Monday, January 26, 2009

In Review...

I have been doing a lot of reading in the mast several months, and wanted to compile a list of some of the books I have read, along with a little "review" of each, in hopes that this will be helpful for others, particularly other moms and dads who are grieving the loss of a child. as well as friends and family of people who have lost a child.

Before I get to that, though, two quick updates...

1. This is the last week of the Thirty One fundraiser for Isaac's playground. They have a lot of really cute things... if you missed the announcement before, think Very Bradley (but the colors aren't quite as bright) meets Pottery Barn. Really cool stuff. Thank you, Tammy, for offering us this opportunity.

2. Baby Norrah-- lots of good news. Her eye exam went really well last Tuesday. The neurologist also reviewed all 3 of Norrah's EEGs and believes she is not having seizures. The current diagnosis is benign myoclonus... not Tay Sachs. This is huge! Thanks so much for praying for them.

And now... for the books...

When I Lay My Isaac Down
This book was written by the Christian author Carol Kent. I think for obvious reason, it jumped off the shelf at me while I was browsing in Barnes & Nobel. I mentioned this book in previous posts, but wanted to again highly recommend it here. It is one of my favorite books of all time.

The essence of the book is this: Carol and her husband's son is being tried for the murder of his wife's ex-husband. Her son is a graduate of the Naval Academy, and the fact that this was happening was of complete shock. The deep, deep love of Carol's heart of a mother becomes so strikingly clear, as does her grief, as she recounts the events surrounding the murder, her son's trial, and what happens afterwards (I don't want to give that part away). As she does, Carol loosely connects her story to the account of Abraham and Isaac, and delves into some deep issues of the heart surrounding the issue of loss. One of the ones that spoke to me the most was this: What do you do when God DOESN'T provide the ram in the thicket? At the end of each chapter there are some questions for reflection as you are walking through your own grief journey.

This is a book I want to read again on this side of Isaac's birth and death, particularly as I am still figuring out what you do when God doesn't provide the ram in the thicket... when he doesn't show up the way you had hoped and so earnestly prayed for Him to. He doesn't change; we know this... but it is something to work out nonetheless. I really can't say enough about it. I just love it. It is great for the grieving person; and my mom would tell you, as one who has also read it, that it is great for the person wanting to love and support the one in intense grief. And as my mom's daughter, I am glad she read it and thought to make me a big bag of sunshine containing all things yellow (which will make sense when you read the book).

Carol has written several other books, including one called A New Kind of Normal: Hope-Filled Choices When Life Turns Upside Down. It's on my list of books I still need to pick up and read.

A Grief Observed
This book, written by C.S. Lewis is awesome. This book recounts Lewis's heart-wrenching grief as he walks the journey of his wife's death due to cancer. One of the most profound statements in his book is this: "You never really know how much you believe anything until its truth of falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you." Wow. I had to put the book down that day and really spend some time thinking about what those truths were for me. It really got me wrestling with the issue of what happens to babies when the die? Of course, I would like to think that in God's goodness and graciousness that they are in heaven, but what does scripture say is true about this? That's a life and death issue... on an eternal scale. Thankfully, through meeting with our pastor, searching the scriptures, and reading some other books (to be mentioned in a minute) those questions were answered. And, I picked the book back up and finished it. Loved this one. Though not specific to infant loss, Lewis's grief is so deep, so pure, and so authentic... and I just felt a little less alone when reading it.

I'll Hold You In Heaven
Written by Jack Hayford, I'll Hold You In Heaven addresses and answers questions such as: What happened to my baby after he/she died? Will I ever see my baby again-and will I recognize him? Does God have a reason for letting my child die? Specific to miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss, this book addresses many of the lingering questions in the wake of a child's death, and provides biblical answers and hope. A fairly short read, and really gets to those questions about God that so many of us ask. And yes, as Hayford states in his book and backs up with scripture, you can be assured that the child you lost through miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death is in fact in heaven.

Safe in the Arms of God
John MacArthur is a well-respected Christian writer, and like Hayford's I'll Hold You in Heaven, this book also addresses many of the questions parents ask in the wake of their child's death. He tackles the issue of infant loss with detailed attention to Scriptures that hold the answers. He assures the reader that no death occurs apart from the purposes of God, just as no life occurs apart from the purposes of God. Just as Jack Hayford assured us, so too does John MacArthur assure us based on biblical truths that a child lost through miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant death is in the presences of our Creator... safe in the arms of God Himself.

Grieving the Child I Never Knew
Kathe Wunnenberg has carefully penned this devotional in such an authentic way, as she herself has experienced three miscarriages and the death of her infant son. Also taking a biblical approach to the issues of miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant death, this devotional is organized by topics that are central to these issues. Each devotion includes scripture passage and prayer, "Steps Toward Healing" questions, space for journaling, and readings for holidays and special occasions. This is a book you can work through all at once, or just a little at a time. I really liked it's sort of interactive style.

Holding On to Hope
Written by Nancy Gutherie, this book offers hope for those walking the path of suffering. Though not specific to infant loss, Nancy herself has carried two babies to term, knowing that because of their fatal condition called Zellweger Syndrome, their time on this earth would be short. Her experience with infant loss is intricately woven into this book. Gutherie offers her readers a fresh breath of hope as she guides them through their own grief journey and all of the feelings and emotions that encompasses, all the while revealing the very heart of God through her use of scripture. This book is great for anyone who has experienced a monumental loss, or who is walking alongside someone who has.

The One Year Book of Hope
Also penned by Nancy Gutherie, this is more of a devotion-style book of similar content. There is one year's worth of devotions strategically organized for the person finding themselves on the road of grief. The product description from Amazon.com said it best: Processing pain, she explains, is an ongoing daily endeavor, so she created 52 weeks' worth of daily devotions, organized around themes like brokenheartedness, faith, and questioning God. Guthrie never runs from hard questions, from the section on heaven (what are our loved ones doing up there? What will our bodies be like?) to a week on finding purpose in pain. (Here, Guthrie discusses how she has used her own experiences to minister to hurting people, and encourages others to do the same as they feel ready.) Where other devotionals offer tiny and undemanding snippets from Scripture, Guthrie's approach is meatier, and we see her genuinely wrestling with some of the more difficult passages of the Bible. Throughout, Guthrie's soul-searching honesty and personal anecdotes make her a perfect companion in times of deep sorrow.

Empty Cradle, Broken Heart
Written by Deborah Davis, this book is pretty much the go-to book for those who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss. Though not written from a Christian perspective, this book deals with some of the more practical aspects of these issues, such as the death of one or more babies from a multiple birth, the questioning of aggressive medical intervention, and subsequent pregnancy after a loss. There is also a special chapter for fathers. This is the first book I read when I came home from the hospital, and it really met me right where I was in the shock of it all. I haven't read the chapters on subsequent pregnancy because I am just not there yet, so I can't say much about that part of the book. But, I do plan to pick it back up and read that section once I am in that place. This book is great for the person experiencing the loss of a child, but is, in my opinion, also a great resource for doctors, nurses, and family and friends as well.

After the Darkest Hour The Sun Will Shine Again
Not specific to infant loss, this book deals with the loss of a child at any age. Written by Elizabeth Mehren, this book addresses many of the feelings and the journey of grief that a person encounters when their child dies. At the end of each chapter is an excerpt about other families who have experienced the loss of a child... some who are famous (such as Eric Clapton) and some who aren't as well known. One of the lines that grabbed my attention in this book was this: "The death of a child stands the world on its head..." It is so true. The death of your child feels so backwards from the way life "should" go... so against the "natural" order of things. Yet we know that nothing is beyond the realm of God's sovereignty.

I have just started reading Where Is God When It Hurts? by Philip Yancey. I am only a chapter in, so can't really comment too much on it yet. I will be sure to give a full review when I am through.

So... that's a lot of reading. If you were to ask me, I don't even think I could answer the question, "Well, which one or two should I pick up first?" I don't know. Everyone walks their journey of grief differently. Perhaps you're one who wants a book very specific to infant loss. If that's the case, then I would say that I'll Hold You in Heaven and Safe in the Arms of God are good places to start. Perhaps you want to really connect with someone on the issue of grieving... then When I Lay My Isaac Down is a great one.

Please know that no one has asked me to endorse these books at all... I just hope that by passing them along it is somehow helpful. The title of each book has been linked to Amazon.com so that if you wish to order yourself a copy, you can. Many of them aren't shelved in bookstores.

Thank you for continuing to read, continuing to pray, continuing to ask us how we're doing, continuing to mention Isaac's name... we are so thankful for you, our stretcher bearers. (Again, another When I Lay My Isaac Down reference... seriously... you need to read this book!)

19 comments:

Bluebird said...

Hi Stacy,
I've been meaning for a while now to thank you for your beautiful words and tell you how much your story has touched me and how very sorry I am for your loss of Isaac.

Your post today compelled me to comment for the first time because I have been interested in reading I'll Hold You in Heaven and Safe in the Arms of God. . . I'm interested in the information contained in them - but I'm not in a place where I'm ready to read them right now. When I get home at the end of a long work day I don't feel like sitting down with something I know will make me cry!

Anyway, perhaps you have blogged about these issues and could point me toward that post? If not, perhaps you would consider writing such a post in the future. . . . I have scoured the internet for someone summarizing these books, but all reviews stop short of letting me know what I'm looking for. I'm sure some day I'll sit down and get the "full story;" for now - I'm interested in the Cliff's Notes :) I hope you don't mind me "picking your brain" in this manner.

Many hugs to you.
(bmarielee at aol dot com)

Cynthia said...

I have been wondering about the baby I lost (missed m/c discovered at 11 weeks) and there were times that I would think to myself, what if my baby is not in heaven when I get there. Thanks for letting me know that I am not the only one that thinks that. The first time I thought it I felt that I was not trusting God enough. It's nice to know that I am not the only one that wonders and worries.

Praying that you and Spencer find peace and hold onto each other thru the pain of missing Issac.

Verna said...

I have read the Carol Kent book, and also heard her speak at a Women of Faith Conference.

It is a very good book and her testimony is so great.

Hope you have a good day.

Mommy (You can call me OM) said...

Stacy,
Thank you for providing this. I'm sure it will assist many of us in our struggles. I know I'll continue to refer to this post when I need some guidance.

Julie said...

Thanks for sharing these books with us, Stacy. I have read 7 of them myself after I lost my twins and highly recommend them as well. I remember as I was moving through the grief process...and even as I still move through it - trying to get my hands on as many books as I could to help me through...and to know I wasn't alone. Some of them I still go back to 5 years later when my heart is hurting.

Thinking of you and always sending prayers.

Nestie Becoming_untied said...

This may sound crazy, since I only "know you" from the H & F board and from here, but I miss Isaac. I miss the anticipation of his arrival. Somewhere deep in my soul I longed for and anticipated his arrival and survival. I was ready to witness God's miracle- Isaac, whole, normal, healthy, healed.

It is disturbing to be on the outside of your grief and feel as much of it as I do. I can't even begin to fathom how you and Spencer and others deal with it.

I pray that you and Spencer continue to be fully supported by God, family and friends.

Rob said...

I was at the Chris Tomlin concert this past weekend and thought of you, Spencer and Isaac. As Chris was speaking of the single light above the stage and how just one person could make a difference in the world, my thoughts went to Isaac and your journey.

Isaac is that light that continues to burn in this world, in Heaven and your heart. You are a light to those in pain and continually struggle with loss. Your journey will be an enduring legacy and a light to the world as you point to Jesus as the author and perfector of your (our) faith.

Thank you for keeping the light of Jesus burning for all to see and thank you for being real before us as you ask the hard questions but never lose faith.

Rob

Erika said...

Stacy,

Thank you so much! I have been thirsting for more books to read, and will definitely check out many of these books- specifically, Now I Lay My Isaac Down. I have some of these books already, and they have been a lifeline through my own grief...

-Erika

mamapearl said...

I placed my Thirty One order today! It's very cute stuff. It's even better that part of it goes to sweet baby Isaac's playground.

Thanks for sharing your family and journey with us. I can't begin to explain to you how Isaac has changed me.

jenn said...

Hi Stacy,
Thank you for your book review. I too am reading Philip Yancey's book (and I picked up 3 other of his, so hopefully this will go well.) I also loved Tear Soup by Pat Schwiebert. Although it's a children's book, it's amazing.
Thanks for sharing.

The Hull Munchkins said...

Hi Stacy,
You don't know me, but I'm one of many who read your blog faithfully, following your journey of grief. I don't post often, but had something to share after reading this post about the books you have read.

In light of Abraham and Isaacs' amazing story in the old testament, there is a wonderful song that has touched me lately with this story as the heart. It is by Andrew Peterson and is called "Holy is the Lord." You can hear it on our blog... it's the first song that plays.

Just thought you might be encouraged by it.

I'm praying for your heart. Although I haven't lost a child to death, we have experienced multiple losses with our daughter who was born 4 months early. The last 5 yrs have held countless heartbreaking moments, days and weeks. I often have to search the scriptures for comfort as I become swept away with the sadness.

Thinking of you.
-Patty

Poppy said...

Stacy,

My 10 wk. old grandson passed away Dec. 3, 2008. Our grief is so new, we are still reeling and simply trying to put one foot in front of the other foot. I'm especially having a hard time as he passed away at my home, we assume from SIDS.

I appreciate your book recommendations and will check into them for myself as well as my son and daughter in law.

I've reading your blog for quite some time and have always been impressed with the strength you and Spencer have. I hope some day to find that strength.

Hugs to you...

Stacy said...

Just wanted to let you know that I still check on you daily and pray for continued healing and strength.

Open your Eyes. said...

I am so glad that these books have helped you so greatly!

Shannon said...

Hi Stacy,

I have a few of these books (and plan to pick up one or two that I don't have).

Can I just 'chime in'?

Have you read Waiting With Gabriel, Losing Malcolm or The Shack?

pollykinz said...

You continue to be in my heart and prayers Stacy.

Chelsea Pang said...

Thank you for the amazing review. I have put a link to your post on my blog so that I can refer to it easily when I need a good grief-book to read and if others are looking for guidance.

Jeff & Leza said...

Stacy thank you so much for sharing these books with us. In particular, I'll hold you in Heaven. I actually saw the book on the shelf one day but did not have the courage to pick it up in fear that it would just bring back all the emotions of my loss. I am looking forward to reading three of the books you mentioned. I am glad to hear that many of these books brought you comfort in your time of grief. You know that God is always with you and there is only ONE book that proves it. I continue to pray for you each day and hope that you can find guidance during your weakest moments. Thank you again and God Bless.

KK said...

I too so enjoyed Carol Kent's books and love John MacArthur's writing. May you continue to be blessed by the writings of others, to help you in healing and in continued peace through HIM.
Rest in HIM,
Kaye
Matthew 21:22