Saturday, March 17, 2012

Dear Ministry Leaders: Helping Families Through Baby Loss

A few days ago I received an email from a local blog reader who will be speaking to a group of ministry leaders about ministering to families who have lost babies.  She wanted my take on things since she has not lost a baby herself, though she works hard for the loss community via Calvin's Hats.

Responding to her question gave me time to process and think about my faith journey, and how Charlotte's death affected it.  I like what came of the exercise, I feel like it explains me a bit more, so thought I would share it here.  I added a bit, but otherwise left it unchanged.

Dear Ministry Leaders,

Be gentle, be kind, be loving. Two days after Charlotte died our good friends came over. They said, "We just want to love you through this time," and then prayed for us. I think that's the best thing any ministry leader can do. Love, love, love the families who experience baby loss.

Do not speak of God's plan, or will, or unique timing.  Shortly after Charlotte died I didn't want to hear about her death being God's plan or will. I don't believe He took her away from us and at the time I couldn't separate the idea of the overall plan He has for my life from that one instant. 

Losing a baby is a solitary thing, very isolating, and families need a place to fall apart. I spent many a Sunday crying through worship and the sermon. And there were a lot of weeks when we couldn't find the energy to go to church. So if a family isn't around for a few weeks check in on them. Minister to them at home because going out is too difficult (so many babies at church!).

Remind the families of God's love. Over and over and over again. It's easy to lose sight of that in the midst of grief. And remind them that he knows pain and grief and the loss of a child. He sent His Son to die for us, He knows that unique pain. When we mourn, when we hurt, when we experience great sorrow it brings Him to His knees. He doesn't like it when His children suffer because He knows how it feels.

One of my favorite hymns is How Deep the Father's Love for Us, mostly because of these lines:

"How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns his face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One
Bring many sons to glory."

Read and pass on When Bad Things Happen to Good People. It restored my faith in God, gave me an idea of the meaning behind losing Charlotte even though there isn't really any meaning to be had.

Recommend or give out Steven Curtis Chapman's Beauty Will Rise album. He wrote the songs after his daughter died in an accident. His songs carried me through the darkest of times. The words reminded me that Jesus was with me through it all, even when I felt utterly alone.

Understand that those who lose babies are mad, mad, mad. And their rage is often directed at God. They wonder why God didn't save their baby when they prayed and asked Him to.  Allow room for that anger. Create a safe space where it can be vented so it doesn't fester and affect family and spiritual relationships. A lot of loss parents turn away from God, but I think they can be gently guided back over time with lots of prayer, love and understanding.

I often felt like I shouldn't go to church because I was confused about God and our relationship. We didn't go for a while after Charlotte died, but when I got pregnant again we returned. Not consistently, but more than we had been attending. I felt guilty, like I was only going because I wanted to keep my baby safe, and I thought bringing him - via me - to the house of the Lord would accomplish that.

Over time I realized going to church doesn't protect us from hurt, but it does provide a sanctuary when life crashes down around us. I learned that God doesn't care if I show up with a confused heart and clenched fists; He can work wonders on any spirit.

It took me nearly two very long years to come to a place of healing and acceptance, and to renew my relationship with God. I don't know why Charlotte died, but I've grown and learned and accepted that her death has led to transformation in me.

Perhaps God wanted me to long for heaven, to crave it more. That has certainly been accomplished. Or maybe He wanted me to lean solely on Him, to understand my faith and fully commit to living as His child.

I think God uses trials and times of great sorrow to remind us He is present, holy, in control of our lives, our Father. Though it feels like we walk alone, He is always by our side ready for us to reach out and ask him to help us through. And ministry leaders are a conduit, a way for those who are reaching to connect with the One they are seeking.


  1. w00t w00t! Amen to that!

    I'd add something about telling the congregation that "X family's baby just died. It's a very sad and confusing time for them, their friends and extended family. They have asked that you not approach them with a word or message from God that you feel led to share. Please hold onto it for a while as they come to terms with their new reality. When they feel ready, they'll let you know and then you're very welcome to share what you've heard.

    We'll also be coordinating meals for them so please see X to signup for a day to provide one."

  2. YES! Great addition, thanks Kara!

  3. Hope it's ok that I share a link to this page next weekend.

    I love that another group of people will have a better understanding. While sending out tiny hats to hospitals and individuals is a ministry in itself- the real goal of Calvin's Hats is to open up the conversation.

  4. Of course I don't mind if you share!


thank you!


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