Letter to a Parent Grieving the Loss of a Child
I have lost several people I love dearly, but those losses are different than the loss of a child. Almost a year ago, on the day after Thanksgiving, my closest friend went into his adult son’s bedroom where he’d spent the night, and found him lifeless in his bed. I was with him all that day and every day for a week. Two months later we took him and his wife on a two-week vacation that had been on the calendar for a year, and they wanted to just leave their house. It was of the Lord to be with them, but it was a vacation you would never want, because the grief had only small breaks in it.
Years ago, Greg Laurie called me after his son Christopher died to talk about Heaven, and we have talked about Christopher many times since. In fact, I put my friend on the phone with Greg one day. They and you are part of a club no one would ever want to be part of.
Many people I know and don’t know have told me their stories of their children’s deaths, because they read my book Heaven. But based on my experience with my dear friend, who I talk with almost daily, I can say that of the hundreds of times we’ve talked since I don’t think there’s been one where his son’s name hasn’t been mentioned. I have been close to him in his pain, and at times it has seemed unbearable even for me, and my pain is but a shadow or reflection of his. I have wished and prayed that I could bear it for him some days without of course experiencing the reason for it. But I know Jesus already did, and likewise, I trust you have people who know and love you who are there for you. Studying God’s Word and contemplating His sovereignty and grace will be a lifeline for you.
You are entering a world of firsts, all of which will be hard: the first Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years and birthday and other landmarks with your child not present even by phone or text. Fortunately, all those firsts will not mean lasts. For those who love Jesus, your relationship is not ended but interrupted by death, and will resume. Once it does, in the presence of Jesus, it will never be interrupted again. Now is the time of separation, but it is the one and only time, and separation will forever end in that great reunion by the grace and power of our God who will swallow up death forever, as Isaiah 25 puts so powerfully:
On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
from all the earth.
Since my words fail me, I will stop and end with God’s: “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). As my Nanci is now in stage four cancer, in her lymph nodes, this promise means more to me than it ever has: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4). The blood-bought promise of the great reunion doesn’t take away the pain, of course, but it does give us truth-based hope.