Book Review: Grieving The Child I Never Knew

Grieving The Child I Never Knew: A Devotional Of Comfort In The Loss Of Your Unborn Or Newly Born Child, by Kathe Wunnenberg

[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Zondervan Press in exchange for an honest book review.]

Everything about this book, from its soft pale green palette to the flowers and branches with leaves and bunny rabbits, to its gentle writing [1] about the loss of an unborn or recently born child, is designed to appeal to an audience that is strangely forgotten these days. It seems likely that the lack of compassion many people show towards mothers of unborn children who lose their children to fatal birth defects or miscarriages or tubal pregnancies is because of the rise of the culture of death with regards to abortion and the corresponding lack of concern for those who have yet to draw breath. Yet a lack of unconcern for unborn children, and for their mothers in particular, is all too easily translated to a lack of love and concern and regard for small children, who are equally helpless in the face of the abusiveness and hostility of their parents or others around as those still in the womb. A loving care for all human life is the best way to ensure the best possible treatment of all people, which makes the subject of this book of interest even to those people like myself who have never had any children and lack a womb to bear new life.

As far as its contents, go, this book is about one of the most heartbreaking experiences one can imagine, the sorrow that one suffers because of a life that never got the chance to prove itself. The author, who herself lost four babies to miscarriages and other problems before being able to give birth late in life to two children after having adopted a child previously, is well equipped to write about the pain and suffering and loss that continues for long afterward. She writes movingly about the sadness she feels around the due dates of what would have been a child’s birth, about the jealousy she struggled with when seeing children around the age of the children she should have carried to term, and about the sadness of missing faces in a family photograph, as well as the utter lack of compassion others have by calling a precious child “it,” as if the missing little one were not fully a person because they had never survived outside of the womb. In light of the darkness of our contemporary society when it comes for being tender and loving towards unborn children, it is little surprise that this book should be part of a small but growing number of books designed to comfort those whose intense grief and longing for family our society cannot fathom or comprehend [2].

In terms of its organization and structure, this book is organized very consistently, and very simply. The whole book consists of two-hundred pages that are not hard to read, but that are filled with discussion questions designed to help the grieving mother (almost certainly a mother) deal successfully with the grieving process. There are thirty-one devotions divided into six sections: hiding, suffering, questioning, forgiving, relating, and seeking. After these come a section on sharing one’s story, either through talking with others or, as this author did, writing. There is a prayer guide for special days, a discussion guide with further questions, a scripture index, and a loving note from the author. Each of the thirty-one devotionals has a consistent pattern of structure as well: A title, a verse of the Bible or some other quote, a discussion lasting for several short pages (as this book is a small quarto volume, almost small enough to fit in a pocket and certainly small enough to put inside most purses), followed by a prayer and a fill-in the blank steps for healing that involves bible study or answering questions about one’s experiences. The book is written as a devotional that can be profitably obtained for oneself or given as a thoughtful if serious gift to a woman in need.

There is a lot that can be learned from books like this. For one, it appears that many people who have lost children have some sort of belief that their unborn or stillborn children go straight to heaven, and this thought comforts those who reflect upon the brevity of their lives. Likewise, the author spends a lot of time reflecting on divine providence, on the need to honestly open up about one’s suffering and experiences and to vocalize in some fashion the frustrated hopes and expectations that were tied up with the lost baby. The author deals thoughtfully with biblical stories, like that of Hannah [3], to show that the longing for children is a way that at least some contemporary women can relate to the intense suffering of the barren that we read in the scriptures. This is by no means a perfect book, but it is an immensely gentle book that ought to serve as encouragement and support for those who have lost a little one far too soon, and who struggle not only with the loss but the fact that the loss is not one that is readily understood by many people in our present evil world.

[1] An example of which includes this tender excerpt:

“Be gentle with yourself. There will always be a part of your heart that holds hands with the child you never fully knew. You may still experience times when you cry, feel angry, or want to hide. That’s okay. You lost a child, remember? But your loss has enlarged your life. Maybe you’re more compassionate or less serious. Or perhaps you look at children as a gift now and don’t take them for granted.

One thing is for certain: You’re not the same person you were. You’ve grown. Maybe it’s time to grow some more. Are you ready to hold hands with the future? Look up (175).”

[2] See, for example:

[3] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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