In 2012 my youngest brother and dearest friend was shot and killed by his neighbor over a noise dispute. It was a few days before his birthday and the start of the holiday season. In the days which followed, we became the family on the evening news. Questions arose about his death and gruesome details regarding the number of gunshot wounds were made known. Facts I’d rather not have known.
I watched my mother become a former version of herself. She was about to bury her child. And not just any child this was her “baby boy.” The one she shared Sunday coffee with. The one to whom she would bake his own sweet potato pie each Thanksgiving and laugh as he ate another while standing in her kitchen. It was one of those unofficial holiday traditions that are taken for granted. One which meant so much to my mother that she’d already prepared and frozen her pie mix prior to his death.
Over the next few years, the holidays became a challenge. My mother, bracing herself for the days ahead, would descend into a downward spiral of which would ultimately result in a hospital visit. Her physical symptoms were becoming increasingly psychological in nature. Grief had overwhelmed her and taken over her life.
In October of 2015, I invited my mother on a road trip to Los Angeles for the weekend. It was a sad attempt to distract her from the upcoming anniversary and birthday of my brother’s death. During the drive, she opened her heart about her loss. She’d felt guilty from past mistakes made as a young woman. Regrets which haunted her long after his death. I took the opportunity to suggest she get help. Maybe counseling or a support group. Instead, she used our time together as a form of therapy. Talking her way through her emotions. In return, I offered a listening ear without judgment. My ministerial calling coming in handy at the least expected time.
The following month the family returned to its new tradition of visits to the emergency room. This occurred several times before she was finally admitted in January 2016. She would be released only to return several days later. In February 2016 my mother breathed her last breath. Exhausted from fighting the emotional trauma that comes with the loss of a child. The official cause of death described as a brain aneurysm. However, privately our family knew that she died from a broken heart. It is from this perspective that I write to you. The woman of faith who is also an unmarried mother. I write to you not as a mother, but as an adult child on the other side of grief.
The other day I awakened with thoughts of more than one single mother that I knew who had lost a child. I won’t bore you with the details of how each of these bright and talented young people died while in the prime of their lives. My focus rather is on the pain and grief each mother carries. Some wounds are fresh, for others several years have passed. All need healing and contrary to popular belief time does not heal all wounds.
As I think of these women, I pray for their children which remain. I pray that each woman would eventually forgive the person who hurt them. Not only for themselves but for their families also. I pray that each would decide to get the help and grief counseling that is needed. Burying a child is something no mother should ever have to endure.
I pray that grief does not consume them and that the children who are still alive not have to watch their mothers dwindle before their eyes. Give each woman a reason to live. A new sense of purpose and a reason to get out of bed every morning. Give them a cause to fight and a legacy to build. Most of all let each woman know that they are loved by God and that He loved the child that has gone on before them.
Grief Share – a faith-based grief recovery support group.
Grieving Mothers – an online support group of women who have lost a child.
Local Counseling – find a faith-based counselor in your area.