Big World Small Boat

Private Diary of A Priest. OK, so we're not all angels...Everyone needs a place to get things off their chest! And yes, I do talk to God about it all! Even He has a sense of humour! Want proof? Well, he made me, didn't He? Oh, one last thought-If you don't like what I've written, please keep in mind - it's MY diary. Go write your own!

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Location: England, United Kingdom

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Finding The Right Words of Comfort

What does one say to distraught and grieving parents who have just buried their young child?

. Truthfully there isn’t much we can say that will help. We can express our sorrow and sympathy. We can offer words of care and concern and of course love. We can tell the parents that we shall pray for them. But for most of us the truth is that we don’t know what to say.

I stood a short distance from the family as mourners came to offer their condolences after the burial. And I watched and listened as people so desperately tried to convey their compassion over the tragic loss this young couple have just experienced.

Some fumbled with words then simply broke into tears. Others offered sentiments that some might consider to be inane or even cruel. ‘You’re both young, you’ll have more children,’ one woman offered. The couple were too lost in their grief to even comprehend what the woman had said.

Perhaps it’s because we don’t know what to say that we sometimes say the wrong things. In our distress with another person’s suffering we often feel that we must offer words that will somehow help move the grieving individuals along.

Personally, I feel there is much more of a spiritual connection and sentiment in the power of a silent embrace. No words are necessary to convey sharing the human emotion of pain and sorrow and loss. Especially when we all accept that there are no answers. And so we weep at what has happened. And so too - God weeps with us.

One elderly gentleman suggested that the child’s death was God’s will. I disagree. The God we worship, our God who watches over us, doesn’t will the death of children, or the pain of their parents. Many, many things that happen in this world are not the will of God. That is part of the price of the freedom we have been given by God.

I watched the couple stand in numb silence as an aunt told them that God wanted their son in Heaven with Him. While I am confident God has welcomed him into His kingdom, I am certain God did not want this child to die right now so that He could have him there.

Others continued to offer the same thought; that they were young and they could have more children. This may be true, but other children will never replace this little life. He was his own person. The empty place his death has left in their hearts will never be filled simply because they have another child. Nor should it be. Every child is unique and precious. I realise that people say such things with a desire to comfort the bereaved. They desperately long to find some way to help. May God Bless them for it.

But know that we are faced with a mystery - the mystery of life, and of death, in which there are no easy answers.

And for the grieving parents who may feel that no one will ever understand their pain?...

God understands. He has a son who died also.


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Blogger PAYNTERinFLORIDA said...


You speak of eloquent truths to the mystery of any young person's passing. We all as humans struggle to understand the message that surely follows such grief. However the message is never clear in the moment to those who it affects most. It is however granted to the many others who may look at their own day-to-day blessings that maybe they hadn't noticed or seen until they saw this couple's grief. That said, there is always a lesson to be learned by the mysteries of faith, God willing, this family will draw one from this event in time. Nice post. Nice blog as well.

Anonymous Margaret Martin said...

Father Bill-
I am one of the many who came up to you after the funeral for little Laura this week. You may remember me - I told you about my sons death.
I wanted to say thank you. I have never in my life seen such a beautiful service. You helped to put Theresa and Brians loss into perspective for them and you helped me too. I wish we had met you when our Kenneth died. I'm sad for Theresa and Brian but I wanted you to know that your kind and compassionate words gave me a new look at our life. I'm even smiling as I write this. I and my husband will continue to pray for Theresa and Brian and I hope that our own experience will help them. But you made the greatest difference. God bless you. Maybe we will see you when you come to visit them this weekend. Thank you again for making the service so beautiful and including all the children in the service. I'll remember this for the rest of my life!
Margaret and Peter Martin in Hastings

Anonymous sundown_farm said...

No one fully understands the loss of a child or what to say at the death of a child. But you have helped me more than anyone with your simple yet powerful words. My daughter died recently from a drug overdose. My husband and I had no idea she had been taking drugs and we are still in shock. I'm still angry at the minister we had because he did nothing more than read from some papers and the Bible. I don't even think he said our daughters name. I found peace in reading your thoughts and I'm waiting for my husband to come home so I can show him. Thank you and please write more.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What do you say to a child who is dieing? Are there comforting words you can say or prayers for a dieing child that will help them? I don't know what to say or even how to ask what I need to know!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

We attended the service you did on Friday for Stuart Hazlehurst. I had to say what a nice service it was. What I liked most is that you didn't focus on Stuarts disability but on all the beautiful memories. Ive been to many funerals but have never seen one like you did where you included the children. That was the sweetest part of the service and I know it meant a great deal to Stuarts mother and father. God bless you.

Anonymous SeaTac32 said...

I found your site looking for some words of comfort for loss and grief. Our neighbors son has died and we want to say something to the them but don’t know what to say. This has helped very much. It isn’t the words of comfort it’s the act of being there for them and grieving with them that will give the most comfort. Thank you for sharing this.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Father, I am attending the funeral of a baby in two days' time. I am friends of the parents and this was their first child.

I personally have always favoured few words (or none) rather than risk saying the wrong thing, and always hug my friends if I think it will help. I am concerned about how I will handle it, as I have never experienced this before, but your blog, I hope, has given me strength to help my friends, whose anguish must outweigh my anxiety a million fold.

Bless you.

Anonymous J Naeve said...

Glad to have found your little blog. Bless you! I'm a nurse in Ireland and a family just lost their child. Even after all our training we still get lost sometimes. Thank you for your suggestion. We all cried together without saying anything. J Naeve

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Friends of ours have just lost their 6 month old son to lukemia. I'm afraid I've already said some stupid things. Glad I found your words. You're right. There really aren't any words that will make a difference right now. The embrace will mean much more.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whether you are Christian or Jewish the pain and suffering of loss is no different. We cry to G-d and find meaning and comfort in saying Kaddish and the important dates of memorials that follow during Shiva and Shloshim. Take note at what is written. The quiet embrace says more than any of the words you might ever think of!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

My beautiful daugher died yesterday. Its the middle of the night and I cant sleep. Ive been looking through the internet to find something that will help take the pain away. nothing does. But your words have helped me some because I have already had people say some things that made me angry. I wold rather they don't say anything instead of trying to say something just because they feel they have to. This isnt making sense but thank you. I dont know where you are but I think you would be nice to talk to.

Anonymous Gemma Gilsman said...

I read your other blog about only dying. If we accept God in our lives there should always be the connection to know when he is calling us. You have a lovely gift from God. Bless you.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Father Bill -- Your comments about the death of an innocent soul not being part of God's will really rang true to me. Too often I have heard people say, you'll have another child, your child is in a better place, at least your little one isn't suffering, it was God's will, etc.
I think we share the belief that we are paying a price for the freedom of choice given to us by God. We often make choices that don't impact on us individually, but on others, for example, the use of pesticides, industrial pollution, food additives, cars that can go too fast, poorly designed roadways, and the list goes on.
As a result, we must accept with this freedom much pain and suffering. But the God that I know and love does not cause that suffering, instead He is there to hold me up when I suffer. He shares my pain and supports me.
Thank you for your inspiring words and may God give you the grace and strength to continue.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

We were at the funeral of little Lewis and Taylor Jenkins. It was a beautiful service but heartbreaking for everyone. I didnt know your daughter was responsible for the painting of the coffins. They were so beautiful and I know the boys would be so proud to know they had such special coffins. It is sad that the father could not attend but Im glad you read his words. It made everyone cry. Thank you for helping so much.

Blogger steve said...

Father Bill, I am considering the ministry in the future. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to be alongside you in your ministry to these precious folks. How have you included children in some of the funerals written about in these posts? Your practical insights are truly a blessing. I eagerly await your reply. 1 Corinthians 15:58

Blogger Family said...


A moving account. So close to me as I lost my 10 year old son in similar circumstances in March.

I wonder about your comment about God having a son that died. One of my many challenges has been with faith. This is possibly the biggest challenge , in so far that if we are right about God then I have nothing to worry about nothing to worry about. Surely you are not asserting that God has a struggle with faith in the same way?

Blogger Father Bill Haymaker said...

No, indeed not. What I’m sharing, IMHO (If I’ve gotten the new language of internet speak correctly), is that our creator shares not only in our happiness and celebrations, but in our hurt and sorrows as well. "for He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good and sends the rain on the just and the unjust". Matthew 5:45.

Today, many of the great Theologians share in the view that most of the ‘bad’ things that happen are within the freedoms that comes with the gift we are given called life.

When "bad" things happen to any of God's children, God is grieved and suffers with us, which is expressed most vibrantly in the suffering of Jesus for all mankind.

I’m so sorry for your loss and I know that regardless how you try, the pain of your loss will be with you throughout your life. I hope and pray that you can share the seeds of warmth and love your son planted in you and countless others, for in your deeds his memory will last forever.

I wish you peace in all your journeys. Fr. B+

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Father Bill
I want to write you to say thanks for all the help you've given us. When our Laura was in hospital and the doctors told us we should prepare for her dying I was not able to cope and I exploded on everyone and especially you. I can't remember all I said but I do remember in the middle of my screaming you reached out and placed your hands on my shoulders. I think I was thinking you were going to shake me. But you didn't. you just held me like that until I calmed down and then you hugged me. You didn't say a word but I saw you were crying. But in a moment I started to cry and then you held your arms around me and still didn't say a word. You just held me and then when I stopped crying you then asked me if you could speak now. We'll never forget what you said and I honestly think that had you not said this I might not be here today. It has now been eleven weeks and I can talk about Laura without breaking into tears. You saw that when you came to visit us last week. I never saw this website but I'm glad I did now. I've read lots and when I get upset I come here to read. Thank you for helping us. You are the only one who understood what Alec and I were going through. With Love Melissa

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Father Bill took our seven year old daughters funeral last November. Neither my husband or I thought would get through that day. When we arrived at the crematory Father Bill was there. The funeral people had opened the back of the hears and we could see Keras coffin and I broke into tears. Father Bill took me by the hand and took me and my husband into the chapel. We were numb but he told us that if we wanted to cry or shout out then that is what we should do. He told us to forget about everyone but Kera. I don't remember most of the funeral but I remember that he came to get us during the funeral and he took us up to Keras coffin and he prayed with us. It felt as if we were the only ones there. He then took one of the flowers from on top of the coffin and said our daughter would always be with us. I know this now. It was hard to accept it then. If anybody is reading this is worrying about the same thing I can tell you it will. I have read Father Bills reply to Family and I agree. I now know that God cried with us. It was hard to see that then. Thank you Father Bill and best of luck in Moldova. Angela D.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I came to this site looking for comfort as my mum and I nurse my 68 year old father who is ravaged with cancer. I have taken great comfort. Thank you.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know what to say to my neighbor their beautiful daughter has been killed. after struggling i think your right. I need to just be with her. we are all in pain and words dont mean anything now.


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