“I’ve been able to accept Thomas’ death but I just can’t imagine how any good can come out of it,” I told Tanya, the leader of a local grief support group.

“Good coming out of a baby’s death? I will never believe any good can come from a baby dying,” declared Tanya.

I thought, “Something good must come out of so much pain. Otherwise my son’s death is meaningless. He died for nothing and I will never be able to make any sense of it.” I also wondered how someone who hadn’t been able to find any meaning in her own child’s death, even after five years, could help me.

Tanya interrupted my thoughts. “You’re the only mother in the local area that’s lost a baby recently. Normally we only hold meetings when we have several or more grieving parents who need support.”

Two babies would have to die before support meetings would be scheduled.  I didn’t want two more babies to die. I didn’t want two more local mothers sorrowing over the loss of their children. But I did need someone to talk to, someone who knew all about the throbbing pain in my heart.

But two more babies did die.  

And one Tuesday evening three bereaved mothers, the group leader and a social worker gathered in a dismal old meeting room at the back of the hospital. A few chairs were placed in a circle around a box of tissues.

“Shall we share our stories?” asked Tanya. “My son died in the womb a few days before he was due. I’d been out to dinner and I contracted food poisoning. My baby was stillborn…”

“I’m Angela. My baby was born prematurely at 22 weeks due to an incompetent cervix. We called her Lily. She was our first child…”

“My name is Katherine. My daughter failed to thrive during pregnancy. My doctor advised us to abort her but I hoped… At about 6 months, I gave up hope. It was obvious my baby wasn’t growing. The doctor induced her birth. I didn’t want her to suffer any more…”

“Hi, I’m Sue. Thomas had a diaphragmatic hernia which allowed many of his internal organs to pass through the diaphragm and enter the lung cavity. There was no room for his lungs to grow. He died after 28 hours…”

Tissue after tissue was pulled out of the box. So much sorrow filled that small room. So much darkness. So little hope.

We met again the next month. We once again took our seats around the box of tissues. We told our stories all over again. And the next month… Every month was the same. We went round and round in circles. No one moved forward. There was so much pain and so little hope. How were we to reach healing?

Occasionally one of the women would express the longing for another child. Would this help us? Perhaps, but what if we weren’t blessed with more children? Would we never heal? And what if another child didn't take away the pain?

I wanted to break away from our never-ending retellings of our stories. I wanted to search for meaning. I knew the answer to healing lay in God but no one mentioned Him. I found myself talking about Him anyway, putting forward ideas, offering suggestions, … and I realised I was taking over and leading the group which wasn’t my place, nor was it wanted. I drew back and stayed quiet.

One evening I came home from the group and told Andy, “I’m not going back. That was my last meeting. I’m tired of sitting around in a circle talking about the same things. We’re not getting anywhere. I want to move on. I can’t sit still, drowning in misery forever. I can’t live like this much longer. I want to smile again.” I had made a conscious step towards healing.

I knew I had to make a little sense of the whole situation before I could heal properly. And I found myself mulling over so many questions to do with suffering and trust and God.

Did I believe that God was looking after me? Could I trust Him with my life? Was His plan for my life better than my own? If the answer was yes then I had to accept what He was allowing. I had to accept the pain I was feeling and trust that God would bring me through it all to a place of healing.

But if God loves us so very much why does He allow us to suffer?  Does suffering have any value? I thought about Jesus dying for us on the cross. He suffered for love of us and yes, His suffering has infinite value. But ours? Could we unite our pain with His? Could we also suffer with love? Was my suffering going somewhere and was it not meaningless at all? And is suffering actually necessary? Could it be that there is no other way to reach Heaven than by the cross? Was suffering changing me?

I stopped fighting the pain and tried to accept it. It wasn’t easy. At times I felt completely abandoned and bowed down with the weight of suffering. Some days I hung on to my trust only with my finger-tips. Some days I let go completely and fell into that deep pit of near despair.  There were times when I didn’t want to get back up onto my feet and keep plodding along. But I did. I knew I had no other choice. I kept repeating, “Jesus, I trust in You”, even when I wasn’t sure I did.  I put one foot in front of the other, offering up all the heart-ache of each day, hoping that God would help me. And He did. Eventually I came out the other side.

Sometimes I think about Tanya, Angela and Katherine and the question, "Can any good come out of a baby dying?" Did they go searching for their own answers to this question? And were they eventually able to answer, "Yes," like me?

If we can't answer yes, how can we accept fully what God allowed? How can we have hope? How can we heal properly? 

To say, "I will never believe any good can come out of a baby's death," is to believe our babies lived and died all for nothing, that their short lives were meaningless. And to me, that doesn't make any sense at all.

I found the book "Abandonment to Divine Providence" by Fr de Caussade invaluable as I learnt to accept my suffering, and trust in God. 

There are many posts full of hope at The Apostolate of Hannah's Tears blog.

The BeNotAfraid Facebook page also has many helpful posts for those facing a difficult prenatal diagnosis or those who are grieving after the loss of a child.

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  1. Sue,

    This is an honest and powerful post deserving a wider audience; especially an audience of those who still hurt.

    You ask: Can any good come out of the death of a loved one?

    Our first human instincts would say: No. If God loves us so much as He says He does He wouldn't allow such hurt to come to us. He, of all people knows the pain of death. He cried when His friend Lazarus died. And He had the power to do something about it.

    But we can't. We have to accept death, and cry, and carry the hurt, and sometimes lose our Faith.

    But that's our human instincts talking. And God knows that. And He forgives.

    Looking beyond our first knee-jerk reaction, when we've had time to grieve and we can, perhaps, in time, think a little clearly again beyond our continuing pain ... it is then that we see, maybe, God's purpose. He allowed someone we love to die, and with His help, something good can come out of that death.

    In your case Sue, you had the courage to write about what you went through and your writings and your advice has helped many people in similar situations. More than you can probably imagine.

    God loves you for your courage and your willingness to share your pain in order to alleviate those of others. God has and will continue to bless you and yours for your Faithfulness and love.

    And baby Thomas smiles too.

    God bless.

    1. Victor,

      This was a difficult post to write because I had so much I could have said but I only wanted to write a short post and not a book! I really only touched on my search for meaning. I read so many books and prayed about new ideas that I was contemplating. I had to read anything that touched on the subject of suffering. I could have shared more of what I learnt but I guess I have more things I can share in future posts. Maybe someone will be encouraged to read more about suffering in search of the answers to the questions I posed.

      While I was writing, I was also thinking about specific good things that came out of Thomas' death. I feel very privileged to be able to share other parents' grief through my writing and contacts with grief ministries. This is something that I can only do because I lost a child. I have grown so much as a person through having and losing Thomas... I started writing down all the positive things but then decided that it wasn't necessary to list anything at all. Even if I couldn't see the good with my own eyes, I would trust that God is bringing good out of my son's life. He didn't live and die a wasted life. Even if all I could see is how I suffered, even that has value and who knows what good is coming out of that? God knows. One day I will understand completely.

      You said, "Our first human instincts would say: No. If God loves us so much as He says He does He wouldn't allow such hurt to come to us. He, of all people knows the pain of death." I agree that this seems reasonable at first. It was only later I realised that suffering is actually a gift. I wasn't been punished at all. God does love each one of us so very much.

      Victor, thank you for sharing my story and for your encouraging words. I do always hesitate when pressing the 'publish' button as I'm never sure how everyone will react to my stories and reflections on grief.

      God bless you!

  2. It's just too sad to think of living life without hope - it must have been so hard to write this post. I wonder whether you and Thomas touched those ladies' souls without knowing it. After seeing all the work you have achieved since that time, I really suspect that might be the case.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences, Sue - you're writing is very special and important.

    1. Vicky,

      To live without hope? Yes we need hope! I really felt crushed by the hopelessness of that grief group. I did appreciate very much those women taking the time to support bereaved mothers like me. They were volunteers and they were caring and trying to help. They just didn't have God in their world and so the grief wasn't making any sense to them at all.

      Did I touch those women's souls? I think they considered me very strange!!! I don't think they wanted to hear what I wanted to say, my out loud thoughts and ponderings. You know I am a bossy big sister, and having been a counsellor on top of that... you can imagine how I might have started to take over the discussion!

      Thank you for always having such kind words to say about my writings. It does help me to keep sharing when sometimes I feel hesitant.

      God bless!

  3. Poignant, heartwrenching post, Sue. I agree with previous commenters. It would be too sad to live without hope. For me, the belief that my babies will be there to greet me in heaven is what helped me to cope. How do we get through our grief day in and day out without the hope of eternal life? Thanks so much for sharing...

    1. Ellen,

      Maybe some people only start to think about eternal life once they have lost someone. I know my faith really grew and it became the number one focus of my life after Thomas died. The hope that one day we'd be reunited helped me keep plodding along.

      I often think of that day when we will be with God and reunited with our babies that left this life too soon. All our suffering will be over and what joy we will experience!

      Thank you for reading my story, Ellen.

  4. I had a similar experience...not the group thing, but just my own coming to HOPE experience, after Noah. I love your writing so much....and thank you for the book suggestion, hadn't read that!

    1. Amanda,

      It's good being able to share similar feelings with other bereaved parents. Thank you for reading my story. Thank you for the link on your own blog too!

      The book is a classic. Everyone should read it. It really changed how I looked at life and helped me to accept what God allows. If you have a Kindle or a computer with a Kindle app, there is an e-version for 99 cents. So many wonderful books available for not much money. I love my Kindle!

      God bless.

  5. Sue I do hope The Holy Spirit will allow you to glimpse that your words did fall on fertile soil back in the time without seeming hope. Then perhaps there will also be a glimpse of that joy in sufferring that is all too often elusive. Thanks for sharing and may Thomas' prayers for you lift you up today :-)

    1. Beate,

      Yes, we never know where words will end up or what will come of them. During that sad time, I felt so sorry for those other women. I really wanted to lessen their pain which I couldn't really do because I was suffering so much myself. I think I recognised I was in a much better position than they were because I had the gift of our Faith and they had nothing.

      Joy in suffering? Oh yes, it has to be experienced because it seems such an alien concept. It doesn't seem possible that the two can exist at one time. But God does send joy despite the pain. Not happiness but joy. I am sure you understand what I am saying!

      Thank you for your comment, Beate. It has set me thinking...


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