Thoughts for Loved Ones Grieving the Loss of a Child

There are no words to describe the loss of a child.Words to describe the loss of a child do not exist.

Some of my teaching colleagues learned this lesson for the first time this week when we heard the awful news about our colleague’s child. Some of us older teachers got an untimely review on the subject of death and cried for other students we’d lost through the years as well. We all took a blow. None of us could think of what to say about this loss of a child.

Our friend lost her seven-year-old son to cancer last Wednesday. This boy was one of our first graders, too, and he had roamed our halls with happy-go-lucky abandon since he was a preschooler. He and his family fought a valiant battle for the past year and a half. During those awful treatments and long hospital stays, all we could do was raise money, pray, and send over dinner.

Our friend has been walking a road no mother should ever have to walk.

She and her husband have been in the valley of the shadow of death.

There are no words for us to say. And maybe there shouldn’t be.

What words are there to describe the feeling of watching a child suffer through chemo? What language could we possibly deem sufficient to describe the utter powerlessness parents feel as their child slips away? What phrase could possibly take away the pain of the loss of a child?

I read Psalm 23 several times this week.

Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Nowhere in that verse does it mention anything as trivial as words from the earthbound for comfort.

God is the only power great enough to move grieving parents through the valley.

And God promises to do so. Rainbows will always come if we wait--even in a trial as dark as the loss of a child

The first time I lost a student, I was a second-year teacher. At 23, I was naïve enough to believe that my words could provide comfort to the family and to my students. This child’s passing flung my entire class out of orbit. My words could do nothing to curb the tears, behaviors, and frenzied energy that took over my fourth graders during those days. They drew pictures of the rainbows their classmate loved while he was living. We listened to his favorite Spice Girls song. Nothing I did helped them process something as big as the loss of a child.

I had no idea what to do, except take them on a field trip. We left under the clearest, bluest sky I’ve ever seen before or since. I don’t remember where we went. The bus driver turned on the radio to try to calm the mood, but to no avail. Nothing we said could avert the frenetic tide.

Suddenly, I heard a scream.

“It’s a rainbow!” a little girl yelled.

One tiny cloud had formed in an otherwise crystal clear sky. A rainbow spilled off like a child’s drawing following our bus. The bus went silent. Our boy’s favorite Spice Girls song came on the radio.

“He’s letting us know that he’s okay!” the girl cried.

No matter the size of the trial, wait on the rainbow. It will always come.The energy on the bus changed instantly.

The kids were all dancing and singing in their seats—but they were in their seats.

“…make it last forever…friendship never ends…” they sang as the rainbow and my need to find the words to fix all of them faded.

The grief and the questions continued, but that surreal moment on the bus put us all on the path to finding our way again.

Twenty odd years later, we still remember and comment on this child’s life. Loss is still loss no matter how much time passes by. No one who experiences loss will ever fully be the same again. But we must be humble enough to realize that our words have no power over grief. Our timetable will not bring our grieving loved ones back to their “old selves.” It certainly won’t fix a class of broken nine-year-olds either.

It is our willingness to pray, to sit in silence, and to wait for a rainbow that supports our grieving loved ones the most. There are no words for the loss of a child. And maybe there shouldn’t be.

 

 

 

 

10 thoughts on “Thoughts for Loved Ones Grieving the Loss of a Child

  • May 22, 2017 at 8:52 pm
    Permalink

    Oh, this is so so sad. Especially with hearing bad news to then see a rainbow and one of the children saying “he’s letting us know he’s okay!” killed me!

    Much love.

    Lima
    xo

    Reply
    • May 25, 2017 at 11:00 am
      Permalink

      Those kids were so amazing, and it’s so hard to describe the energy on the bus that day. It was so powerful! Thanks so much for your comment!

      Reply
  • May 23, 2017 at 4:28 am
    Permalink

    You had me in tears!!!!! This hit home for me and my heart just felt so much. But I do believe that seeing a rainbow is a sign from the other side. Its a message from them <3

    Reply
    • May 25, 2017 at 11:02 am
      Permalink

      They are always with us, aren’t they? That helped so much with the grief. Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  • May 23, 2017 at 9:31 am
    Permalink

    This is such a sad topic but such a well written post! I can’t imagine the pain someone goes through when something like this happens. I just recently lost my grandmother and this brought back some feelings but the mentioning of the rainbow made me smile.
    Lea, xx

    Reply
    • May 25, 2017 at 11:00 am
      Permalink

      Thank you so much for your comments! I am so sorry for your loss, but yes–waiting on the rainbows will help tremendously!

      Reply
  • May 23, 2017 at 10:44 am
    Permalink

    This is so so sad but you’ve given some amazing insight into this for those who haven’t experienced it. It’s even more sad that I’m reading this whilst watching the news of what happened in Manchester last night. So heartbreaking xxx

    Reply
    • May 25, 2017 at 11:04 am
      Permalink

      The situation in Manchester is nothing short of barbaric. I am so so so sorry that this happened, and I pray that we all get a rainbow soon. What a horrific loss for so many families! Thanks for your comment!

      Reply
  • May 23, 2017 at 6:54 pm
    Permalink

    You are so right that there are no words for a situation where a child dies. No amount of actions will change that, but time and understanding will.

    Reply
    • May 25, 2017 at 11:07 am
      Permalink

      Thanks so much for your insight and your comments! There are no words–we can only pray for rainbows!

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *