One of the most imaginable horrors in life is that of losing a child. Laura Diehl has come out with a powerful new book on this very subject, written from first-hand experience.
It’s called When Tragedy Strikes.
I caught up with Laura recently to discuss her new book.
Instead of asking, “what is your book about,” I’m going to ask the question that’s behind that question. And that unspoken question is, “how are readers going to benefit from reading your book?”
Laura Diehl: Parents who have lost a child through death are thrown into a pit of blackness, and feel like there is no way out. As a matter of fact, many parents don’t ever find their way into light and life again. The grief of burying your child is beyond what can be put into words. It turns our lives upside down and inside out because it is so much out of order and just plain wrong!
When our oldest daughter died, I found myself in that horrible place of blackness, and so many of these grieving parents would tell me that my life will not be worth living without my child. I didn’t know anyone who had lost a child who was offering me hope that this was not how I would be for the rest of my life here on earth. I knew that couldn’t be right, because I have the Seed of Hope living inside of me. I was determined to hold on to God with everything I had, and allow Him to bring that hope, and light, and life back to me.
God is so very faithful! It wasn’t easy. I had to fight for it, and it took two or three years (which is quicker than normal, as the average time is 5-7 years to be able to truly function again without the pain and fog of grief with the loss of a child). I decided I did not want other parents to have to feel the isolation and receive the message of hopelessness that had been given to me, and asked God how He wanted to use my experience to be that hand of hope to these precious parents who find themselves thrown into this unwanted pit of darkness.
The book When Tragedy Strikes is part of the answer to that prayer. The Holy Spirit woke me up one night with the title and chapter headings, so I got up, wrote it down, and started working on the book. It is a message of the raw and real painful journey of the death of my daughter, the things God spoke to me on that journey, and how other grieving parents can take these things and allow God to bring them hope and healing as well. It is like rebuilding a house – a lot of work, but it can be done with the grace of God!
Share with us what you can about the tragedy that motivated you to write this book?
Laura Diehl: That could probably be its own book! When our daughter, Becca, was three years old, she was diagnosed with bone cancer. Her tiny left leg was amputated, and she went through nine months of chemotherapy. We found out several years later that one of the long term effects of one of the drugs used was heart damage.
When Becca got pregnant within the first year of being married, the heart issue escalated. She was given a 50/50 chance of surviving the labor and delivery. At that time, God spared her life, (and the life of our precious premie granddaughter). But from that point on, her heart was a major issue. She had surgery to repair a valve, and then a few years later needed to be put on the heart transplant list.
By then, there were other issues complicating things, and she could not pass the test to be put on the list. To help her live while trying to deal with these other issues, on her 28th birthday at UW Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin, she had surgery to put a six pound pump inside her chest called a VAD (Ventricular Assist Device) to run the left side of her heart. This pump had a driveline coming from the pump out of her abdomen, which was connected to a small computer, which was connect to two battery packs that ran everything. All of this was strapped to her waist at all times – except at night when she was plugged into a wall unit. (And she had to have spare batteries and a spare computer with her at all times. If something malfunctioned, we only had five minutes to fix it.)
That started 18 months of the biggest roller coaster ride, beyond anything we could have imagined. Two weeks after being sent home, Becca had a stroke, and had to be flown by medical helicopter back to Madison. She survived, but was now completely wheelchair bound and dependent on care because of the loss of movement on her left side. Anything and everything caused her to be checked in to the UW hospital to be monitored while having the pump, including things like getting her wisdom teeth pulled. One year and one day after getting the pump, in a bizarre incident the driveline got sliced, causing the pump to short in and out, jolting her heart every time it did. Becca received her second med flight ride back to Madison, where they ended up removing the pump, and eventually sending her home to live out the rest of her short life.
Two months later, her heart gave out while sitting at a stop light with her husband. As soon as he was able, he pulled over and called the paramedics, and they were able to get her heart started! This gave Becca her third flight to UW Madison. (There was also some brain damage at that point, from going over 15 minutes with her heart stopped.)
A couple of months later, she was checked in to her heart unit for some observations, and was suddenly rushed to a totally different section of the UW hospital – the Trauma Life Center. Somehow she had gotten septicemia (blood poisoning) and was put on life support for every single one of her organs, as there were all in failure. Guess what? She survived, and was able to leave the hospital once again! At that point, besides her three med flight rides, she had also had a dozen ambulance rides. God seemed to have a plan for this young woman!
One week later, Becca was once again checked in for another “routine” diuretic treatment. She was to be dismissed the next morning, but the night of October 12, 2011, her heart gave out for the last time, and she passed on to her eternal home, with no more heart issues and dancing with Jesus on two legs.
That was when my world came crashing down. I was actually blindsided, because I truly believed after her surviving so many impossible medical things, God was either going to miraculously heal her heart, or get her to the point of getting a transplant.
Tell us 2 or 3 things that will help parents who have lost a child to cope with life after this horrible event.
Laura Diehl: First, they need to know there is HOPE to get through it! Even though the pain makes them feel like they just want to be done here on this earth and to go be with their child in heaven, they can get to a place of being able to live a full life again. No, it won’t be the same, and there will always be “grief attacks” that sneak up on them. It is like living with an amputation. At three years old, Becca had to deal with the fact that her leg was cut off of her, and learn how to function without it. But once she did, she had a very full life. Her leg was always missing, and there were things in life that were difficult because of it, but that did not stop her from living a full life with the blessing and anointing of God. As bereaved parents, our child has been “amputated” from us. But as we work through the grief, we can learn how to function to the point of living a full life with the blessing and anointing of God once again, in a way that honors our child.
Second, give yourself lots and lots of grace! You are not going crazy, it takes so much longer than we want it to and yes, for 99% of us it gets worse before it gets better. (I am so very sorry…) There are literal physical changes that happen to us in our intense grief, including a chemical change in our brains, which causes us to think we are losing our minds and it is very frightening. It causes our sleep to be off, our appetite is different, the left ventricle of our heart changes shape and pumps differently, our immune system is compromised, it affects our coordination, etc. The changes that take place in us are real, but it can make us think we are losing our minds. The first year is bad enough, but the second year the shock, fog, and numbness begins to lift, and the full weight of the loss sets in. For many of us, the third year we begin to realize we have to learn how to live without our child, and how long that takes is different for each of us. Remember, there is HOPE that you will not stay in this place of darkness and pain, but while you are there, allow yourself to do what you need to do (or not do) to take care of yourself (even when no one around you understands – those of us who have lost a child understand completely!)
Third, make a choice not to blame God for the death of your child. Yes, we all know God could have stepped in and stopped it, and I don’t know why He didn’t for you, or for me. But God is not a magic genie that we can rub a lamp, tell Him what we want, and have him respond with a poof telling us, “Your wish is my command”. If that were the case, He would not be big enough to be God! Being a Christian does not exempt us from being affected by the evil and corruption of this world. What makes God good isn’t because He does what I want Him to do. God is good because of who He is. He is with us at all times to give us what we need for this life, and He paid a very high price to make a way for us to eventually be in His presence forever. He has a view of the big picture that I don’t have. Stop asking God “Why” and start asking Him “How”. “How are you going to get me through this?”
What would you say to parents who believe they cannot bear the pain and have lost hope?
Laura Diehl: The only answer I have is to keep going, one day, one minute, one breath at a time. Those of us who have lost a child have all been there and felt that way. (If you have not had a child die, there is just no way to explain the darkness that consumes us. It is just plain evil.) Make sure you connect with other bereaved parents who are past that point of darkness, who can pray for you, and just be with you, even if it is long distance and they are with you heart-to- heart. Don’t isolate yourself and feel like no one understands. That is part of the enemy’s plan to keep you there. Reach out to someone who can keep that from happening. Not someone who tries to push you out of your grief, but someone who will walk with you through it.
What has the reaction to the book been so far from those who have read it?
Laura Diehl: The only negative reaction I have had is from those who don’t believe in God (they aren’t “religious”) or those who are upset that I have a paragraph where I strongly discourage going to psychics to connect with their child, laying out exactly why as gently as I can, knowing how wounded and confused they are and how desperately they want a “sign” that their child is okay. Some of these people are Christians who get just plain angry about it, which is a bit shocking to me.
Fortunately, that is a very small minority. My prayer is that the words read will be anointed, and it will be a turning point to change the lives of these precious parents. I have heard from so many who are saying reading When Tragedy Strikes has done exactly that! For example, forgiveness is a huge issue in many of our lives as grieving parents on so many levels and with so many people (including God, ourselves, and even our child). That is where I start the rebuilding process, by “Laying the Foundation of Forgiveness”. I hear from parents over and over again that this chapter has set them free, allowing the darkness to start to dispel and hope to come in. Thank you Holy Spirit!
When Tragedy Strikes has received endorsements from people like Darrell Scott (father of Rachel Scott killed in the Columbine school shooting), Wayne Jacobson (co-author of The Shack), several pastors and ministry leaders, and most importantly bereaved parents. It is also starting to get some strong positive reviews on Amazon, which I find very humbling.
What else would you like to say about the book?
Laura Diehl: I have been told by those who have not lost a child, but have faced other deep losses, that reading When Tragedy Strikes has helped them as well, and they are recommending it for any deep loss through death. This is an added blessing to me. I have always told God to do whatever He wants to do in my life, but I had no idea the price would be so high. In my book I write the following:
Somewhere I heard or read the words “Spiritual blessings come wrapped in trials.” I wrote a note saying: “The loss of a child is an awfully deep trial to wrap a blessing in!” God’s unexpected answer followed: I know, because My Son died, and it was wrapped in the blessing of you!
That right there sums up to me all the goodness of God, and why we can have hope, even after facing what most professionals agree is the worst event a person can go through in this life. I tell people all the time, “I don’t use God as my crutch, He is my wheelchair”!
How can readers get a copy and contact you with questions?
Laura Diehl: When Tragedy Strikes: Rebuilding Your Life With Hope and Healing After the Death of Your Child is published by Morgan James Publishing, and will be available for purchase in bookstores and book retailers July 5th.
However, it can be preordered right now (from most book retailers and outlets). As a matter of fact, those who preorder can go to www.crownofgloryministries.org/when-tragedy-strikes-book-preorder, fill in the information, and be sent thirteen digital books FREE from other authors!
Several of them are books written by those who have also faced deep tragedies of various kinds, and found their hope and victory through Jesus Christ. (A list of the books can be found by going to the same URL.)
The ministry my husband and I founded is GPS Hope: Grieving Parents Sharing Hope. Our website is www.gpshope.org and the Facebook page is www.facebook.com/gpshope. I encourage people to go there, like the page, and set it to get notifications, as we offer daily words of hope and encouragement for bereaved parents. I am available to speak at events, and can be contacted at either of those places with inquiries, or to answer any questions.
I have written two other books My Grief Journey: Coloring Book and Journal for Grieving Parents and Come Grieve Through Our Eyes (for people who want a better understanding to be able to offer comfort and support to grieving parents). Information for these books can also be found on our website.
And I want to say thank you, Frank, for helping me get this message of Hope out to these grieving parents who so desperately need it.
Here is the Press Release from the Publisher.
NEW YORK—MONTH XX, 2016—Morgan James’s new release, When Tragedy Strikes: Rebuilding Your Life with Hope and Healing after the Death of Your Child by Laura Diehl, brings hope to parents struggling after the unthinkable loss of their child.
Losing a child can be one of the most traumatic and heartbreaking experiences in life. This loss causes immeasurable sorrow and grief to those parents who are mourning their child. The unnatural order of burying one’s own child can cause most parents (especially mothers) to slip into a long period of darkness, unable to move forward with their lives. From her own personal experience, Laura Diehl shares her raw and real journey of darkness and pain, but also shares with the readers how to take similar steps out of that pit of darkness, back into light and life.
When Tragedy Strikes: Rebuilding Your Life with Hope and Healing after the Death of Your Child doesn’t try to bring back the old life one once had. Instead, it compares the death of a child to an amputation (like Diehl’s daughter experienced at three years old). It is permanent, and the loss will have a lasting effect for the rest of those parents’ lives, but it doesn’t have to keep those suffering from rebuilding their life with hope and purpose.
Those who have never experienced the death of a child often believe all it takes is a determined will to get past the darkness of grief and get back to normal. This often causes bereaved parents to either isolate themselves, or use all of their energy pretending to be the person others want them to be.
As a parent who has lived through the death of a child, Author Laura Diehl offers other grieving parents the relief they need to be understood, and walks with them through the darkness, being the life-line of hope they need that it is possible to live beyond the death of their child. Anyone who has recently experienced loss will benefit from reading this inspiring book.
About the Author
Laura Diehl is a successful writer, having written four books besides When Tragedy Strikes, as well as founding two different ministries. Laura and husband Dave have five children, one of whom has gone on to heaven. Laura and her husband reside in Southern Wisconsin.