Where was God when my child died?

by Tamara Rollison and Lloyd Braswell

Where was God when my child died?

Where was God when my 19-year-old son Logan died from severe bleeding and broken bones hours after he slammed his truck into a tree?   I think God went on vacation that summer morning and left no miracles behind, at least not for Logan and me.   Against my will, my soul was deposited on the grief trail, a journey no parent should ever have to experience…but many of us do. 

Even the most perfect of parents and best of kids draw the short stick in life and bad things happen.  I used to have high hopes.  No matter how bad things got, there was always God’s life preserver to bring in that miracle.  After Logan died, hope dwindled to getting by.  God was clearly absent, checked out and I felt utterly on my own. 

But was I?

One day, as I was plowing through social media, I saw one of these typical inspirational quotes of the day that ended with, “Know all things work together for good.”  Obviously, someone who didn’t experience true loss posted this and I thought, “What good could come out of my son’s death?”   

Little did I know the message came from another bereaved parent, Lloyd Braswell, who lost two of his four children.  Lloyd is also a pastor with a firm faith in God and God’s love.  I wanted to know how God worked in his life and how he was able transform his pain into something good. 

Logan Neale (left) and Matthew Braswell died in their late teens.

Lloyd, tell me about your loss?

Much of my life has been wonderful, including an idealized childhood and very supportive parents.  But I have had deep loss.  My daughter Kaitlin, born with special needs, lived only 13 months and she died in 1995.  My 18-year-old son Matthew died by suicide in 2010.  This was followed by my genetic heart issues and complications, including three open heart surgeries and a stroke happening in just a two-year period (thankfully, in good health now).  My wife deserted me emotionally, which led to divorce.  There have been other struggles along the way. 

I don’t view these as part of God’s plan, or that everything happens for a reason, but I truly believe God brings good from all the pain if we turn it over to him.

You have said your son Matthew’s death is the most tragic event in your life.

Where was God at the time Matthew died?

God was right there with Matthew and I believe God also had a broken heart.   Matthew probably didn’t feel God’s presence.  When you are going through tough times, you may not feel God’s presence, but God is there.  He never leaves you even if you think he does.  

I believe God was working in Matthew’s life, but Matthew had tunnel vision and he couldn’t see beyond his pain.  Matthew made a choice to end his life.  Following the breakup with his girlfriend and other issues, he spiraled into a deep depression.  He was in such pain that he turned to drugs to make things better, but they made things worse and he died of an intentional overdose.

God felt Matthew’s pain and never left his side.   

Sometimes in the midst of pain, we can’t feel God’s presence.   We blame God, pushing him away because we are angry, asking, “Why did you, God, allow this to happen?”

Then we reach out, asking God for help.  We tend to go back and forth between two extremes.

I didn’t get mad at God because he gives us free will. You can’t have love without free will.  I believe God is with us regardless of the choices we make. 

How can hope come from your child’s death?

Hope comes in knowing God is always with us.  He gives us the strength when we need it the most and when we are in midst of great pain.  You can grow from your pain and use your pain to help others.  

Two passages in the Bible speak to this: Isaiah 40 verse 31 and Romans 8 verse 28.  These passages speak the Hope of the Lord.  God gives us the strength to walk and not faint and God can even bring good from all that we experience.  

There are times people ask me how I was able to function after Matthew’s death.  I didn’t know what else to do.   I had to keep going and God gave me the strength I needed to keep going.

I am a much more compassionate person. I relate to people in their pain and their struggles because what I have been through.

I can relate to most anything.

I was taught as a child if you have faith and pray, God will take care of you.

Was it that I didn’t pray hard enough?

The Bible doesn’t teach all things will be good, just that God will be with us in whatever we experience.  When I look at the Bible, people who persevered in their pain are my role models.  Joseph, from the Old Testament, is my biggest role model. He did everything right, yet he was sold into slavery, then falsely accused of rape. He spent 13 years in prison, yet he continued to be faithful no matter what happened.  God never left Joseph in his pain.  By age 30, Joseph was second in command in Egypt.

How has God been with you since Matthew died?

I felt like I was able to become more dependent on God in some ways. Not sure how I became dependent.  I spent more time in solitude and learned the importance of silence to be in the presence of God and he be in the presence of me.  I came to the realization that regardless of what happens, God is with me.  This is something I always believed, but that belief became real as I went through hell on earth.

What helped you to get through the death of Matthew?

It’s not something you get through.  It’s a journey.  After the death of my daughter I spoke to a pastor friend about how I hadn’t gotten over it.  Her response was so helpful.  She said you don’t get over it, you work through it.  With the death of a child, you are constantly working through it.

Is God punishing us for losing our children?

No. I don’t see God as a God who punishes. There are a lot of bad things that happen, sometimes because of free will and things we will never understand. God is with us and gives us that inner strength to keep going. He loves us.  Think of it from a Christian prospective, God is a bereaved parent with the death of his only son Jesus.   

What helps in the day to day life to cope with this pain?

I have to keep going, to make a difference.  I get my energy from helping people in need and helping others who are hurting or in pain similar to mine.

Is there happiness after Matthew’s death?

Yes.  You have to go on with your life.  Matthew would want me to and he would want me to be happy. Even after Matthew’s death, there was a series of other traumatic events, including my younger son, Blake, going through struggles.  There were my health issues and my separation and divorce.  

I have to keep living. If you keep living, you have to really live and not just exist. I find happiness in spending time with God, spending time with my children and being in relationship with others.

I am a social person, but I can’t depend on others.  I have had to work through things myself.  For several years I saw a counselor. I continue to meet regularly with a spiritual director.   Every session begins with a simple, yet powerful question – how is God working in your life?

How has Matthew’s death and the other challenges in your life strengthen your relationship with God?

It is primarily through realizing God is there and will give me the strength that I need.   There will always be pain, but I can see how He has been with me and even how He brings good from all the pain.   

How has all of this changed you as a pastor?

I can connect to so many difficult situations and help people see God is there and that God can help them in their deepest struggles. Too often people have this false belief that if you are a Christian everything will be good.  I try to help those in church see the pain in the world and to be real about their pain.  I have connected more with others outside the church…people who see the church as not connecting with them in their daily pains and struggles. 

I think my pain has helped me to be more empathetic with people who are hurting, being there without judging or telling them what to do.  Be present. Listen.

Pain relates to pain.

Lloyd is the father of four, Kaitlin and Matthew who passed away, and his living children, 26-year-old Blake and 19-year-old Madison.  Lloyd is also the pastor at Chester Baptist Church in Chester, Virginia and devotes his time to helping others cope with their struggles, including grief, mental illness, addictions and sickness.  His faith is grounded in love, peace and forgiveness from the teachings of Jesus Christ and the example set by his parents. 

Tamara is Logan’s mom.  She lives in Denver, Colorado, close to her brother, and she spends a great deal of her time working to save lives in her role with the Colorado Department of Transportation.  She also finds peace in the natural beauty around her.  She writes about her grief inloganshoes.blog

Lloyd and Tamara found each other on the grief trail through Emotionally Naked.

emotionally naked love story

 

A Gift of Grace. Faith helped me heal after my daughter’s suicide

31 thoughts on “Where was God when my child died?”

  1. I lost my only son on march 1 2020..eric james was our only child..heartbroken and lost is my current feeling. Eric was never a sickly child and there’s only complaining of a headache and neck pain . The doctors said it was probably the flu. Sadly Hospital notify us it was AML leukemia 12 days after his diagnosis. He passed away. Even at the age of twenty-two Eric James shared his faith with many and touched a lot of lives according to his friends and the stories we’ve been hearing my heart is broken but I know he’s with our Lord and savior I just want to be with him again. I just want the pain to stop.

    1. Dear Donna, I am so sorry. I’m sorry. I know your pain. I lost my son in September 2018. He died on my arms unexpected. I know your pain so much. You are not alone. You just started your journey of grief. It will be hard, very hard, incredibly hard but you will see things you never seen and felt before. That change you and your life forever.

    2. I just lost my son February 18 th 2020 just last month. He was 44 living with me he has 4 kids. He got the flu Sunday night , he died Tuesday. I didn’t call an ambulance in time I was busy . I hate myself

      1. Who would have thought a 44 year old man would die from the flu? That’s so rare. It’s still so new and so raw. And you will beat yourself up for a bit before you let go of that. Self blame is part of the process of grieving a child. Guilt for not having known or protecting them. You are welcome to talk about him as much as you want here, to feel hurt and pain and his love. You are welcome to tell me more about him.

  2. I lost my only son on march 1 2020..eric james was our only child..heartbroken and lost is my current feeling. Even at the age of twenty-two Eric James shared his faith with many and touched a lot of lives according to his friends and the stories we’ve been hearing my heart is broken but I know he’s with our Lord and savior I just want to be with him again.

    1. Donna- It’s not uncommon for mothers who’ve lost a child to have thoughts of suicide. It sounds as if you are struggling with this now. Let me know your city, state so I can find you some resources. Please answer me. I am concerned about you. I’m so sorry you lost your son. It’s so recent. I lost my son, Charles, to suicide. It was so unbearable at first. I know you are at that point now.

      1. :Hi Ann, I would never take my own life, although I am not afraid of dying.. My son had told me the week he wasnt feeling good, “Mom its not like Im gonna die..do you really think God would take me out when he promised me Jeremiah 29:11 .He has great plans for me..Its been really difficult for me to remember these things. however, We raised our son with the foundation of God, and I have to believe we are living in the past and he is living in our future..I used to tell my son if anything ever happened to you that I would be right behind you. his reply to me was, mom you cant do that cause you would never see me again..I know we raised a very faithful God loving son, based on the testimonies of his friends alone at his celebration of life..He was a wonderful person that always looked out for those around him..I miss him everyday and cry alot…I look for signs as alot of people do and actually have seen quite of few that brought comfort to me.thank you for this site.

        1. Thank you so much for sharing you son with me. It’s so so hard to lose a child. I explain it but nothing will ever do that kind of catastrophic loss justice. You are a good mom. And always a mom. You know there are a lot of things I am not afraid of any more after losing my son. I think that is the gift they leave us.

  3. Thank you for your real feelings. I do believe it has changed you to a more compassionate person. I love the fact that you have had so many opportunities to witness to others with loss. Also I love the new lady in your life. She also has grown in her belief of God. I wish you both well in your future together. Love, Linda Roberts

    1. Julie, I have struggled with this as well.
      I was outraged at God for letting my son die. I was outraged that I couldn’t ask God how Logan was doing. What kind of God is that??

      When my son died, the pain was unbearable and still is at times… but the grief is always there. It has become a
      part of me. That searing pain and grief come from the deep love I have for my son. I love him like no other (still speak of his love in the present). Where did my ability to love like that come from?? I could reason it away with science and how my brain is wired. I believe that love comes from a greater source that binds us all.

      There is so much about God I don’t understand. And maybe I don’t need to. I just know love has something to do with it.

  4. Lloyd, I remember with much sadness, the loss of Kaitlin and Matthew. I have seen the hurt in your eyes, and that of your entire family. I have also seen the tremendous faith you have lived while walking this very difficult journey.

    The loss of our 33 year old daughter, Sarah, in January of last year, has brought the most pain and the deepest sadness I have ever known. It is a darkness that goes beyond your ability to conceptualize. God’s strength, faithfulness, and promise to be near the broken-hearted, is what has sustained me and my family. It is not an easy walk, but it would be impossible without God!

  5. I appreciate this so much. I think that the grief of losing my son has been so isolating and heartbreaking that I couldn’t question God. I needed so much to believe that He is with my son and that He is a connection between us.

  6. I have a really hard time with this whole area.
    Thank you for your great post! Looking forward to the time when I truly find meaning in life again!

      1. My son died 4/20/19 car accident. I screamed at god. My life has been on struggle and death after another. NEVER MY CHILD until Easter weekend 2019. Worst words a parent can hear. My total perception of religion has changed. Though I was raised Christian And believe my son is with god. I have no clue what to pray for. Praying didn’t protect or save him. I know just am thankful I can see him one day again.
        I just do not know how to pray.

        1. Rachel. I am the owner of this site an my child killed himself. Through his years of drug addiction and abuse I prayed it would stop. And after he died I just prayed for the strength to see myself through the grief. So I don’t have answers but I know that helped me. I am sorry you are in this club. It’s so brutal.

          1. I lost my son Ricky, the light and love of my life to brain cancer October 2019. He was a Godly man that brought many to Christ. Had a beautiful family, all Christian precious people. All I can keep asking is WHY GOD???? How can this be your Will? What good can come from this?? He was my only child. I don’t know what to pray for anymore, I feel guilty waking up everyday, a Mama should not have to bury her child !! I’m angry at God!! I just want my Ricky back, we all needed him, the world would have been much better with him in it as he was such an inspiration to so many with his bible teaching and Christian heart. How could God justify my son leaving this world so soon ????
            Thank you for letting me vent.
            Vicki,
            Ricky’s Mama

            1. What I can tell you is that being angry at God is natural. As a co-facilitator for a grief group, many who feel this way reveal it to me or the group but rarely outside it. I want you to know experiencing that emotion is natural. I felt it more before my son’s suicide when he was misusing substances and my son actually wrote a song about his depression called letter to god where he is angry with god for making him they way he was which was depression.

              I will share what I think and have learned over the years. I think that god doesn’t “plan” our child’s death or anything else that happens. Praying to god to spare a child is like praying for a pony in my opinion although that’s what I would do every time I am desperate. The day after Charles’ suicide I prayed for strength to get me through it. And then woke up every morning and forced myself to name one thing I was grateful for. This worked for me. Finding what works for you might take something like a support group for parents who’ve lost a child. That worked for me. Because I came to understand that a lot of what I was feeling was shared by the group. Compassionate friends is one and has National chapters.

              Thank you for being emotionally naked and expert what most of us who’ve lost a child have felt.

              1. Thank you for replying. Your comment of waking up each day and finding something to be grateful hit home. I am so blessed to still have my 92 year old Mom. She lost a child, 49 years ago, my Son was 49 when we lost him. I gave birth to my only child Ricky, 9 days after my 14 year old brother died. He was born two months early but very healthy. I know that God had his hands all over that because my parents grief turned to loving and helping me take care of our precious Ricky. My Mom understands me because she experienced the devastation of losing a
                child. So I will wake up each day being grateful for still having my Mom. My Ricky would not want me to be angry at God. I live to see my Son again in heaven, so I’m doing the best I can to turn back to God instead of turning my back to him. May God give all of us in this group peace, until we see our child/children again🙏
                Vicki, Ricky’s Mama

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