This week has been a dark one in the life of our church. Our college pastor and his wife lost their precious baby boy after he was born prematurely at 27 weeks, and he lived just 24 hours. Everyone who knew the family has been absolutely devastated. A funeral was held on Friday at which the church community came together to mourn alongside of them. In the midst of tragic circumstances, the service was truly glorifying to God and a great reminder of the hope we have in Christ amidst the pain of this world. It also made me oh so grateful for the gift of the church–when Christians grieve, they never do so alone.
Since attending the funeral I have been reflecting on it a lot the last few days. In particular, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we mourn the loss of a child. I have a number of friends who have lost babies in miscarriages but I have never attended a funeral for one, nor did the idea even cross my mind. And while this most recent tragedy was not a miscarriage, the young age of this sweet boy has led me to ponder how we grieve the loss of children even younger.
Friday’s service was a beautiful picture of the church. It was an opportunity to acknowledge the pain of the loss. It was a chance to surround the grieving family and lift them up with love and prayer. It was also an important part of their healing process. And all of this leads me to wonder why we don’t do the same for mothers who have suffered a miscarriage. The loss is no less devastating; it simply occurs at an earlier stage.
As someone who affirms the value of life at every moment after conception, this seems like an inconsistency. Without passing judgment on how a family grieves a miscarriage, I would hate to think that a family felt they could not have a funeral simply because it “isn’t done” or because their baby was not old enough to be remembered in a formal service. When enduring the tremendous tragedy of such a loss, at any stage, shouldn’t we be surrounding families and lifting them up as a church community? Shouldn’t we be affirming the validity of their grief by acknowledging the very real life that was lost? Shouldn’t we be mourning with them and praising God for the life their child had, however short it may have been?
I myself have never lost a child through miscarriage so I cannot answer these questions on behalf of the mothers who have. What’s more, I do not mean to imply that there are no communities who observe the loss of an unborn child with a funeral. I am guessing there probably are. But as for the rest of us, this is an issue that warrants our reflection. How do we care for mothers grieving over a miscarriage? And is there a noticeable difference between how we respond to the loss of an unborn child versus a born child?
At the heart of these questions lies our beliefs about the sanctity and equal value of ALL life, but our answers to these questions also say a lot about who we are as a community. Friday’s service was important for the family we came to love and support. It was also a witness to the power of Christ’s Body at work. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every family received this kind of out-pouring in the event of such a loss?
That is a question I will continue to ponder. In the mean time, please keep this sweet family in your prayers as they need courage and healing in the days ahead!