The journey of life is a series of ups and downs. There are moments of unfathomable joy, and certainly moments of deep despair. Patrick Rieke, director, Chaplaincy and Volunteer Services, offers these words of comfort and encouragement for those facing a loss, difficult diagnosis or personal struggle.
Just a couple years after my wife and I were married, we had our first real brush with death as adults.
Young and in love, we decided it was time to start a family. In no time we were expecting. I was newly employed at a church that we loved. My income was very small, but we did have good insurance. And since, at the time, we planned to move overseas and do mission work, this seemed like perfect timing. We would have our first child stateside with some of the best medical care in the world. We would be surrounded by family and friends.
We announced the news of the pregnancy as soon as we possibly could to the joy of our parents and families. Ours would be the first grandchild on her side and about the 100th on my side.
A handful of months later we were at the doctor’s office for an appointment when something happened for which I was totally unprepared. The tech was unable to find a heartbeat. I thought she just needed to look harder. I was confused.
By the time we left the office, I finally got the picture that my wife understood immediately. Our baby had died.
We named the baby Stephen.
We cried. And we cried and we cried.
I put my head on the shoulder of my pastor.
I yelled at God a few times.
We collected items for the memory box.
Words of comfort were spoken from many.
And then, finally, I talked about it at church.
During a Sunday night prayer service, I shared what had happened and how I found comfort in remembering that God also lost a son. Afterwards, an elderly couple approached my wife. They were the sort of people that we all want to be when we are in our 80s; Sweet, loving and kind.
The woman’s eyes were wet behind her bifocals when she held my wife’s hand and stroked it, and the words she spoke have never left us.
“It’s been 50 years since we lost our baby. And he still holds a place in our thoughts and hearts.”
During times of loss, we often ask the question, “How can I go on?” How did this woman answer that question? I don’t know for sure. I didn’t have the wherewithal to ask at the time. But it’s my guess that she might have answered by saying that by God’s grace she went on, one step at a time.
Grief doesn’t follow a logical roadmap, and sometimes making sense of what you need or what you are feeling can be like trying to answer why the sky is blue. But grief is a process. Even though you won’t get precise turn-by-turn navigation, you can be sure you will have to take steps.
So, if you find yourself stuck in your grief, what does that next step look like? Maybe it’s a support group, or a book that might lead you toward peace. Perhaps there’s a friend you need to confide in, or you need to seek spiritual answers from a faith leader. You might need to attend a seminar or make a pilgrimage to a place that mattered to you before the loss or tragedy. Whatever that next step is, with God’s grace, I pray that you will take it.
How can you go on? By God’s grace, you can go on, one step at a time.