On Suffering the Loss of a Child

And How to Strive for What Matters Most in Difficult Circumstances

On a Friday afternoon last month, just when one’s thoughts might wander to the weekend, I received the call. My wife had gone to the doctor for a routine checkup. But the doctor couldn’t find our baby’s heartbeat. At 9 weeks along, we had lost our 4th child—Mary Rose—to miscarriage.

My family, huddled together, looking into the grave of Mary Rose

The burial of Mary Rose and other miscarried infants in Mount Olivet Cemetery; Wheat Ridge, CO

The floor seemed to go out from under my feet. Too many realities struck me all at once; I couldn’t process them.

The initial shock turned quickly to sorrow as some of the implications began to take root. One of the hardest aspects for me is accepting that I won’t be able to get to know her, at least not in this life. I won’t be able to memorize and anticipate her smile. I won’t be able to hear her voice. No “papa doggy” rides. No sleepless nights, which I would gladly have endured.

To not be able to experience Mary Rose is a gut-wrenching loss. To suffer it profoundly is understandable and fitting. Feeling the loss keenly manifests her loveableness.

Yet at the same time, to suffer—and only to suffer—the loss would be to miss an opportunity. For good—some good, at least—can come from anything. Even from death. To find that good and bring it to birth is to honor even more the life of the one who passed. I owe it to Mary Rose to try to make of her death the greatest contribution possible to what matters most. But how?

Here are two ways that I think good can come from the loss of a loved one:

Honor the Person’s Memory

Don’t settle for “closure.” You absolutely need to move forward in life. But it won’t work to move “past” the person, to “close the door” on that chapter of your life. Their life and death is part of who you are. There is no point in denying it.

On the contrary, acknowledging their ongoing significance reveals their dignity, honors them, and speaks truth to the way they shaped and continue to shape who you are.

I will never get “over” Mary Rose, never get “past” her death. At the same time, I will move forward. I will just carry her with me as I do.

An ultrasound image of Mary Rose McAdam

Mary Rose McAdam

Help Others Who Undergo a Similar Suffering

Whenever we experience suffering, we have the opportunity to help others in their suffering.

As I mentioned in the post “Why I Proposed at the Foot of the Cross of Christ,” my wife and I struggled with infertility for 4 years before conceiving our daughter, Elizabeth. It was a very painful experience. And yet, because of it we have been able to help others as they suffer with infertility as well.

In this case, the opportunity that I believe my wife, Sarah, and I are being given is to help others who suffer a miscarriage. We can listen, provide support, pray for them, etc. I can also share details and recommendations that would be helpful to someone suffering such a loss.

Conclusion

Nothing that I’ve written should be taken to suggest that suffering is a good thing. It’s not.

But in every suffering—including in the loss of a loved one—there is some good we can draw from it, some way in which even death can give life to what matters most. May we find the good in the midst of suffering and help it bud like a rose among thorns.

Question: In what ways beyond the two that I shared do you find that good can come from loss? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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4 thoughts on “On Suffering the Loss of a Child

  1. Brian, So sad to hear of your loss of Mary Rose. I will be praying specifically for you and Sarah and children as you allow and work for the Lord to spring forth His grace and new life even in light of the death of your daughter.
    Love you guys!
    Nate Driscoll