At Synod Nyack (URCNA) a week ago, I was able to pick up a very timely and powerful book. Glenda Mathes, known for her writing and editorial work for Christian Renewal magazine, had just published the book Little One Lost: Living with Early Infant Loss (available for purchase here or here). I was able to pick up a copy and give it a read and let me say, I was deeply moved.
In this book, Mathes deals with a range of infant loss, from the death of a child due to S.I.D.S., to the death of a child only born moments before. Of note, however, is her interaction with two other kinds of infant loss, the “loss” that occurs due to infertility and the death of a child due to miscarriage. Every death is a tragic reminder of the curse, but when parents suffer the death of a child, the grief and sorrow felt often brings a unique set of emotions. Ministers and lay-people alike are often poorly equipped to empathize with grieving mothers and fathers. This is why Little One Lost is such a valuable new contribution.
Here are a few quotes of note:
Although parents who lose these littlest children may feel very alone, the truth is that they are in a great company. Our first parents and parents through the ages have felt the keen edge of grief form losing a child. Many parents today continue to grieve the loss of little ones. And many couples grieve the loss of children they were never able to conceive. (Pg. 32.)
The experiences and circumstances may differ, but they share the commonality of loss. The loss of a child through miscarriage, the loss of a child through stillbirth, or the loss of a newborn child is the loss of a real person. Parents faced with such a loss may hardly know what to think, how they should feel, what they should say, or what they ought to do. Caregivers and counselors are generally becoming more sensitive to some forms of infant loss than in the past, but family members or friends may feel just as confused as the parents. Those who don’t know what to say may feel that it is better not to say anything. The loss is often ignored; the grief is often suppressed. Few parents feel free to discuss the loss of miscarriage with others. They may feel – and others may believe – that it is better to ignore the loss and simply go back to the business of getting on with life. (Pgs. 21-22.)
Although a mother suffering a miscarriage had less time to bond with her child than a mother who lost a baby near its due date, a miscarriage can be extremely shocking and confusing. The shock and confusion are complicated by society’s unspoken tradition not to speak about miscarriage. Many older women suffered from that tradition and never felt free to grieve. Even today, women rarely discuss their miscarriages with others. Traditional taboos remain tenaciously ingrained. (Pgs. 22-23.)
Note the common themes: loneliness and isolation. How tragic that our society minimizes the loss parents (especially mothers) feel at the death of a child due to miscarriage. How devastating that women feel pressure to hide their grief even from those who have likely been through the exact same thing. (After all, miscarriage is more common than one might realize.)
I believe that this book will benefit all of us. It will help those of us who are ministers to preach the gospel in more intentional and sensitive ways to those carrying these sorrows. It will help friends and family to lovingly bear the burdens of those who have suffered early infant loss. Perhaps most importantly, it will remind us that the taboo itself – the code of silence – is a horrible tragedy.
Glenda Mathes’ Little One Lost powerfully directs our attention to the One who suffered the loss of his own Son. It draws our thoughts and affections to the One who Himself suffered to the utmost. I pray that it will bring words of comfort to the hearts and souls of all who are grieving the death of their newborn or pre-born children.
Christ Reformed Church