Grief Broke My Heart

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Oct 24, 2015

“You care so much you feel as though you will bleed to death with the pain of it.”
J. K. Rowling

Today I’m going to share with you one of the saddest stories I have ever heard. Evie and I were in Connecticut with a group of pastors when one of them, Barry, told me this story. 

Barry and his wife had no children so they decided to adopt. After six years of waiting for positive news from the adoption agency, they received a call with this message: “Congratulations, you have just been chosen to be the parents of a baby to be born 10 days from now.” Their joy knew no bounds. They had been married a total of 17 years and finally they would be holding their own baby in their arms.

The paperwork was miraculously processed giving them the official authorization to adopt a little boy. To their surprise, another call came two days later informing them that the birthmother had gone into labor. In his words, “Our precious little boy was born at 10:30 p.m. that night and we were invited to come the following day to see him at the hospital.”

They were excited beyond words as they saw him for the first time, saying, “ … the most adorable little boy.” All of their maternal and paternal instincts were activated as they held him and fed him and bathed him and dressed him for his trip to the foster home where he would stay for a week while more paperwork was processed. 

One week later, on November 11 – Remembrance Day – they got the good news that they would bring him home. They had to share him and their joy with everyone: grandparents, aunts, uncles and church people. Everyone celebrated this miracle in their lives.

Several weeks later, however, they received another call informing them that the birthmother was considering withdrawing her consent for adoption. Hoping against hope they knew everything hinged on the word “considering.” A few days later their deepest fears were realized; the birthmother had withdrawn her consent for adoption. They had to return their son within 24 hours.

Just like that their indescribable joy became inconsolable grief. They were absolutely devastated. Their last night was filled with emotion as loving friends and family embraced them and this precious child with care.

The adoption agency offered to pick the child up, but they knew they had to drive the hour-and-a-half trip themselves. At first they were going to walk inside, place him in their hands and quickly walk away.

But when they got inside the foster home, tears flowed freely from everyone; grandparents and adoption agency people cried with them. After some privacy in a family room and crying until they could weep no more, they prayed over him, kissed him goodbye and returned him gently to the others.

Barry said, “We had arrived at that foster home some weeks earlier with a bassinet prepared for a new baby. Now, exactly one month to the day we got the news, we were leaving again and our bassinet was empty.”

The next days and months were the most difficult of their entire lives. And only because of their faith in a good God and the love of family and friends, were they able to make it through.

As I listened to this story my heart just broke for this good man and his dear wife. I then shared with Barry the deep grief Evie and I felt 42 years earlier when our twin boys were born and two days after, God called one of them, Keith, home. Roland Barthes accurately said, “Each of us has his own rhythm of suffering.”

Something special happened when Barry and I shared our stories with each other. We each saw a window into each other’s soul. And as Sarah Dessen said, “Grieving doesn’t make you imperfect; it makes you human.”

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
University of Valley Forge, Phoenixville, Pa. 
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