The worst tragedy a married couple could ever face is the loss of a child. There’s no pain deeper, and the intense grief can spiral into a cyclone of negative emotions that often tear the marriage apart in the aftermath of the tragedy. Of all the messages we receive from couples asking for help and guidance, the most heartbreaking come from couples who have lost a child. They often wonder if healing is possible in their own hearts and in their relationship.
Ashley and I have been through different trials in our own marriage, but we’ve never lost a child. We’ve had close friends who’ve walked this painful path, and instead of me trying to share my own ideas from an experience I’ve never personally endured, I want to share some hope from good friends who have walked this road and emerged with their marriage and their faith intact. I pray these stories gives you as much hope as their friendship has given me.
Jay and Mandra are the kinds of friends that anyone would love to have. To know them is to love them. When my family moved back to town a few years ago, Jay was the first one to show up to help us move in. He was also the last one to leave after single-handedly hauling most of our heaviest stuff.
One day out of the blue, a tragedy struck this amazing couple that would rock them to their very core. It was one of the worst phone calls I had ever received. I was at flag football practice with my 6-year-old son when my cell phone rang. On the other end was the trembling voice of a Police Officer calling to inform me of what had just transpired.
Jay had been at home watching their three beautiful children while Mandra was out running some errands. Jay went inside with their baby to change a diaper while their 4-year-old daughter, Jayden, continued to play in the backyard. Jay came back outside a few minutes later, but he didn’t see Jayden. He began to walk around the yard calling out her name, but there was no response. He went back into the house and began calling out for her, but there was still no answer.
At this point, he started to get panicked, so he ran out into the street to look for her and check with the neighbors, but nobody had seen her. In a moment of gut-wrenching terror, he realized that he had not checked the swimming pool. He hadn’t considered it sooner, because she was always so careful to stay away from it, but maybe there had been an accident and she had fallen in.
He sprinted towards the pool, and when he got there, he saw his daughter lying at the bottom of the pool. He instinctively dove and pulled her out to begin CPR. In desperation, he scooped her up in his arms and ran to the nurse’s house next door. She continued CPR until the ambulance arrived.
The next several hours were a blur. I arrived at the hospital shortly after receiving that phone call and I sat down with them in a private waiting room. The three of us cried and prayed and waited. We hoped for the best while trying to brace ourselves for the worst.
The doctor finally came in with a Hospital Chaplain beside him to deliver the news that we were praying not to hear. Their beautiful little girl was being kept alive by machines and there was nothing more they could do for her. A few hours later, with her mother lying right beside her in the hospital bed, Jayden was pronounced dead. It was the darkest hour a husband and wife can possibly face.
Through the tears and pain, they held onto their faith in God and their faith in each other. As Jay was reliving the scene in his mind and beating himself up for not preventing it, Mandra was calmly rubbing his back and saying, “It’s not your fault. You are an amazing father. You did everything you could have done. I love you so much. You’re such a good dad.“
That became a defining moment in their marriage. Many couples allow grief and tragedy to place a wedge between them, but Jay and Mandra chose to walk through their grief hand-in-hand and side-by-side. They knew that God was with them and that they would see their precious daughter again in Heaven. In the meantime, they were resolved to lean on each other and trust in God’s goodness even when they couldn’t make sense of the pain and loss they were experiencing.