A Precious Gift, Twice Given: Finding Hope After the Crushing Loss of My Precious Child
From the moment Charissa was conceived, I was filled with joy at the gift of life growing within me.
A Precious Gift
October 29th, 1978, after a difficult labor, Charissa Anastasia was born. During the last hour of labor, I lost all inhibitions and prayed aloud. One prayer was, “Lord, just pop it out! Pop it out!”
When the waters broke, she crowned almost immediately but the delivery rooms were full. As Charissa presented, the midwife realized the cord was tightly wrapped around the neck. Sternly she ordered, “Do not push. If you do, you will kill your baby.” In the grip of a strong contraction, I immediately stopped, panting hard as I fought against giving in to the pain. Swiftly cutting the cord, the midwife gave me permission to push.
Seconds later she delivered Charissa, throwing her onto my belly without a glance as I was beginning to hemorrhage. Joyful, I looked at my daughter, whose face was blue. “No! She is dead!” At my cry, a nurse snatched Charissa and ran from the labor room. Sobbing, I cried, “No, God! Please don’t take her. I can’t bear it. Please give her back to me. Please, Lord.”
The placenta safely delivered, the hemorrhage stopped, I was pushed into a ward. When a nurse briefly entered the ward, I asked for my baby, the stern reply was, “Do you want her to die?”
Alone, exhausted, and frightened, I wept. “Please protect my baby, Lord. Please give her back; I can’t bear it if she dies.” Tenderly, He had me turn to my Bible, which fell open to Psalms 81:10 “Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.”
Weeping, I prayed, “Lord, my mouth is wide open, please fill it.” A few hours later, they brought Charissa to me, a perfectly formed, beautiful little girl, with a head of dark hair, rosebud lips, button nose and sparkling blue eyes. A precious gift, twice given from the Lord. As I nursed her, my heart lifted in praise.
And so began my journey to learn to open my mouth wide in expectation. I prayed prayers with great faith for Charissa. God filled me with His love and answered each prayer, but not how I expected.
Love and Laughter
My life was filled with love and laughter as I enjoyed my toddler and precious infant. I loved to see Charissa held by her “big sister”, who adored her and spoke as if Charissa understood every word. Tasha was three and loved to read to her sister. I would position the baby with her back to Tasha, her head resting against Tasha’s shoulder. Charissa was enraptured as Tasha, her arms wrapped protectively around her, held the storybook in front of them and “read”.
Charissa was the delight of my life. Interested in everything around her, she loved to smile; all who visited were quickly captivated. She was a beautiful child; some lamented their children were ordinary while she was exquisite, like a beautiful flower.
I am deeply grateful I had laid aside the restraints of my upbringing and didn’t worry about spoiling her. Every moment was precious and I have some sweet memories of our time together; memories that have enabled me to give thanks for the joy of her life – even though it was so brief.
I Didn't Get to Say Goodbye
Shortly before Charissa died, some friends said, “No baby should be so beautiful.” She was a precious child, alert and knowing, sweet and cheerful. Too precious for this world. When she was almost four months, I felt the Lord wanted me to do a fruit fast. I believe He was preparing me for what lay ahead.
February 7th was a cold, rainy Wednesday, but I was excited for I had the car to go to the market. I bundled Natasha and Charissa in their snowsuits and laid Charissa into her Moses basket. She cried, wanting to be held but I knew she would fall asleep the moment the car started.
When we returned from our short outing, Charissa was quiet. Not wanting to waken her, I carried the basket and laid her on the dining room table. It was England. The room was cold, so I only loosened the suit around her neck. Tasha and I went to the kitchen coming and going from the room; as Charissa slept on – Tasha and I enjoyed the afternoon.
Normally Charissa nursed every three hours; it was now four hours, the longest she had ever slept. Unthinkingly, I had enjoyed the free time, which later I would feel deep guilt about.
I hadn’t been to a Wednesday evening service since before her birth; Bob announced he would stay with the children so I could go to church. Delighted, I hurried into the living room to nurse Charissa.
As I walked through the door, I thought, she is dead. I rebuked myself, that’s a horrid thought! As I lifted her motionless body, I knew. She was dead. Shock hit like a ton of bricks as I turned her. Death stained her left cheek a bluish purple. No! Maybe it was a nightmare.
Terrified, I called for help. Almost instantly Tasha was at my side. I tried to get her to leave but sensing my distress, she clung to me. Laying Charissa on the floor, I did mouth to mouth resuscitation and cardiac massage. There was no response. “Please, God, give her back to me.”
He whispered, “Barbie, will you give her to Me?”
I stopped working and bowed my head, tears spilling down my cheeks. “I give her to you, Lord. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”
I was a registered nurse, trained to help people. I was her mother. I should have been there when my baby needed me.
Nearly drowning from guilt I had failed her, I blamed myself for her death. After two weeks, as I was crying to the Lord, He asked, “Do you trust Me?”
“Yes. But I failed my child.”
“Do you believe I am sovereign over life?”
“Yes, but it is my fault she died.”
He gently said He didn’t want just older people in heaven, it was His plan for Charissa, a tiny flower, to grace His heaven. He had taken her; it wasn’t my fault. Would I trust Him? As I said yes, the guilt eased and I was able to rest in the Lord’s comfort.
The next day I learned Charissa died of SIDS. I don’t understand why she died. Neither will you understand why you lost your loved one. There are no easy answers to death. There will always be questions.There will always be a sense of deep loss.
The reality is, I miss her. Charissa was a precious human being of infinite value. Though the Lord comforted me, to love is to be vulnerable; it is to experience loss and to grieve.
There are still times I weep. I won’t ever celebrate the special milestones of her life. I know she is in heaven with the Lord. She never experienced suffering or assault, betrayal or abandonment. The Lord answered my prayers for her safety.
I am poorer; there is so much I and my family have missed with her dying. At the same time, I am richer. The Lord used grief to teach me He is greater than my greatest sorrow. When I could not walk, He carried me. And sweet hope, one day I will see her again!
Dear Heart, I am sorry for your terrible loss. As waves of pain sweep over you, threatening to consume you, know your grief matters. No matter how old your child was when he or she died, if you suffered a miscarriage, or if your baby was stillborn, your child is of infinite value. You have lost a precious gift. Your little one is safe in the arms of Jesus and will never suffer.
I want to reassure you. It wasn’t your fault. The day of your child’s home-going was in the Lord’s hands; He called your child to Himself. Your arms are empty and your heart is broken. But you are not guilty. Release yourself from blame. Christ died to cleanse us from all guilt – even the guilt we experience when we lose our beloved.
Your pain is important. Give yourself permission to move through the stages of grief. Allow yourself to weep, to be angry, to take time for yourself. The Lord will be with you as you walk through this dark valley. Cling to Him.
Please don’t isolate yourself. Some will not understand or give you freedom to grieve. Some think if you love Jesus you will magically “get over” the loss of your beloved child, your spouse, or parent, sibling or other loved one within weeks. That is not possible for they were part of you.
Thoughtless words are devastating, but cast those words on Jesus and forgive. That person has never been in your shoes. Don’t dwell on their words. True friends grieve with you and offer to help. Let them love you, care for your other children, or clean your house so you may go for a walk in a peaceful place where you are free to weep.
Place your hand in the hand of the One who weeps with you. He understands and He cares. Talk honestly with Jesus. Let the Holy Spirit comfort your broken heart. Give yourself time to heal. Enjoy the beauty around you. Celebrate the life of your child – who lives on in heaven.
Take courage, Dear Heart. There is hope. Open your grieving heart to Jesus, who calmed the stormy waters. I pray you experince Him quiet your heart with His love.
If you are trapped in grief, with no one to talk to, please write me.
Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow or reflection.
C. S. Lewis In A Grief Observed
Allow your pain to cause you to look into the face of Jesus, the Healer. Let Him take you through the shadowlands and the pain into the place of resting in the light of His wonderful love.