The Original “Replacement Child”

The loss of a child is a loss like no other. Whether the loss be due to abortion, miscarriage, illness, or accident, the feeling that someone is missing in our lives can be overwhelming.

The desire to replace that child can also be strong. There is a place that is empty. Perhaps it’s the crib. Or at the table. Or in our arms. Or in our wombs. That emptiness needs filling, and so many times we try to replace the lost child with another.

When my cousin died from an accident I watched my aunt and uncle struggle mightily. They were well beyond the age to be able to replace him. I was talking with my aunt about how it was going a year later and she said that unexpected things would throw her off. Moving the couch and finding one of his toys. Setting the table and realizing she had set a place for him. At that point she would just sit down and cry because that place at the table would be forever empty.

My first grandchild was not conceived at an opportune time, but was very much wanted.  When a miscarriage occurred my son was inconsolable. He thought about the loss every day. The pain was fresh every day. Almost a year after the due date of that lost child their firstborn arrived. That began the healing.

Of course, we are aware that a new child is not the same as the former one who was lost. We are not stupid. We know that each child is unique and unrepeatable. Yet, the ache for that child continues. We want to fill the place in our lives that calls out for filling.

Society tells us we are crazy. Most people would strongly support birth control for women immediately after an abortion. But many women, after aborting their first pregnancy get pregnant within the next year to deal with the pain of the loss.

Tragically, the pressures that drove them to the first abortion often overtake them again, resulting in a second abortion. Or they may have their child and perhaps begin the healing from the abortion. People are all different in how they react.

For a long time I thought that this urge was strange because intellectually we know there can be no “replacement.” But our feelings don’t always follow our intellect.

I found myself wondering recently if this is a new phenomenon or how far back people have had these urges.

Then today I read Genesis 4:25, “Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and named him Seth, because: ‘God has provided me another child in place of Abel, for Cain had killed him.'”

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