By Sue Schlesman, Crosswalk.com
The loss of a child is likely the greatest tragedy on earth. No parent can fathom losing a child, no matter what age the child is. So if you’re a parent who has lost a child, whether the loss occurred through miscarriage, crib death, disease, accident, suicide, violence, or natural causes, your child’s death has produced enormous trauma and grief for you. Death is a trauma. Spiritually, physically, emotionally, and socially.
God does not expect you to accept the loss of a child without feeling the overwhelming weight of loss and confusion. Jesus himself was called “the Man of Sorrows.” He wept over Lazarus’ death at the tomb (Matthew 11:35), he raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead in front of her distraught parents (Mark 5:41-42), and he lamented over Israel’s rejection of him as the Messiah, saying, “I have longed to gather you … like a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would not” (Matthew 23:37). Everywhere Jesus went, he drew close to the brokenhearted and oppressed. He loves us like a parent, and he feels loss like a parent.
There’s some good news for you if you suffer from losing a child. God intends to walk with you through your suffering, grow you in your suffering, and deliver you from it. By engaging in prayer for the loss of a child, we may receive this comfort from God.
Processing Grief through Prayer
We have a Comforter, given to us when we become believers (John 14:16). Utilize the Holy Spirit to question, pray, vent, and process. God can handle whatever you direct towards him. He gave us the prayer of lament for this reason. He wants us to cry out to him in our grief so he can heal us. This includes prayer for the loss of a child.
The Bible records at least 42 laments in Psalms alone (that’s about 1/3 of the Psalms), in addition to the entire book of Lamentations and Jeremiah. Most of the minor prophets express their grief in laments, as does Jesus in the New Testament. Nowhere in Scripture can you find God (or his prophets) correcting or judging someone who’s grieving. Instead, God steps in as a Comforter and regenerates life another way.
If God didn’t understand or accept our expressions of grief, why would the Bible contain so much of it? In addition to conversations about grief, the loss of children is prevalent throughout the Bible (because it was prevalent in ancient times); since children represent blessing in a Biblical context, any person losing a child experiences terrible loss of blessing. And that’s when the story takes a miraculous turn. Whenever a parent turns to God in his/her grief, God restores life. That doesn’t always mean bringing a child back from the dead. Job lost all nine of his children in a single accident, and God gave him another nine children; however, Job did not get his first nine back. David’s baby with Bathsheba died as a punishment to David’s sin, but after David repented, God allowed Bathsheba to conceive Solomon. Elisha, Jesus, and Paul all brought dead children to life again.
But we can’t pigeonhole God into blessing what we want or protecting us from the pain we don’t want. But we can approach God in prayer and let the Spirit groan for us when we don’t have the words (Romans 8:26-27).
Here are four prayers for the loss of a child:
1. A Prayer for the Loss of a Baby
“Dear Lord, you said that you would proclaim your glory through the mouths of babe and children, but you did not give my child that chance. I don’t understand why you would bless me with this little life and then take it away so quickly. I am grieving the life my baby never got to live, as well as the loss I feel. I’m grieving the memories we would have made together but now can’t. Give me the courage to trust you, to hope again, and to love again. Protect me from living in fear and paranoia. You are good, and you do good. Help me to trust you, even though I don’t understand why this happened. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
2. A Prayer for the Loss of a Child
“Dear Lord, my arms are empty longing for this child. I see my child everywhere in my mind, and I don’t know how to live anymore. I’m so angry about losing this child, who had so much life ahead of him/her. Hold me in this process of grieving and replace my pain with joy again. Teach me how to cherish our memories without feeling overwhelmed with grief. I need you to redeem this loss and show yourself mighty to heal. I believe you are the Way, Truth, and Life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
3. A Prayer for the Loss of an Adult Child
“Dear Lord, I never expected to outlive my child. It’s not right, and it’s not fair. This loss affects so many people. I don’t know how to move on. I ask you to give me good memories of our life together. Help me trust you with the painful circumstances surrounding my child’s death. I want to glorify you, even in my pain. Show me how to do that and protect me from bitterness. Give me a new purpose for living and a way to honor my child’s life. I trust you, and I honor you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
4. A Prayer for the Loss of a Child to Violence
“Dear Lord, you must be angry like me, to see violence committed against children. How could you let this happen? What good can come of this? I am enraged at you and at this world. I feel responsible, and yet I blame so many others. God, I don’t see a way out of this anguish and rage. You say that you rescue us from violent people. Where was your protection? Lord, show me who you are. I know you are good, and yet, I don’t see any good here. I need a miracle, Lord. I give you this tragedy to redeem in Jesus’ name, Amen.”
Death seems like the great victor to us who live on this earth, but God says,
“When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory’-- ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:51, Hosea 13:14).
Comforting Scriptures for the Loss of a Child
God promises to “never leave you or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5)
God’s plan is to “comfort all who mourn” (Isaiah 61:2)
God says he will exchange ashes and mourning for beauty and joy (Isaiah 1:3)
David believed God would reunite him with his dead son (2 Samuel 12:22)
Jesus said whoever mourned would be comforted (Matthew 5:4)
Our pain will make us strong in the Lord while his power to heals us (Isaiah 3:3)
Every person’s days are pre-ordained by God, even before birth (Psalm 139:16)
God walks with us during the valleys of death and gives us courage (Psalm 23:4)
Without Jesus’ resurrection, there is no resurrection of the dead or gospel message (1 Corinthians 15:1-2)
10 Ways to Find Hope after the Loss of a Child
1. Give your guilt, anger, grief, and bitterness to God. Speak honestly about how you feel and ask him to help you.
2. Meet regularly with a counselor or therapist so you can talk about your child and your grief.
3. Go somewhere different on anniversary dates and holidays to give your heart space to breathe.
4. Limit your social circle to wise, empathetic people who will listen to you (no matter how you feel) and not give you pithy advice.
5. Talk about your child and your pain with people who have earned the right to listen to you.
6. Read Scripture, especially the Psalms, and pray the Psalms when you can’t find the words to pray.
7. Believe that your suffering will produce a harvest of good in your life.
8. Realize that you will never “get over it,” but the intensity of the pain will subside over time.
9. Choose joy in memories, if you have good memories; if you don’t, make good memories with other children or for other children.
10. Manage your nervous system. Monitor heart rate, sleeping, eating, breathing, exercise. You will have to teach your system to calm itself and reject the trauma responses (fight, flight, freeze).
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/KatarzynaBialasiewicz
Sue Schlesman is an award-winning author, speaker, blogger, English teacher, and pastor’s wife. Her second book, Soulspeak: Praying Change into Unexpected Places, won a Selah Award in 2020. Sue was also a top-15 contributor at Crosswalk.com in 2020. Sue has a BA in Creative Writing and a Master’s in Theology & Culture. Her material appears in a variety of print, online, radio, and podcast mediums. She has a passion for poetry, missions, justice, traveling, reading, the local church, and her family. You can find her writing about life, education, and Jesus at sueschlesman.com and 7prayersthatwork.com, which attracts visitors from across the globe.