Holding onto God in Grief
Brendan Daly attends Linwood Corps with his family. He shares with us a time of extreme grief and the presence of God in this period. Content warning: This article discusses stillbirth.
My wife Liz and I were spoiled to have had our son Luke, in 2011. There were some last-minute complications, which meant that he was delivered by emergency caesarean, but he was so healthy we didn’t look into why that might have happened.
When we tried for our next baby, it was a real surprise to find out that we were having twins. I think my first comment was: ‘We’re going to need a bigger car’.
This meant three children under the age of two, so we were going to be busy, but enjoyably so. It was exciting and nerve wracking at the same time because we knew that it was going to be a lot of hard work. I can remember the anticipation as we looked forward to the twins arriving.
It was a risky pregnancy for Liz, as they were identical twin girls which can always carry some danger. They were scanning her every day towards the end of the pregnancy, taking measurements and examining ultrasounds.
One Tuesday night, I had come home from band practice, and can remember laughing as we watched the twins in Liz’s stomach moving. I could see that they were alive and healthy.
Then, on the 30th of May 2013, Liz went in for her regular scan. There was no heartbeat.
It was just so sudden, so quick, like the rug being pulled out from underneath us. All of the anticipation and excitement for what was to come just crashed.
Liz had to deliver the girls the next day; they were six days away from their due date, so basically full term. It’s hard to watch your loved ones in pain, and to go through that and not get the joy either, was unimaginable.
We got to have a day with them: two beautiful baby girls who we called Emma and Lucy. I know it was just their bodies, but it was amazing to be able to at least hug them.
Later I walked out of the hospital; I could swear I left my heart there.
Where is God?
Faith-wise, it really rocked me. Life presents challenges, but this was the hardest thing that I’d ever had to face. How do you show love and support to people who need you when you feel like the well has run dry?
I can remember sitting in my son’s room trying to get him to sleep. It was in the small hours of the morning, and I was really battling. I remember praying to God and saying, ‘I’ve been told my whole life that you’re almighty and all powerful, but you couldn’t save our girls. Does that mean you’re not all powerful, or did you just choose not to?’
I worked myself up to a point where I said: ‘You know what, God, I don’t believe in you’. I physically said it out loud. Suddenly, a coldness came over that room that I can’t explain, but I didn’t like it.
I think it was God showing me and saying ‘I’m here’. Maybe I tested him to the point where he said, ‘Try and do it without me’, because that’s what it felt like; it felt like something had left my life that I would miss. This was a turning point in my Christian walk. I realised I had a faith that I couldn’t deny, because for a few seconds, I’d seen what life felt like without God and I didn’t want that.
A few months after this, we got the news that my best friend and brother-in-law had terminal cancer. Within six months of losing the girls, we were losing Karl as well. In a weird way, I was at peace with it. I was massively sad, and I still miss him, but at the same time I was reassured to know that he was going to be with Jesus and looking after my little girls, because he was their Uncle Karl.
Our daughter Zoey is the twin’s younger sister who we fought hard to have after them. The issue that took the twins was a rare condition, and even if the doctors had picked it up they still wouldn’t have been able to save them. With Zoey, it felt like Liz was in the hospital every two minutes having scans and check-ups. The doctor said that there was a 60 percent recurrence rate of the condition, but also that we had as much chance of a healthy baby as anyone if we took precautions.
It was a massive leap of faith, saying ‘we’ll roll the dice and possibly go through the worst thing for a second time’. That’s how much we wanted to have Zoey. When we had her—though I know Liz wouldn’t use the term—it was almost uneventful. We turned up to the hospital on the day that we were supposed to have her and we were holding a baby in our arms that evening.
I look at Zoey now and the personality and characteristics she has, and I wonder if there is some of the twins in there. It goes to show that good things can still come out of a massively rough and brutal journey through the power of God. I thank God every day for my kids, because I know how hard it was to have them.
I didn’t get to have the twins to love and do all of those dad things with, but I have my Zoey and my Luke, and they are the best things that ever happened in my life. I get a chance to be proud of all the things that they’ve done. But I’m happy to talk about the twins because I don’t get to show them off.