Beyond a Precious Life – Dr Susan Cheah

Grief is a journey– Every story is unique


From Luke’s Journal 2021 | Dying & Palliative Care | Vol.26 No.2

Photo: Fallon Michael at Unsplash

Grief is a journey you largely walk on your own, that even those closest to you can really only observe.  

Every story is the same. Everyone in this life will experience loss, pain, suffering and struggle.

My story…

I was pregnant with twins, conceived with the aid of fertilisation treatments.

A miracle? Answered prayer? A medical success story? A blessing. But at 25 weeks into my pregnancy I went into labour. Hospitalisation, infusions started. Medical staff buzzed around. Hope was discussed that this labour could be stopped. 

My obstetrician walked in, made his assessment, and spoke these words, “These babies are coming … the delivery is imminent.” 

And with that my world stopped. It was if the world was now spinning on a different axis. How was my life unfolding? Dreams, hopes, expectations … all teetering.

Statistics were given … Such early delivery has risks of cerebral palsy, development delay, chronic lung disease, visual and hearing impairment, intellectual disabilities and of course a high mortality rate.

So our gorgeous twin boy and girl were born at 25 weeks. Our daughter died on day 3. Our son survived (pictured below). Having endured many challenges, he is now a young adult.

From my experience, what would I say about how we health care professionals, who stand by our patients’ sides, can help our patients on their journey? 

1. Value Life.

Every life is precious, including that of the unborn child, the disabled child, the sick. Have we taken on our world’s economic view of a life, that a life is only worth living if we can achieve and excel? Or do we see each person as precious, with innate value as one made in the image of God? Worthy of the best medical care, worthy of our time and compassion, worthy of our efforts, worthy of our tears. Are our beliefs reflected in our practice, in how we treat and care for our patients?

2. Step In.

Grief is a lonely journey but we can walk beside people. The emotions can be confronting, we are often forced to face our own fears, but be courageous, look beyond your own pain, rely on God’s Spirit working in you and be there for those who need you. Step into our patient’s lives. With God working in us, we can do more than we would think is possible.

3. Grieve with them.

It’s not about providing solutions or fixing things for people, but sitting with them in their pain. Be in their darkest hour. Don’t diminish their pain. Mourn with them.

Point those who are entrusted to our care to the one who is the God of all comfort.”

4. Pray with them and for them.

We have an amazing God, who knows our painful moments, who desires us to bring all our burdens to Him who is the only hope, who holds us in His hands. Emotions can be so overwhelming and we have no cure for suffering in ourselves. So point those who are entrusted to our care to the one who is the God of all comfort. Encourage them to turn to God. And when we ourselves are burdened, also bring our griefs to our God.1 

5. Don’t forget.

Grief is with us for all of this life. It changes the person in every way. It is with them in every moment so be aware. Look out for those times they need extra support and help. Remember anniversaries, foresee difficult circumstances and offer care. 

We who know the only hope there is in this world, who have the words of eternal life, need to be a light in people’s darkest hour.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
(John 8:12 12)

Dr Susan Cheah
Dr Susan Cheah has worked over 25 years in General Practice in Sydney’s Inner West. She loves the community and continuity of general practice and is part of her local church, reading the Bible with women of all ages. 


  1. Vroegop, Mark. Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament. Crossway Books. 2019. (A great book on praying through our grief.)

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