Coming to terms with the death of a child

One of the most difficult and traumatic encounters as a priest and a hospital chaplain is to witness the death of a child.

No matter the circumstances, the age of someone’s daughter or son the grief experienced is almost unbearable. To watch a mother or father’s world fall apart as they are confronted by the death of their child is heart breaking to say the least. These are the occasions when you feel useless and helpless, threatened to be swamped by a tidal wave of emotions and grief. This week the community of the Top of the Hill has been felt stunned and shocked by the death of one of its young people. The devastation left in the wake of any young death is traumatic but when a young person decides to take their life we enter a whole new world of pain and despair. Many parents and family members live in fear because our young people are confronted by so many pressures in a society which seems to strip them of self-esteem and confidence.

Today’s world for many is characterised by an absence of hope, often people struggle for reasons to embrace today never mind tomorrow. The greatest gift we can offer our young people is a reason to hope, to give them opportunities to use their talents to help to become the person God created them to be. Unfortunately many find themselves on the margins and as society seems to be moving on these people feel abandoned and forgotten. In this reality every day becomes a burden to be endured or escaped from. The challenge for all Christians as we begin the celebration of Holy Week is to discover again the power of the cross. The retired Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams explains ‘During Lent, perhaps that’s the time when we need to be surprised by the cross once again. Isn’t it interesting that during Passiontide, in the Church’s year, we drape veils over the cross in church? Doesn’t that tell us that the cross needs to surprise us again every year? What does the reality of the cross mean: God in Jesus Christ, overturns all that we think about success and security, all that we think even about ‘religion’ as a nice leisure activity. Calling us away from the religion factory into faith; calling us to trust in that unbreakable, undefeatable love, which will motivate us day after day to go in service of the poorest and the most unsuccessful and the most forgotten people.’ On the cross we witness the death of someone’s child; we discover how Jesus as God’s only begotten Son suffers at the hands of human cruelty which can often characterize this world. So we have a God who understands intimately our fears and our pain. As we reflect on the drama of Christ’s suffering and death during Holy Week we’re asked to enter the mystery through the manner of our lives. Jesus came to gather all people, the forgotten, the lost, the young and the old into the Kingdom of his Father.