We Never Quite Walk Away

Words by Stephen Aycock | Image by Ryan McGill

When we experience the loss of a child, that initial day haunts us and is forever etched in our hearts. In the following weeks and months, we continually revisit that painful experience with a cruel regularity. As the years pass, brief moments of acceptance tease us into believing we’re healing, only to awaken one day and find ourselves back at square one.

Regrettably, for many of us, the grief doesn’t stop there. We start distancing ourselves from other vital aspects of our lives, slowly creating distance between us and those we hold dear. This shift may not come as a surprise, but it capitalizes on our emotional detachment from the world around us. Our profound grief can mask this emotional distancing.

Statistics vary, but it’s reported that divorce rates are higher among those who’ve lost a child. It’s challenging to understand why our spouses, who’ve experienced the same loss, may not always empathize with our needs. Even when both partners share the loss equally, the experience remains deeply personal. We all grieve uniquely—some express their pain verbally, while others keep it within. Some act out their suffering, while others internalize their emotions. The feelings of distance or disconnection from our spouses may not reflect a lack of love but rather the magnitude of our shared sorrow. Consequently, we may unknowingly drift away from our marriages, caught up in our distractions.

We often forget to nurture our relationships with our remaining children. They, too, have lost a sibling; at times, they may feel less important, less loved, or even abandoned.

Some parents even report distancing themselves from the church they’ve faithfully attended for years or altogether ceasing to read the Bible. Often, this occurs unconsciously, but when asked about their faith and its impact on their relationship with God, they’re surprised by their own answers. Some find it challenging to pray, others are overwhelmed by anger and don’t want to communicate with God, and some struggle to find comfort in a God who allowed their child to die.

So, what can be done?

First, refrain from making any significant decisions for at least two years. The urge to make decisions often stems from the feelings of helplessness triggered by our loss. We believe that by making any choices, we regain the sense of control we once had. However, control in this life is an illusion, and nothing makes this more evident than losing a loved one.

Secondly, consider seeking Christian counseling, not only for yourself but for your family members as well. You might be surprised at what your children reveal about their sibling’s loss in a group setting. Being emotionally transparent with your loved ones can answer questions you never knew they had.

Third, learn to accept your pain rather than trying to escape it. You’re never going to outrun it. Over time, that pain becomes a connection to the child you’ve lost. The pain validates their existence and emphasizes their place in your life.

Finally, take small steps back toward God, as small steps might be all you can manage at times. He is never far from us, so your journey will be short. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that it’s a sin to be angry with God. He understands our confusion, pain, and profound despair. God sacrificed His only son so that we may have everlasting life, and when I say He understands, He truly does. No explanation can soothe your anguish, but through the Holy Spirit, comfort and love reside in us, surpassing all understanding.

Don’t distance yourself from those you love; you could never walk that far, even in ten lifetimes. When you’re broken, it’s difficult to walk away from the thing that broke you. Instead, find contentment in limping your way through life until the day you are reunited with your loved ones. WL

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