Think on These Things: The death of a baby

Anastasia Bartlett of St. Aidan's Orthodox Church discusses the death of a baby.

Whether four weeks, twelve weeks, 38 weeks or newly born, the death of a baby is a loss to a mother. She may not have had a chance to hold the baby, cuddle and kiss it, but she knows it was there and now it isn’t. From the moment a woman is told she is carrying a new life within her, she begins to plan and to dream of what life will be like with a new baby in the house. Sure, it may be hectic and, at times, frustrating but this new person – this new member of the family – will, by the grace of God, enrich the lives of everyone drawing them closer to each other and to God.

The family is excited and the older children lean on mommy’s stomach to talk to their new brother or sister. All the children make plans and oldest brother feels a greater sense of responsibility now that he will be a big brother again.

A miscarriage crushes all those hopes, expectations and dreams. A miscarriage brings a sense of loss, disappointment and sadness. A miscarriage means the death of a child.

We lost our son, Nicholas, at 17 weeks gestation. It was a gut wrenching time of misery as I searched for blame, what had I done wrong, and what could I have done differently? I wanted to change things to do my best to make sure it wouldn’t happen again.

Christ said, “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.”

Mourning for a loved one is an all-consuming experience, and for a time, drowns out everything else. Mourning for a loved one shakes us out of our complacency and pettiness becoming, however briefly, a light cutting through all the darkness of distractions and providing a new perspective on reality and the important things of life. Unfortunately, as grief subsides and becomes bearable, the light gradually dims and distractions once again become front and centre.

The Orthodox Church considers ‘blessed are they that mourn’, not to be so much about personal mourning as it is the daily mourning of our separation from God, from creation, and from each other. The enemy will do anything to distract us from thinking about our isolation from others by tempting us to fill our lives with fleeting pleasures and shiny things. He knows the less I think about others, the further I will drift from God.

Every personal loss I experience in this world is a reminder of my separation from God. When I face the loss of a loved one, part of my mourning includes regret for words spoken or not spoken, guilt for action taken or not, wishing I had loved more and spent more time and if there is still opportunity, making amends.

Every time I hurt someone whether in thought, word or deed, I increase the separation between God and me. Drawing closer to God means tending the garden of my heart, identifying the noxious weeds, adding spiritual nutrients to the soil and nurturing the seeds of righteousness by watering them with tears of mourning for past mistakes and unloving actions.

Mourning can lead to either paralyzing guilt or active change.

The more I consider my past, mourn my sins and determine to change, my relationships with others will heal. Drawing closer to others means drawing closer to God, the source of life itself and so, in turn, will reconcile me with others whom I have already lost.

I know the miscarriage of my son was not my fault. It was a consequence of living in a world separated from God.

After the miscarriage, I spent the night in the hospital. I dreamt about a little boy, about 18 months old, toddling towards me, a big grin on his face while I crouched down, my arms wide open waiting to give him a big hug. Behind him stood a man, smiling. I woke with my arms empty and tears filling my eyes. I mourned for my loss, but I was comforted, knowing my separation from my son would end…

But I continue to mourn for all those lost years.


Creston Valley Advance