With both my son and faith in hand the reality that each may soon leave forever scared me. One would soon disappear as a result of tragedy, a simple and brutal turn of fate, while the other found itself being surrendered willingly. I was caught off guard by the swiftness of death, and the resilience of my anger. The passing of my son sent me on a journey of finding myself. As a pastor, husband, and grieving father, who I thought I was as a follower of Christ was now trapped in a pit dug with unanswered questions.
When I sat down to write Born for Goodbye, I had no idea what I was doing. Publishing a book was the farthest thing from my mind. Simply getting out of bed each morning after losing my son was challenging enough, let alone vocalizing my emotions. Typing out my thoughts and questions amid uncertainty of what the future held, all that I really wanted was to calm my racing mind. Beginning to work out my emotions through writing was my way of learning to walk through the darkest time of my life.
Life feeling so out of control had left me disinterested in standing on my faith and had driven me to try and process things on my own. As a follower of Christ, although I would not have admitted it, I felt exempt from suffering. Yes, I knew difficult times always came. However, when it really mattered, I believed that eleventh hour hail Mary pass was coming, but nothing came. With my faith ripped apart as our beautiful son arrived as a stillbirth, the grasp I felt I had on life now seemed meaningless.
My confidence in life had fallen to the ground and shattered. Picking up the pieces and trying to return to who I use to be stood futile. The glue that had held me together for so long was a romanticized view of what living as a Christian meant. My identity had been wrapped in expectations I had placed on God rather than a biblical grasp on who He is. I had always expected Him to intervene in my life in the way I thought was best as opposed to the way scripture teaches. I was looking for answers while the Lord was calling me to have faith. As the sun began to rise on this epiphany, I wondered what awaited me.
After working through the initial hoops of losing someone (hospital and funeral arrangements) there was a stillness to life that was deafening. Everyone who had rallied around my wife and I in support soon returned to their normal lives, and we stood in the past trying to hold onto the few memories we shared with our son. Feeling emotionally closed off to the rest of the world amidst my own grief I did not know how to start living again, or what that even looked like. However, I did choose to believe that there is purpose in everything, and I prayed that some way I might find it through this.
Sifting through my emotions I believed deeply that even in their rawness I may be able to find the purpose I had hoped for. Being naturally introverted I wanted to be intentional in communicating with my wife and make sure those lines did not go dormant. Writing a few sentences that turned into a few paragraphs, I started to show my wife what I had written. The right thing to say often failed to form on my tongue, but I prayed through my journaling she may see the journey I was on. I wanted her to know that my grief, although different than hers, was still present, and I wanted to walk this path with her. With an immense amount of support from my wife I started to find my voice in this tragedy.
Finding myself writing more into the night it dawned on me that my late-night journaling could carry a greater influence than I had originally hoped. As my thoughts poured out and the pages filled up my wife and I started to meet more people who had walked through similar loss to ours. Seeing hurt in so many eyes I wondered if somehow what I had written may at the very least let someone know they would not be lost forever in their grief.
Feeling lost, I believe, is what drove me to begin writing Born for Goodbye. Recognizing the deep sense of abandonment that settled within me made it easy to pour out my grievances yet exposed a greater issue within my heart. I had lost my son and struggled to keep my trust in Christ as questions of “why” overflowed within me. While writing I had chronicled the shattered heart of a father who simply wanted to hold his son again and simultaneously revealed a needed reckoning of my faith.
My words of grief became reflections of faith amidst a darkness I wish I had never known. With each broken emotion I would write I began to see the Lord not waiting on the other side for me but walking with me through it. I never knew that Christ was all I needed until He was all I had. My faith did not give me a free “bypass hardship” card, but it did mean that my savior would be with me through it all. In experiencing my grief and seeing my savior I found the purpose in my pain, and finally what I had journaled made sense.
Born for Goodbye: My Reflections on Faith Through Grief is a firsthand account of tragedy and a testimony of God’s faithfulness. Written from a broken heart and the rawness of loss it examples the very struggle that Christ promises to be faithful through. A friend to the broken hearted, peace where peace should not exist, He is. The late Corrie Ten Boom said it best. “There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.”
T.S. Bell (Tim) lives in the Raleigh, NC area with his wife and three children. He has worked as a pastor for a number of years in both student ministry and associate roles and studied Theology at Southeastern University. Born for Goodbye is his first book. He loves spending time outdoors, great restaurants, and of course, writing.