**This is the first installment of the I am a Terrible Christian Series. I shared in the grief of my friend Iris, just a mere three days before I gave birth to my own baby boy, as she lost hers. And now, I am humbled to share her words here in this space. Iris, thank you for gifting us with your story.**
Eight years ago, we lost our son.
We were living in China and had just had Kaden, our long-awaited child after 5 years of marriage, a scary pregnancy, and an overseas birth. We were sitting in a Sunday worship service when I looked down at him asleep in the baby sling and noticed that he seemed strangely discolored. I became more and more frantic as I tried to awaken him to no avail. We shouted for help, interrupting the service, and several people quickly stepped forward and started doing CPR on him. The entire congregation began praying, but the only prayer that could form on my lips was “Jesus”, over and over again. Finally, the ambulance came and whisked us off to the Children’s Hospital, but by the time we reached the hospital, it was too late. After a last-ditch effort to revive him with a shot of epinephrine failed, the doctors pronounced him dead. They said he died of SIDS.
Kaden was 7 weeks and 4 days old.
Love and support began to flood in immediately. There were those who came from near and far to weep and pray by our sides; friends who took care of details so that we could get down to the business of grieving; even strangers who took the time to write and send their heartfelt condolences. In the dark months and years following that traumatic day, I know that I was carried by the fierce love of the Body of Christ.
But just as quickly and intensely came the pressure to turn off the pain. The Chinese doctor at the hospital tried to soothe us by saying that we could have more children. In days and weeks to come, others invoked the name of God, making comments like, “God will work this for your good” or “God allowed this to happen to you, so He must know that you can handle it.” After hearing our story, one lady even asked me if I had “recovered”. It felt like our grief was being manhandled when it should have been handled with care.
Then there were those who avoided it like the plague, never asking us about Kaden, his death, or how we were doing. Conversations felt superficial and meaningless as people awkwardly tiptoed around the fact that MY CHILD WAS GONE. Their silence felt like a slap in the face. All these miserable comforters were pretty much damned if they spoke up, and damned if they didn’t.
Grieving people are hard to please.
We desperately needed consolation, but we needed it in a way that would bring healing instead of harm.
Jason Gray’s song “Not Right Now” could well be an anthem for the grieving heart.
Don’t tell me when I’m grieving
That this happened for a reason
Maybe one day we’ll talk about the dreams that had to die
For new ones to come alive
But not right now
While I wait for the smoke to clear
You don’t even have to speak
Just sit with me in the ashes here
And together we can pray for peace
To the one acquainted with our grief
I know someday
I know somehow
I’ll be okay
But not right now
Not right now
No, not right now
Not all comfort is created equally. Sometimes the best kind of comfort is the kind that doesn’t try to comfort.
This song is an invitation to simply mourn with those who mourn. Lay down your explanations and platitudes. Sit with us in the ashes for awhile. Don’t usher us too quickly past our pain. Fully enter in to our “right now”.
Because the present moment of a person’s life is crucial to the arc of the story. The power and inspiration of a narrative comes not when we skip to the end of a book to read the happily-ever-after. It comes when we journey with the characters through the thickening plot, the mounting obstacles, the rising conflicts. It’s when we pore over the pages of pain instead of skimming past them. The suffering and adversity are the very things that give the triumphant conclusion true redemption and meaning.
I am by no means a perfect—or even a good—comforter. I speak only as a griever. But in my own story, I am grateful for those who embrace the dark chapters of my life without trying to put a spin on them. I am most comforted when others stick with me in the uneasy tension between sorrow and hope. It is an agonizing place to be, but I’ve found that that’s where my healing begins. The eternally present God is here in the “right now” of my pain.
I only wish more people would join us there.