By Pastor Philip B. Roland
“He is despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; ...” – Isaiah 53:3,4a NKJV
An old friend and fishing buddy has allowed me to be in his prayer circle loop. This past year we have followed, mostly with dismay, the life of a seven-year-old boy who has stolen my friend’s heart (and my own). The pictures I have received this past year forwarded by his mother show his decline from a small tumor in his head to his most recent losing battle to a particularly virulent, aggressive cancer.
We thought young Christopher had licked the main tumor that had threatened his life for more than a year. Then suddenly, a similar but more aggressive cancer grew overnight. Christopher lost his battle early this past Thursday.
Christopher’s mother writes from her blog:
“Heaven has a new angel. Good night sweet prince of Sellersville. We love you. Rest in peace. Surrounded by mom, dad, faithful Spirit and family and dear friends, Chris has gone to the next place. His spirit lives on in all that he has touched.”
There are no words we can offer that will console this wonderful young man’s parents and family. The death of a child is devastating to the parents. The loss can be from any age, in utero death through miscarriage, baby, toddler, pre-school, school age, teenager, young or middle-aged adult: all child loss is inconsolable to the parents.
When the child loss is related to a cancer battle, the parents’ grief is mingled with post-traumatic stress disorder. The pain of these parents becomes a “complicated grief.” Recovery is lengthy and worsened by so many triggers. Their own hospital and doctor visits can trigger painful memories. The pain is experienced by a trigger that involves a “flashback.” Flashbacks involve a memory of what has happened in the recent past. The child’s parents “turn off” their displays of emotion so they can comfort their dying child. Afterwards, they attempt to attach emotion to their repressed memories. In the case of Christopher, the feelings of loss are mixed with hopelessness and fear.
Feel the pain of loss, cry the tears and release the pain. Tears are like a summer shower for the soul. They cleanse the heart and set us free. Avoid alcohol and sedatives. They prolong and worsen grief and sorrow. Find a healthy friend who will listen, allow you to talk, permit freedom for your tears and give you the time you need to process your grief. Grief is a process and an important part of our humanity.
Philip B. Roland is founding pastor of Sheepfold Ministries, Sharon, and a free-lance pastoral counselor.