Dealing With A Child’s Death

This is a syndicated post from Catholic Journal. [Read the original article...]

(Disclaimer: I have never lost a child through disease, accident, or violence.  Therefore, I do not speak from experience, nor do I contend that what I am about to suggest is easy.)

In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Juliet’s parents are filled with anguish over the apparent death of their fair daughter.  Friar Lawrence, who knows she is not dead, must conceal and perpetuate the deception.  Assuming his priestly role, he chastises the parents for their irrational grief:

Heaven and yourself

Had a part in this fair maid; now heaven hath all,

And all the better is it for the maid:

Your part in her you could not keep from death,

But heaven keeps his part in eternal life.

The most you sought was her promotion;

For ‘twas your heaven she should be advanced:

And weep ye now, seeing she is advanced

Above the clouds, as high as heaven itself?

O, in this love, you love your child so ill, 

That you run mad, seeing that she is well:

Of course, this is just a play, and, yes, the character is undoubtedly acting in a manner unbecoming a priest.  Still, the theology expressed here is excellent, and it would be wise for all Catholic parents to ponder the words. Let’s take a closer look.

Heaven and yourself had a part in this fair maid;

Parents should always be aware that the sexual act that brought forth a child is only part of the creative process.  Their action produces the bodily reality, while God instills the soul.  Without both parts, there can be no human being.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) speaks to this “co-creative” aspect:

Hence, true married love and the whole structure of family life which results from it . . . are directed to disposing the spouses to cooperate valiantly with the love of the Creator and Savior, who through them will increase and enrich his family from day to day.

In addition, a couple must remember that God, because he is love, loves their child far more than they can possibly imagine and that he desires that the child spend eternity with him. No matter what deadly fate may strike a child, it cannot happen because God is cruel or indifferent.

[N]ow heaven hath all, and all the better is it for the maid:

As much as parents might rightly grieve the loss of a child, our faith tells them that the child must be better off in the hands of God, free of all pain and sorrow.  If they could, would loving Christian parents “steal” their child from the presence of God?  One would hope not.

Your part in her you could not keep from death,

But heaven keeps his part in eternal life.

No matter how protective parents might be, we live in a fallen world.  Illnesses, injuries, diseases, accidents, and acts of violence are rarely under their control.  Should a child die through no fault of the parents, it should be a comfort to them that God has provided eternal bliss for the child in heaven.  Furthermore, to be united with the child again should be an incentive for the parents to live righteous lives.

The most you sought was her promotion;

For ‘twas your heaven she should be advanced:

The ultimate duty for parents is not to make sure that their children go to the finest schools, marry into prominent families, have good-paying jobs, or become professional athletes. “Education in the faith by the parents should begin in the child’s earliest years . . . Parents have the mission of teaching their children to pray and to discover their vocation as children of God.”  (CCC) Thus, the ultimate goal for the child is “to share in the life of the Blessed Trinity, here on earth in the obscurity of faith, and after death in eternal light.” (CCC) All the accomplishments our children might attain on earth will mean nothing if they do not spend eternity with God. Knowing that they have fulfilled their duty and that their child is with God should relieve a portion of the grief over their loss.

And weep ye now, seeing she is advanced

Above the clouds, as high as heaven itself?

O, in this love, you love your child so ill

That you run mad, seeing that she is well.

It would take parents of supernatural faith and strength, having heard that their child is dead, to immediately rejoice over the news because their child is now in heaven and are well. We would expect a lengthy time of mourning.  But we would also hope that the parents would eventually find great consolation in the firm belief that their child is with God.  Are there any more pitiable people in the world than those who never recover from the loss of a child and spend the rest of their lives in bitter grief, knowing neither joy nor hope?

After the Newtown massacre, a friend told me that if her child had died under any circumstances, she would not want to go on living.  Sadly, this friend, although raised a Catholic, has little, if any, spiritual dimension in her life.  Thus, her reaction is somewhat understandable.  But for Catholic parents who are sincere in their faith, such an attitude is unacceptable.  Great grief?  Absolutely.  Great despair?  Never.  For God’s grace is always sufficient.

The post Dealing With A Child’s Death appeared first on Catholic Journal.

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Thomas Addis (42 Posts)


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