritan, who came willingly to love his enemies. If we are united to Jesus by faith then we have a partnership with all other believers, since we share in his life together. We are givers, because we are constantly given to by God the Father, in Jesus his son, by his Spirit.

How to help

How then, will we love those who are hurting?

Will you be awkward? Drawing near to someone who is grieving may take us out of our comfort zone. Often, we don’t know what to say. As you enter into your friends’ grief and inhabit their pained landscape, will you embrace this awkwardness as a strange proof of your care for them?

Will you listen? If we are used to our words having some power to fix or ease, we struggle with this posture of listening without acting. It is, perhaps, the most attentive form of listening there is. Grief looks for expression, but only in the presence of those who can be trusted to honour the weight of what has been lost.

Will you weep? The Bible says plainly: “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). Whether or not this involves literal tears, it means genuinely entering into and inhabiting the experience of grief with them. This is true sympathy (to ‘suffer with’). It is no small thing to choose this heavy-heartedness.

Grief, unsupported, can have a tragic way of isolating people

Will you remember? As weeks become years, sufferers - and those they have lost - can be forgotten by the many. Yet, grief’s reverberations never stop. We never move on from grief, we just learn to move on with grief. Will you be one of the few who puts the key anniversaries in your diary, who sends cards and messages without fail? Will you use their precious child’s name in conversation, a gentle assurance that they are not forgotten? Will you pray faithfully for their comfort, their healing, their hope?

Will you give? Loving is always, eventually, costly. Will you be one who gives your time, energy, money, and more? Offer help in an easy ‘yes or no’ form: “Would you like me to drop a meal round tomorrow?” Rather than, “Is there anything I can do to help?” Could you meet some of the financial costs they might face? Could you send them out for a treat of some kind, spreading a table in their wilderness?

Finally, will you ask for help yourself? You are, after all, not the Messiah. We have a saviour who has finished his work. We, his servants, grow weary. We are wise to ask one another for help as we carry the burdens of others. But, above all, let us all go to Jesus, again and again and again, asking for fresh power to love. Our king is near to the broken-hearted, and those who lean on him will not be disappointed.