This week, as we face Father’s Day, we remember those for whom the day holds a twinge of pain, or perhaps overwhelming grief. In honor of Father’s Day, we will be posting blogs by men. We give thanks for their willingness to give voice to their own experiences of grief, of loss and of ministry among those who have lost and the promise held in the very act of sharing: you are not alone.
Dr. Rick Jordan is the Church Resources Coordinator for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of NC. As a chaplain resident at Spatanburg (SC) General Hospital, Rick started a SHARE support group for grieving parents. A few years later as Associate Pastor at Viewmont Baptist Church in Hickory, NC, Rick and a United Methodist pastor began The Pregnancy Loss Support Group . He shares this story about an experience that has shaped his own ministry.
I had been visiting the young couple for several days. Their infant was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, not doing well. I was the chaplain over this unit. After a few days, they heard the doctor tell them what they most feared and didn’t want to hear, “We did everything we could, but your baby didn’t make it.”
I was called to the unit. The couple was rocking their baby, saying their goodbyes. I sat with them in silence. When they want me to speak, they’ll ask me, I thought. “Isn’t he beautiful?” the mother asked. “Yes, beautiful,” I responded. After a while, she said, “Will we ever know why?” “Would that help?” I asked. She paused. “Maybe… I guess not. It’s going to hurt no matter what.” Then she said to her child, “I’m going to love you and miss you no matter what.”
The father was quiet during our time together. He was loving and supportive. He held the baby. He stroked his wife’s back. He wiped some tears from his cheek. And he was quiet.
Sometimes, that is the way it is. For some men, the role is to simply be present and supportive. His grief is expressed in the love he demonstrates to the sorrowful mother. The months of pregnancy were different for him. He was not confronted with morning sickness or kicks within or comments from strangers about a changing body – things that she had as constant reminders that new life was on its way. He dealt with her illness and felt some of the kicks and noticed her body’s redevelopment, but it was not the daily, sudden, surprising experience it was for her. Both had dreams for their new child. Both talked about names. Both wondered aloud about the color and curl and length of hair. But the last few months were different for each of them. The grieving will be different, as well.
When she stepped out for a few minutes, he said, “I feel bad that I don’t feel as bad as her.” “You think you should have as much sadness as she does?” “Shouldn’t I? I mean, this is my child, too…I wish things were different. I wish I could just make him live and we could walk out of this place happy, like we were supposed to.” “That was your expectation, your dream, but now it’s gone.” “Yes…but we’re going to make it through this.” “You want to move on past this.” “It won’t help to linger. I mean, I hate this happened and it is sad, but you’ve got to play the hand you’re dealt.” “The way you want to play this hand and the way she needs to play this hand may be different.” “That’s true. That’s true.”
She entered the room again and took the baby from her husband’s arms. We sat in silence. She wept silently. He had one hand on the baby and one on her hand. He asked me to pray.