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A Prayer for When a Child Dies
By Rev. Kyle Norman

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”  (Matthew 2:18)

“Chanson is with Jesus.” These were the words to the email that I opened from parishioners. Chanson was their 8-year-old grandson. For the first seven years of his life, Chanson was energetic, happy, and precocious. He was always on the move, always exploring, always climbing, and laughing as he did it. That is, until he had a fall during a family camping trip. For six months, Chanson battled swelling in his brain, violent seizures, and near-death episodes. The family prayed for him constantly, anointing him with oil and rejoicing in the small moments of grace they experienced. “Little miracles” is what they called them.

But then he died. Chanson’s death, though not unexpected, came quicker and more abruptly than anyone could have predicted. One minute he was battling another episode; the next, he wasn’t.  And with Chanson’s death, the family was plunged into a loss that cannot be described in words. The death of a child creates grief far too visceral to articulate. As Christian people, how do we walk through a loss so pronounced and painful? How do we hold together the belief in God’s goodness with the unfair reality of a child’s death? 

Some might think that the faithful thing to do is step outside of grief, to minimize it, or pretend that it is not as bad as it seems. Some believe that the Christian response to death is to supplant the pain of loss with the façade of celebration – we give thanks for the life of our loved one, and we are grateful for the time we shared together. We may even try to gloss over our grief by suggesting that the death of the child occurred because “their job on earth was done.”  

All of this is a mask. Our Lord never asks us to sidestep the reality of our lives. We are never asked to pretend that we do not hurt, to hold back our tears, our questions, or our laments. The outstretched arm of our crucified Lord embraces it all. See, the hope of our faith isn’t merely that Jesus conquered death. Yes, as Christians, we believe in the resurrection, and we dare to believe that even in the darkest of places, Jesus speaks the word of life. But this eternal hope is rooted in Jesus’ willingness to enter the sphere of death and be touched by it.

After all, even Jesus cried. When confronted with the death of one he loved so dearly, Jesus wept outwardly and passionately. He sweated drops of blood as he approached the time of his own death. And while Jesus did defeat the sting of death, that sting still left its mark on his body.

Jesus shows us that we need not hide from our grief or minimize the hurt we feel. The faithful response to the death of a child is not to paste a fake smile on our lips and sing, “God bless the little children.” No; instead, we give ourselves the space we need to cry, weep and lament.  We need not go about pretending that we are unaffected by our loss. Faithfulness to God means that we bring ourselves to God fully and without reserve.

We do so freely because we know that Jesus knows about loss and grief. He knows how deeply death can cut into our lives. He knows the heartbreak that is felt when this imperfect world is unfair in the cruelest of ways.  And because Jesus understands these things, we need not hide them from our prayers; we can bring those feelings to him.

Let’s pray:

Most Merciful God, your wisdom is beyond our understanding. The easy answers of faith do not seem sufficient in times when I am so deeply touched by loss and grief. Deal graciously with me and with my family as we walk this path of mourning over the death of our child. Surround us with your love so that we may not be overwhelmed by our loss. Give us the grace to maintain our confidence in your goodness and love.

O Lord, I pray that you listen to the prayers of the family as we put our trust in you. In our sorrow, may we find hope in your unending mercy. Speak grace into our hearts and peace into our souls. Jesus, as you took children into your arms and blessed them, give us a vision of you holding our beloved child in your eternal embrace. As you called Lazarus out of the tomb, help us to know that you have called our child out of the darkness of death into the light of your everlasting Kingdom. As you wept beside Mary and Martha, may we feel your presence near us as we weep.

All these things we pray in the great name of Jesus Christ, Our Lord, who is the resurrection, and the life. Amen

Photo credit: Unsplash.com/Riccardo Mion


SWN authorThe Reverend Dr. Kyle Norman is the Rector of St. Paul’s Cathedral, located in Kamloops BC, Canada.  He holds a doctorate in Spiritual formation and is a sought-after writer, speaker, and retreat leader. His writing can be found at Christianity.com, crosswalk.comibelieve.com, Renovare Canada, and many others.  He also maintains his own blog revkylenorman.ca.  He has 20 years of pastoral experience, and his ministry focuses on helping people overcome times of spiritual discouragement.

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