Heart of Jesus, source of all consolation and hope…Have mercy on us.
Our Lady of Sorrows………………………………………Pray for us.
St. Joseph, help of the suffering and dying…….……Pray for us.
No father ever anticipates that one of his children will be born with a life-threatening condition, requiring critical care with little chance of survival. Likewise, no mother ever imagines walking with her child down a road of suffering and pain, and being the one who helplessly looks on. Neither look forward to the aching day that they will have to bury their own child. This is a cross, a kind of martyrdom. Like the martyrs, parents can submit to God’s plan and accept pain and loss so that God can flourish in people’s hearts and continue to renew the world.
In the midst of all sadness and difficulties, there always shines a ray of hope to comfort us and lead us through. From a mother who has experienced all of the above, I want to share the lessons of love and life that I have learned that are most helpful in coping with the sickness and/or the death of a child or any other loved one.
First and most important, give everything: every tear at the discovery of the condition, every fear of what lies ahead, every feeling of helplessness, every dream and desire you previously had, and every ounce of love that you have for your child to God. Believe with your whole heart that God loves you and your child more than you are even capable of loving. If you doubt this love for a moment, meditate on the incomprehensible Love that came down from heaven to become one of His creatures, and then, journey with Our Lord through His Passion. Love became visible in Jesus Christ. Never take your eyes off the cross and resurrection while you deal with the suffering and possible death of your child. Suffering only makes sense and becomes a prayer when it is united to the Passion of Our Lord. The hope of the resurrection makes the death of a child or any loved one only a brief separation, brief in this life compared to eternity. With all this in mind, trust God to shape what will happen. Trust that God can make the sickness of a child and even the death of a child beautiful. Allow God’s plan to unfold. When you find yourself filling with fear or feeling unable to keep carrying your cross, it is helpful to stop yourself and say a prayer, such as: “Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you!” God will make of you and your desperate situation more than you thought possible.
It is also important to know the value of suffering because the whole situation deals with multiple forms of suffering: the actual physical suffering that your child goes through, the emotional suffering the parents go through, grieving after the death of your child, etc. There are two things I have learned about suffering: first, it is essential for purifying the soul and second, it is unavoidable. If you can come to grasp and accept these two truths, suffering becomes easier to handle. Our Lord hates sin and death and came to conquer it, but He did so first by suffering and dying on the cross. We must suffer too, with and close to Our Lord. When we accept suffering as a gift, Our Lord is able to mold our hearts to be like His own. Suffering can deepen our relationship with God; we can find peace and reward if we don’t lose faith.
Furthermore, Suffering and death can bear beautiful fruit if offered as a prayer. I think all of us can think of intentions we wish to pray for: world peace, the conversion of souls to Christ, our deceased relatives, reparation for sin, and for many of us, an end to abortion. One of the most powerful ways of making good come out of the suffering and death is to offer all your sorrows to the Lord for these and other intentions that are dear to His heart. Here you offer your sufferings to God, conform to His will, and play a role in the redemptive process. Jesus loves this because you are telling Him that you want your heart to be like His, and He will undoubtedly reward your heroic efforts with grace and mercy.
There are some day-to-day things that I encourage parents to dive into with God at their side. Pray, pray, pray everyday and several times during the day. Pray together as a family and especially, pray with your spouse. Pray that your thoughts and actions may always have the love of God connected with them. Go to church regularly and add your child to a prayer list or circle. Have the communion of saints intercede on behalf of your child and you, especially the Mother of God who is no stranger to watching a child suffer and die. If you are Catholic, live on the sacraments; they connect you directly to God.
When you are watching a child suffer, you can feel so helpless, but there are some things that you can control. Take every moment that you are given to show your child as much love as possible. Even if they are very small and unable to talk, they will know and feel the love you have for them. Do not let yourself abandon them out of fear, and hold them whenever the medical staff will allow you to, providing it won’t cause your child any physical harm. These children need to be touched and to be loved. Sometimes that is the best form of medicine for them. The beautiful thing about love is that it cannot die; it goes on with us into eternity.
Finally, take the time and energy to know everything about your child’s condition so that you can make an informed decision as to their care. Do not rely only on the doctor’s advice. Involve your priest or clergy to help make decisions on spiritual matters. Unfortunately, the medical field does not always see the prayer a suffering soul makes to God, and so, we need to rely on the people God has ordained as His representatives.
Lord Jesus Christ, you are our hope and comfort in this valley of tears. Let me pray with you to God the Father, “Not my will but Your will be done.” Hold me ever close to your Sacred Heart and do not ever leave my side. I trust in You that You will make all things right either in this world or the next, and I leave that decision up to you. Lord of love, I give you my life as you gave me yours!