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Spirituality

The World’s Hardest Test: Coping with a Child’s Death

Jaine Toth | Jul 23, 2015

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Jaine Toth | Jul 23, 2015

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

Be not grieved at the death of that infant child, for it is placed in trust for thee before thy Lord in His great Kingdom. – Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha, Volume 1, p. 194.

Can you imagine anything harder than losing a child?

Back in 2013, I read about a Pennsylvania couple who moved up their marriage date so their two year old son, Logan, dying of leukemia, could participate. Logan died not long after serving as Best Man at the wedding.

The death of a child must be the worst pain a parent can ever suffer. How they endure the loss differs, of course, but what I have witnessed amongst friends and acquaintances demonstrates that those who believe in life after death often cope better than those who don’t.

That’s probably why Reverend Jan Zotter, the officiating minister at little Logan’s funeral, said “When a child dies, everyone asks why. But such questions are mysteries of God that we can’t fathom.” The article went on to say that the Reverend “assured the boy’s relatives and friends that they will one day understand the reason, when they are reunited with him.”

Years ago I met Heather Niderost of Nova Scotia, whose 11 year old son died after being hit by a car while riding his bicycle. She had a very difficult time accepting the loss, until her grief moved her to write The Light World, a book to help children understand the cycle of life. The Light World takes the reader from birth into this physical realm—which is death to the womb world—then death from this plane of existence to birth into the spiritual world. Niderost insists that she was merely the instrument through which her son wrote the book. It not only brought her acceptance of his passing and the peace which comes from that acceptance, but has proven an invaluable tool for children who’ve lost a friend, sibling or parent, and eased the worry for youngsters facing their own early death due to some incurable illness.

The Light World

The Light World

This assurance of the continuance of the soul after it departs the body has brought comfort to many parents—and to many siblings, friends and other children, too. If you have children, what have you told them about the next world?

The Baha’i teachings clearly say that the death of a child is unbearable, heart-rending and devastating. But they also console those who have lost children they love. Abdu’l-Baha wrote to a woman whose son had died:

From the death of that beloved youth due to his separation from you the utmost sorrow and grief has been occasioned, for he flew away in the flower of his age and the bloom of his youth, to the heavenly nest.

But as he has been freed from this sorrow-stricken shelter and has turned his face toward the everlasting nest of the Kingdom and has been delivered from a dark and narrow world and has hastened to the sanctified realm of Light, therein lies the consolation of our hearts.

The inscrutable divine wisdom underlies such heart-rending occurrences. It is as if a kind gardener transfers a fresh and tender shrub from a narrow place to a vast region. This transference is not the cause of the withering, the waning or the destruction of that shrub, nay rather it makes it grow and thrive, acquire freshness and delicacy and attain verdure and fruition. This hidden secret is well-known to the gardener, while those souls who are unaware of this bounty suppose that the gardener in his anger and wrath has uprooted the shrub. But to those who are aware this concealed fact is manifest and this predestined decree considered a favor. – Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 199.

Sharing these words of wisdom with people who have lost a child, or been close to a child who has died, doesn’t dissolve their grief, but it does make it easier for them to come to terms with their loss.

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Comments

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  • Robin Olzacki
    Feb 13, 2019
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    My son was thirty years old. Still a baby to me. I only had two children, his sister when I was 19, and him when I was 30. They both felt like only children, so were babied. He was doing well in his career, but had depression then began to drink heavy in last year. I tried all that a 60 year old mother had legal rights to do over a 30 year old son, which is nothing. He drank himself to death, having a bleeding ulcer, and bled out. He refused doctors, my coming to his place, wouldn't take ...my calls. I watched from 90 minute drive my son die. I can't forgive myself, I'm angry and sad he did this to his body/life. He died 1/21/19. My body aches for the son I had, and even the one I want to help more than my own life.
    Read more...
    • BahaiTeachings.org
      Feb 14, 2019
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      I'm very sorry for your loss. You and your family are in our prayers.
  • June Thornton
    Dec 10, 2018
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    I feel that mhy son has been freed too but still his first anniversary of him passing away is coming up in two weeks, (Dec. 28th, 2017) and the funeral this year January 6th, 2018. I feel like sometimes I don't even want to wake up in the morning and start feeling the same pain everyday! I'm not going to hurt myself but if I didn't wake up in the morning, that would be just fine with me! I"m tired of feeling hurt and so much pain and sorrow! I wish I could dig his grave up and ...see him one more time but I know people will think I'm crazy but I'm not. It's almost a year - I can't believe it ! Jun e in Maryland
    Read more...
  • Elena
    May 21, 2018
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    After losing a loved one, we are even closer to them now in a spiritual sense. While they were alive in the material realm, we could only mainly meet and commune with them in a physical sense. However, now that they are living in the world of the spirit, eternal and everlasting connection and communion are possible. There are passages in the writings which explain that if we are sorrowful in this world, e.g. about their death, then this will adversely affect them in the next world and be a source of sadness to them. Many ...have been able to transform pain into purpose and service to others. We can carry out acts of loving service in their name, which will help them, us and others. "Pray for them as they pray for you!" 'Abdu’l-Bahá
    Read more...
  • Elena
    May 21, 2018
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    While I accept that losing a child is devastating and very difficult, at the same time, can we call this "the world's hardest test"? There are many tests and difficulties in this life and it can be difficult to compare and quantify them. For some, the death of a child, although heartbreaking can be a relief, if they have gone through terrible suffering, illness and pain and are finally released from this. There are different sorts of experiences of death - death by accident, suicide, illness etc. Each person's experience is different and unique.
  • Jul 25, 2015
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    Many years ago my son was in deadly car accident! He would have been 19 in a few months. This quote saved my life through the many months of tears at our loss. " From the death of that beloved youth...." "..He has been freed from that sorrow-stricken shelter..."
  • Jul 23, 2015
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    Did 'Abdu'l-Bahá ever used the word "test" to describe the death of a child?
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