Praying For Others Can Help You In Your Grief
I didn’t want to go to church after my son died.
Two days after Sebastian was born, my husband and I took him to New Heights Church. Twenty-three years of memories can be found in various room of those buildings. Sebastian, dedicated as a newborn in the sanctuary, wore a christening gown made especially for him by my grandmother. He grew up attending Sunday School and AWANA classes, where he made lifelong friendships. During the summers, he ventured into vacation bible school and church camps.
As our church grew, it began having services at four locations around town. Our family attended the West Campus because it was smaller, and our son and daughter liked the youth group. We knew almost everyone at the West Campus, but after Sebastian died by suicide, I stopped going.
I couldn’t go.
My world had shattered, and I didn’t want people looking at me in pity, feeling sorry for me.
I knew they did. I became exhausted hearing well-meaning people say repeatedly, “How are you doing?” Didn’t they know I was heartbroken and would continue to be forever? Others were uncomfortable with my grief and didn’t know what to say, so they didn’t say anything. I knew my friends loved me and meant well, but I felt I couldn’t talk to anyone.
So, instead, I snuck into the 8 o’clock service at our Main Campus and cried every Sunday for over two years. Faithful grey-haired congregants typically filled the earliest morning service, people I didn’t know who left me alone. Sitting in the second-row pew on the right side of the stage, I sobbed during the entire worship.
I needed to go to church. I needed to cry in God’s presence.
Then COVID hit, and I stayed home and worshipped online. I loved it. I had an excuse to avoid people at church.
After COVID restrictions were lifted, I continued visiting the Main Campus. The West Campus building had fallen into disrepair and had been sold. Our church purchased a new building when a smaller church in our town asked to merge with our congregation, as their numbers had dwindled during COVID. The new West Campus building, now remodeled, was open to church members. My husband and I returned to the new West Campus, making space available for guests and new attendees at the Main Campus.
I made a mistake the day I walked into the sanctuary. It might be a new building and location, but most people knew my son. They grew up with Sebastian, played soccer and baseball with him. Now most of Sebastian’s contemporaries were married and having babies.
We arrived at church as the worship leaders were warming up on stage. Good, I thought, I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone. I sat in a blue-covered chair near the front and waited for the music to begin. I noticed a newborn snug in its car seat, sleeping in the row ahead of me. Next to the baby, its mother was adjusting a pink blanket. My eye glanced over the mother’s shoulder, and I watched as one of my son’s friends sat down. Chris’ wife had another baby. I hadn’t known.
My heart ached as my eyes found my way back to the car seat. I remembered once again that I would never be a grandmother.
Then another of my son’s friends began preaching the sermon. I couldn’t hear what Mark was saying about a narrow gate because I was lamenting in my heart to God about all I had lost and what I wouldn’t have. I kept crying to God that I didn’t want to be with all my son’s friends at this church.
Mark was still pacing the stage, expounding on Jesus’s parable, when I heard God speak to me. God decreed that I needed to pray and intercede for Mark as he shepherded our congregation. Mark needed prayers for discernment, strength, and encouragement as he led people toward a relationship with Jesus.
Mark needed me to pray for him. Sebastian was in heaven with Jesus.
I had allowed the loss of my son to become an idol. I realized I was holding on to things that needed letting go; they weren’t mine anyway. Releasing my grief gave me strength that could only come from God’s love for me.
In my strength, I only prayed for myself and my losses and remained miserable. But with God’s strength, I could pray for these young men to be godly husbands, friends, fathers, pastors, leaders, and teachers.
I could commit to praying for this next generation of Christian leaders to speak the truth in love, to teach God’s word with integrity, and to be a model of humility for their children and those in their care.
Praying for others made going to church worthwhile again and helped me in my grief.
When Jackie M. Baker is not writing, she works as a pediatric nurse practitioner in Washington State caring for underserved children in her community. For the past six years Jackie has been asked to speak to mothers who have lost sons to suicide and other traumatic deaths. Early on while in the months of her son’s death, Jackie knew God wanted her to share her story. Her son’s death has given her a ministry she didn’t want to have, but she has seen God use her brokenness and grief to encourage other hurting and broken women. She has walked in these women’s shoes, and she knows she would not be where she is today without clinging to God. You can connect with her on her website.
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