One of the most difficult things in life to deal with is the death of a child. In the Oscar-winning film “Roma,” the most gut wrenching moment takes place in a Mexico city hospital room when a doctor walks in and says to a frightened young woman, “Your baby was born dead,” and then walks away. That haunting scene, which took place in 1971, graphically illustrates a situation that is still poorly understood and often times avoided.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a stillbirth is the death or loss of a baby before or during delivery. A miscarriage is defined as the loss of a baby before the 20th week of pregnancy, whereas a stillbirth is the loss of a baby after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Stillbirth affects about 1% of all pregnancies, and each year about 24,000 babies are stillborn in the United States. According to the Mayo Clinic, the rate of miscarriage is 10-20% of all known pregnancies. It is difficult to get a more precise number because many miscarriages occur so early in pregnancy that a woman may not even know she is pregnant.
In either case, the loss of a child is emotionally devastating. Emotional healing is going to take longer than physical healing. It is a heart-wrenching loss that others around you may not fully understand and in some cases, may try to avoid discussing. Your emotions may range from anger and guilt to despair. You will never forget your hopes and dreams surrounding your pregnancy; however, discussing it with an experienced and well trained professional or seeking a group experience such as Compassionate Friends, will help ease the pain until a certain level of acceptance is obtained. The Bible can also be a source of hope.
The death of David’s son, as seen in II Samuel 12:15-23, may give you some hope. David was a “man after God’s own heart.” God loved David deeply; however, David had an affair with Bathsheba. After his child was born, it became ill. The Bible tells us that David then fasted and lay all night on the ground. For seven days he pleaded with God to save his child. Some of his friends went to David and tried to get him to get up from the ground and eat. But he would not do it nor would he eat. On the 7th day, the child died. His servants were afraid to tell David for fear he might hurt himself. David heard his servants whispering, and asked, “Is the child dead?” They told him the child was dead. At that point, David stood up, changed his clothes, went into his house and asked for food to be served, and he ate. The servants were shocked by his behavior and said, “What is this that you have done? You fasted and wept for the child while he was alive, but when the child died, you arose and ate food.” David then said these words to his servants, “While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who can tell whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ “But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”
What David is saying is that his child will not return to him while he is alive on earth, but that he will see his child again in heaven. May this provide some comfort, because all children will be in heaven, and you will see your child again.