This volume tells the sad but hope-filled story of a young Christian couple’s journey involving the birth, and four days later the death, of their little girl from Trisomy 18 (pp. 6-7). While other books have been written dealing with the loss of babies through miscarriage or after birth, the Bloomquists saw a need for a book addressing spiritual support for the grieving married couple, and how to be most helpful to one’s spouse (p. 1). They have addressed these needs admirably.
While over 80% of children with Trisomy 18 are terminated prior to birth, abortion was not on the table for the Bloomquists. Rather they chose to rest in the Lord and discovered that “trusting the Lord often means trusting Him to carry you through rather than delivering you from your situation” (p. 7). The Lord can be trusted to be good (pp. 15-16) but He does not always give us what we want or think we need.
The Bloomquists’ poignant story takes the reader through their experience of pregnancy, giving birth to Isabelle who weighed less than two pounds (p. 28), the four days of holding and loving their little girl, and then her death (pp. 29-38). Even those who have never lost a child will relate to the pain they faced knowing they had only a few precious moments with their little one before she died. Nothing, they assure the reader, can fully prepare parents for the final goodbye (pp. 37-38), but they were convinced that God would redeem their story if they opened their hearts to what He was doing (p. 39). They drew comfort from Scripture during the days immediately following Isabelle’s death, especially Psalm 5 and 56, John 3 and 11, Romans 5, and 2 Samuel 12, and declared that God is still good even when your child dies (pp. 40-41).
The Bloomquists’ trust in the Lord is commendable and a powerful example, but it does not prevent their grief, pain and tears. The strength of the book lies in their vulnerability, their willingness not to sugarcoat their sorrow but to walk their readers through their dark valley, and at the same time to make biblical choices. Those choices involved their support for one another and their reliance upon the Lord. Concerning helping one another, Elizabeth writes that what the wife needs from her husband is hope, gentleness, and respect (p. 13), and never are they needed more than in the immediate aftermath of a child’s death (pp. 45-51). Living with loss and getting back to normal activities will be a long term process, an up and down emotionally roller coaster (p. 53-57), but the authors remind us “we all have a purpose in life. Your purpose is not to remain in sorrow for the rest of your numbered days” (p. 56).
Chapter five describes the grieving process and avenues of support. Concerning grieving, everyone processes it differently, but boundaries need to be put in place. The Bloomquists determined to make it a rule to confront one another if they felt their partner was grieving in unhealthy ways such as such as bitterness, withdrawal, or too much time on social media. This rule served them well (p. 60). They encourage letting the comforts of the Word permeate our hearts and soul (p. 60), and wisely write, “Pursuing grief through self-destruction is not grieving at all… begin walking through your grief with the question, ‘Does this hinder my loved ones?’ every time” (p. 61).
In addition to comfort found in the Lord and Scripture, and from one’s spouse, Elizabeth recommends a number of support groups such as Hope Mommies (pp. 63-67) and several others, along with books and websites that can be found in the closing Resource section (pp. 97-101). And of course good friends, pastors, the church, and counselors can provide valuable help and comfort (pp. 70-72). The couple counsel that “we do not move on, but we can move forward. We learn to live with and by our new scars” (p. 74).
This reviewer deeply appreciated the Bloomquists’ resting in the Word and proclaiming it “the best source of comfort and best tool to use against the enemy when doubt and fear attack and threaten to gain a foothold” (p. 84). They especially recommend three passages: Philippians 4:6-7; Matthew 6:25-34; and 2 Timothy 1:7. And their parting encouragement is worth quoting in its entirety:
Whether you are in the midst of grieving your child, feeling hurt by a friend’s forgetfulness or frustrated with your situation in life, focus your thoughts on what is lovely and commendable. Make it a daily practice and habit to focus on the true and the honorable. Do not allow the evil temptations to stir you into anger, depression, or malice. Friends, it is a dark path easily wandered and I desperately do not want you to travel down this road. Let us be thankful for the strength the Lord provides, the peace he brings us, and the love he lavishes on us. ‘The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.’ (Psalm 28:7) ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.’ (John 14:27) We know the light-giving, life-giving secret of life: Jesus. Wherever you go, wherever you wander, He will be with you (p. 86).
The Conclusion turns the reader toward joy found in Christ, family, friends, church, ministry to others, and the child’s legacy (p. 89). They rightly affirm that “no one will ever or can ever steal your joy from you if your joy is solely rooted in Christ alone” (p. 90). The authors add a short section on common questions and concerns people have brought to them (pp. 91-95), followed by the resources they have found helpful (pp. 97-101).
Our Hope for Isabelle is a valuable resource for the multitude of people who have suffered the loss of a child. The Bloomquists have opened their lives and hearts to the readers and never minimize the pain. Yet, their hope rests firmly on the only refuge that will never disappoint — Christ and His Word. I recommend this book highly for all who have faced such grief, for those who love them, and for anyone who counsels those going through such sorrow.
Our Hope for Isabelle, Grieving with Joy and Hope for Eternity Through Infant Loss can be found at https://books2read.com/OurHopeForIsabelle.
by Elizabeth and Taylor Bloomquist (Wood and Iron, 2023), 101 pp., paper
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Southern View Chapel