Recently, I did a graveside funeral for a baby. After carrying the baby for nine months, the mother delivered the baby stillborn. Comforting parents and leading a service like this is one of the most painful responsibilities of my job as a pastor. Words seem so empty and inadequate. In addition to practicing the ministry of presence, here is what I said to the family at the graveside service (I have not used the real names of baby and mother in this post):
I suppose there is nothing is nothing more heart-wrenching than losing a child, especially a baby. The pain is unbearable. The numbness is ever present, the tears won’t stop flowing and it seems like we can’t wake up from the nightmare. Nothing can prepare a mother, father, siblings, and even a pastor for a moment like this.
We usually gather in moments like this to remember those who have touched us deeply. We are not afforded that opportunity today. We will never see little James grow up, take his first steps, go to school, hit his first baseball, kick his first soccer ball, and learn how to ride a bike.
So, we have come here today to do what no parent is ever prepared to do – do a funeral for a baby. This is the reason, the very sad reason, we are here today. We are here to mourn and lay to rest the tiny body of James Mark. Little James was planned for, loved, cared for and nurtured in his mother’s womb for nine months. There were so many expectations. So many hopes and dreams. The hearts that were overflowing with joy at his arrival are now overflowing with sorrow at his death. The pain is indescribable.
So, we are gathered here today to lay to rest the tiny body of James Mark. As we grieve in this moment, I hope we can take heart from the story in the Bible. In 2 Samuel 12:15-23, King David and Bathsheba lost their newborn. The baby was born very sickly. David prayed to God, cried out to God, and fasted before God, but to no avail. The baby died. After the baby died, David went to the temple to worship God. This is what David said in this moment utter grief:
“I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”
David, a man after God’s own heart, said my baby is dead and will not return to life again. However, one day when I die, I will go to be with him. I believe David meant that he would go to heaven to be with his baby. I believe little James’ spirit is in heaven with God right now. Here is the comfort. Those who are followers of Jesus can have the same confidence that David had. One day, we will see James Mark again.
Know that your baby’s death is not due to any lack of love on your part, Nancy, and it is not due to any failing on God’s part. James’ death is simply a part of this broken world and his death has hit you and all of us straight in the heart. This is not the way it’s supposed to be. God never intended death to reign is our world like this. Parents are not supposed to bury their babies. We live in a very broken and fallen world, and life simply doesn’t make sense. It’s not fair.
So, where do you go from here? Well, your grief will always be with you. It surrounds you like a dense cloud with zero visibility. One day it will lighten and lift a bit. Until such time, here are a few things you can do.
Turn to God, who comforts the broken-hearted. Only a relationship with God, through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, can assure you of life with God and James. Even in this, Nancy and family, I believe, by faith, God is still good and you can turn to him.
Grieve according to your own schedule. Please don’t let anyone tell how and how long to grieve. Mourn, grieve, and then stand up when you feel it’s time.
Deepen your relationships with loved ones. Love and care for one another. Let James’ death bring you closer together as a family.
Talk to someone about your pain and grief. You should not have to go through your pain alone. I would suggest that you spend time talking to a counselor so he or she can help you walk through your grief. God has blessed men and women with wisdom to help us achieve normalcy in our grief.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve you and your family in this way. May God bless you.