Losing a child is a horrific heartbreak, no matter how old they are. At times one finds difficulty in doing the most mundane tasks. It’s like a paralysis comes upon you, and even breathing hurts. My son was barely an hour old when he passed from this life into the arms of his heavenly Father, yet the loss was nonetheless excruciating. I cried, grieved, and ached for the child I never had the opportunity to see or hold, since I had been on the brink of death myself when he was born. It was a miracle I was alive, and it was the strength of my faith and of my husband that carried me through the days, weeks, and months after as the stages of grief washed over me.
The mending of my heart was a slow and arduous endeavor. But I just kept taking one breath at a time and as the years passed, the intensity of the pain began to fade and my heart began to heal.
It was six years and two children later after the Lord called our sweet baby boy home when I had an unexpected revelation about grief—about heartache. I learned there is no set time table on the process—that grief can well up unexpectedly—but it’s no surprise to God.
The bottom was falling out of the oil industry in Houston, and when oil fails the whole economy suffers in a city full of refineries. Among several other business endeavors, my husband was working feverishly to keep his once thriving construction business alive. He had seemed a little depressed lately, always pouring over financials and profit and loss statements.
I came home one day, startled to find his countenance lower than I had ever seen it. His eyes were red and I could tell he had been crying. I immediately feared the worst.
“What’s wrong Paul? What happened? Is everybody okay?”
He looked down and sighed heavily. “I just got back from the cemetery.”
My furrowed brow and obvious confusion prompted him to explain.
“I went to visit … little George.”
We seldom talked about our son, and it had been years since we visited his grave.
When our newborn son died an hour after birth, I was devastated. I cried for weeks. It was as though my heart was crushed, and damaged beyond repair. When depression threatened to set in, it was my husband who was a constant source of encouragement for me. He was always so positive, running his businesses, networking, and talking to people all day long like nothing was wrong at home.
While his strength helped me to survive, I remembered thinking back then, “Why hasn’t he mourned with me?”
When the truth hit me, it was hard to process.
Everyone doesn’t experience grief the same way, and there isn’t a “cookie cutter” process for heart healing. I suddenly realized that I managed to get through one of the most painful times in my life because my husband sacrificed his grief—for me.
But heartache finally caught up with him and broke him.
The truth is sometimes people don’t allow the mourning process to run its full course, especially if they are in leadership positions and need to make important decisions like Paul. I was comatose and barely alive when our son died. Paul was the one who held our tiny baby in his hands, who handled all the funeral arrangements, and who took responsibility to father our young toddler who struggled to understand why her Mommy was at the hospital and her baby brother was in heaven. Topping it off was my uncertain fate—would I make it through the medical crisis or would the next burial he had to plan be mine?
I survived, but the months and years after we lost our son were hard on both of us—yet Paul stuffed his feelings down and sacrificed his need to grieve to be the tower of strength I needed to survive. But now, with our failing business and the financial pressures weighing heavy on his heart, his mighty show of strength was depleted.
Paul was facing the shattered dream of a once thriving business. He felt his world slipping away; a beautiful home, earthly treasures, and the security of a steady flow of income was crashing. But he wasn’t counting on his heart crashing too. He wasn’t prepared for the long-suppressed grief of losing his son to pour from his heart and soul years later.
It was my turn to be strong for my husband, and the months following Paul’s admission of grief brought us even closer. When we discovered I was pregnant it was like a fresh breeze of hope wafted over our hearts.
This was my fifth pregnancy and shortly before my due date we were invited to attend a new church. At the end of the Sunday service three days before our baby was to be born by Caesarean section, the pastor extended an open invitation to join him up front for prayer—no matter the need. Paul and I eagerly went forward to receive the prayer of faith for a safe delivery.
Just a few days later, on November 28th, Paula Kristen was born—we would call her Kristen. Her sisters Shannon, Cindy, and Diana were ten, five, and four respectively. Had he lived, little George would have been six.
Although I may have looked young, I certainly wasn’t feeling it the day Kristen was delivered. After giving birth five times, Paul and I felt in our spirits this would be my last delivery. I don’t know why, but I felt my body would not be able to handle another pregnancy.
I made it known to my doctor that after he delivered this baby, I wanted a tubal ligation. My doctor was in complete agreement and the delivery of our fourth daughter confirmed our concerns.
After cutting through the layers of skin and muscles during the Caesarean section procedure, my doctor was about to place the scalpel on my uterus when suddenly it ruptured. He quickly got the baby out and handed her to a nearby nurse, and began to work feverishly on the profuse hemorrhaging.
“Begin blood transfusions, STAT!” he ordered. Time was critical as I was bleeding out in front of him.
When our baby boy was born, I died on the table in the ICU. And once again, I began to experience the all-too-familiar feeling of falling and floating. Although I felt myself hovering between worlds, my spirit did not leave my body this time, although there was a part of me that longed to see my guardian angel again—to ask him questions I hadn’t thought to ask so many years ago.
Doctors worked feverishly to control the bleeding and repair the damage. To have this happen in the operating room gave me the advantage I needed to survive. Had my uterus ruptured before that day—something that could have easily occurred, the internal bleeding would have most likely killed me and our daughter.
Yet once again, God guided the hand of a skilled doctor and directed a team of dedicated professionals to save my life.
Later that day the pediatrician came to visit us in my room.
“I’m afraid your little girl has a ventricular septal defect, we call it VSD,” he said. “In layman’s terms, it means your daughter has a few small holes in her heart. You can take her home but the first thing Monday morning, I want to see her at Texas Children’s Hospital for a pre-surgery visit and another ultrasound.”
Surgery? On a newborn? As scary as it sounded, we weren’t afraid. In fact, we had a level of peace that surprised both of us, not to mention everyone around us. You see, something had changed in Paul and me over the past months—we were now equipped with the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit— and this made a decided difference. One of those gifts was the gift of faith. A supernatural assurance that God is in control, is not lacking, and can, in fact, heal our child.
We believed that truth with every fiber of our beings.
That Sunday, just one day after I was released from the hospital, we took all of daughters, including our four-day old infant back to Trinity Church. “But you’re just a little girl!” A church member exclaimed when we walked in with our new baby girl and our entire family of beautiful daughters.
At the end of the service, we took little Kristen up for prayer and an elder laid his hands on our newborn baby and prayed an anointed prayer of faith.
When Monday came the doctors at Texas Children’s Hospital were astonished as they looked at comparison tests and ultrasounds. One previously significant hole in Kristen’s heart was completely gone, and the other was now so tiny surgery was deemed unnecessary.
“We can’t explain it … it looks like a new heart,” the doctors muttered.
But we could. The healing in our daughter’s heart was nothing short of a supernatural miracle.
God is in the business of healing hearts—and He had been very busy healing ours. The addition of this child made our hearts full. My oldest daughter who was just a toddler when we went through the loss became like a second momma to this new baby. Paul was over the moon! And the heartbeat of our family was finally in cadence with melodies and harmonies of joy and healing.
Kristen is now married and the mother of four children herself. And her heart? Well…it’s perfect!
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18