SHARED BY TAREN S.
BOARD MEMBER OF STORIES FROM THE TRENCHES
Parallel Stories of Grief
All of us on the Stories from the Trenches team have had our own trench, as it were, and our own connection to Jen. Perhaps more than any other team member, however, I can say that my grief story runs a parallel track with Jen’s.
My family’s story began hopefully enough. On August 9, 2008, my husband and I welcomed twins into this world. This itself was a relief, as we were told at 20 weeks in utero that our son, John, had a 10% chance of surviving past birth. Just like Jen’s precious Eli, he only lived a scant five months on Earth. (Read Eli's story here.) John spent all but two weeks of his life in the NICU or PICU, and he died suddenly after a battle with heart and lung complications due to his Ellis-van Creveld Syndrome.
Following this, my husband and I attended a grief support group at our church for an entire year. Looking back, I am amazed at God’s faithfulness to us throughout that challenging, exhausting, beautiful, and heart-wrenching time. After that initial year of healing, my husband and I felt called to serve—to lead a small group of other parents who had buried a young son or daughter. We have the gift of knowing and walking with these amazing families and the children they love—the ones tangibly here with us on Earth and those passed from us to Heaven.
The Journey to Stories from the Trenches
All of us who have lost children often talk amongst ourselves. As a mom, there are ordinary things I would do for my son that I don’t get to do. These include creating play dates, nurturing educational growth, and helping to cultivate friendships. Instead, we imagine our children playing together in Heaven.
Enter Jen and Tim—and my son’s new playmate in Heaven, Eli—to my table at the grief support group in January 2013.
Eli and John have a lot in common:
- Both are little boys (the only sons of their parents) who lived most of their five months of life in the hospital.
- Both have sisters who miss them very much.
- Both have parents who desperately love them and are struggling—individually and as a couple—to figure out how to live this life as well as we possibly can, in honor of our sons.
We quickly bonded.
One of the blessings of being a table leader is that I was able to share—to remember and to talk about my son and the challenges of grieving—openly and without any reservation. However, in many ways it was a one-way relationship that first year. As a leader, I listened to couple’s weekly challenges and struggles. Yet, I had my own struggles going on at home. Even as I was able, and privileged, to support Jen and Tim, my husband was starting the second year in a long battle with depression and anxiety. It was so severe that I could not leave him alone, and he could not work. Our beautiful, custom house that he had designed and that had been our home for twelve years was on the market.
I was able to keep moving through the support of amazing family and friends, and by remembering God’s faithfulness throughout John’s life and death, but I wish to make one thing perfectly clear: It is not your job in your trench to be able to walk with others, or even to be aware of the challenges your friends and support team are going through. I share this so that you might find grace for others who may not meet your needs while you are hurting so intensely.
Which brings me to this wonderful Stories From The Trenches community. I am privileged to be a part of a group of people who are here to encourage, support, and love you when you don’t know what to do or where to turn—when you think you are alone. I pray that the stories you will read will bless you and give you courage, strength, and grace for yourself and others on your journey. Life goes on; it is the reality of our broken world. But by God’s grace, we are able to walk alongside each other and traverse through the trenches. We are able to see—and truly be—the beauty this side of Heaven.