Little One Lost: Living with Early Infant Loss, by Glenda Mathes, 2012, Reformed Fellowship, Inc., 144 pages, $10.00.
“A biblical mindset
is planted in God’s Word, nurtured by continual prayer, and pruned by God’s
providence. It is also progressively renewed
by God’s Word (
“The unfulfilled anticipation of new life lost before
birth—like a tender bud pinched by an early frost—is what makes the loss of a
pre-term infant so piercing. Yet society
often minimizes such loss. We live in an
abortion-accepting society that has hardened its collective heart to the loss of
prenatal life” she writes. However, she
continues: “Even the loss of the littlest one is the loss of a real
person. Each child is unique, created in
God’s image. Such a loss rips a hole in
the parent’s heart and leaves an aching void” (p. 17).
The third chapter, “Knit Together” (knitting is a theme that
runs through the book), gives a superb overview of the way in which the Bible
treats even little ones, before and after birth, as valuable persons, made in
his image. The book moves on to give the
stories (first names only) of grief surrounding the loss of little ones. Each story is wrapped in material unfolding
the hope and comfort that the Scriptures give.
The 27 short chapters (three to five pages each) move
quickly (I read the entire book the evening I received my copy), but they flow
much more deeply than a casual glance reveals.
Mrs. Mathes deals, as one would expect, with difficult decisions and
with the mother’s grief. But then she
includes the grief of the father and of other children in the family, as well
as the church and the broader community.
She provides helpful suggestions of what not to say to a grieving
parent, as well as advice on what and how to speak comfort and to provide it in
concrete ways. She deals frankly and
gently with grief that is compounded by abuse or by sinful actions of the part
of parents, but always points to the forgiveness that Christ offers. She touches on childlessness and adoption.
“Covenantal Comfort” is summarized in Chapter 15, but also
underlies the whole book. The excellent
chapter on “Confessional Comfort” might have been strengthened by at least a
footnote indicating that the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms
share a similar view of God’s covenantal faithfulness as do the Three Forms of
Unity, the confessions in Mrs. Mathes’ church, the comfort of which she
The book recognizes the complex natures of grief and
guilt. Mrs. Mathes warns against secular
counseling which “will fail to bring the comfort of God’s forgiveness into the
equation” (p. 105). She appropriately
cautions against some forms of Christian counseling which may be “too
simplistic, blaming personal sin for every emotional problem and urging the
sufferer to search for a specific sin at the root of each problem” (p. 105). She keeps pointing the reader to the
comprehensive forgiveness found in Jesus Christ.
The only place I found myself differing from the book was an
emphasis in the difficult and very real problem of a sufferer’s, even a
Christian sufferer’s, anger towards God.
I share the author’s concern, expressed through the words of a Christian
counselor whom she quotes, that Christians deal gently and patiently with such
sufferers. I am thankful to share in the
goal of helping grieving persons “come to a place where they see God’s
providence, accept it, and still believe that it is good” (p. 119), but
question, however, whether the expression in the same paragraph “that God is
big enough to handle their anger” is fully biblical or pastorally helpful.
Do not let this one reservation deter you from buying and
using the book. Every pastor ought to
have a copy. Elders and deacons, as they
come alongside grieving members, ought to read the book. Purchase a copy for your church library, and
encourage members to read it. Keep
copies on hand to give to grieving parents to read when they get to the point
of being ready to do so. The local
hospital at which I do some chaplaincy work does well in supporting families
dealing with perinatal loss. I purchased
a copy of Little One Lost to add to
the collection of books on the topic.
The target readership of this book is apparently the covenant community. Mrs. Mathes, however, points so clearly to Christ as the source of comfort that this sensitively written book may be an appropriate gift to a griever who does not yet know the Lord. “No matter how traumatic the loss, no matter how much or how little it is grieved, believers have hope of a glorious future. We look to that future with hope that is firmly based on God’s sure promises for a future free from pain and sorrow. Our future existence will not be as vague spirits floating in the clouds. When Christ returns, we—and our covenant children—will be reunited with our original bodies, glorified in a way far beyond our imaginings. God the Father sent His Son to atone for all our sins. He sends His Spirit to comfort us in our sorrows. . . . He holds before us the hope of an existence free from grief and full of joy” (pp. 134-135).
The book may be ordered from:
Or online: www.reformedfellowship.net