A Gracious Grief

“I hate to say it like this,” he paused, “but you get a freebie. Miscarriages are unfortunately very common and this was most likely a very unfortunate happenstance of sorts.”

He was trying to reassure me that my body was capable of growing another human being, of having future healthy pregnancies. He was clearly stumbling over his words, unsure of how to formulate clinically sound statements with sensitivity. Bless the man.

I have walked into hospital rooms of women who had lost their children, at a loss for what to say or how to support them in their grief. I know to some extent what it is to stumble and falter, to be uncertain of how to marry clinical necessity with human reality. I have wondered at how many idiotic and obtuse things I have unintentionally uttered to women in their darkest moments. As I looked at this man, this physician who had never met me before, who would never know what it is to carry a child in one’s womb, I wanted to laugh at the atrocity of this follow up appointment. It was so horrific it was humorous.  I looked at the student shadowing him, hoping he adopted a more empathetic response to loss in his future career.

I treated myself by aimlessly wandering the aisles at Target, finishing a latte while it was still hot, and picking up fresh flowers on my way home. I called one of my beloved friends to relay the awkwardness of the morning. I put my hand over my stomach, as though Dylan could feel me somehow, “You’re my freebie, huh?” I chuckled. The dull ache within my soul mixed with a sweet fondness for grace. Grace that made me forever the mom of two little loves. Grace that enables me to find humor and joy, even in the most awkward of circumstances. Grace that enters in with gentle perspective, lifts my head up, and reminds me that grief is not my enemy.

One of the greatest sources of anxiety for me is feeling emotions that I cannot connect to a root cause. I struggle to feel emotions and would rather analyze them. I feel in control when I can make sense of an emotion, but Dylan’s loss seems nonsensical and waves of grief have felt like panic attacks. I do not like “feeling all the feelings” without being able to understand them, because understanding them helps me move forward. I have spent countless hours in counseling sessions over the years learning how to identify feelings, connect them to a root cause, and process them accordingly. This is a great way to address my anxiety and help me find a solid footing when I feel overcome by irrationality; but grief has proven different. I don’t have a why, a reason, a way to make sense of Dylan’s loss to which I can attach these feelings. I refuse to believe that life is so accidental that loss can be an “unfortunate happenstance” and yet I will never know what caused my baby’s heart to stop beating. There’s no sense in it, and yet there is truth.  Truth guaranteed in the Gospel. Truth secured in hope. Truth that I am loved, held, seen, and rescued by Holy God.

I can anchor these feelings in the foundation of truth. They need to be felt, they need to be named, and for me, they need to be anchored lest they sweep me off solid ground. The very fear of loss and lack that I have dreaded the majority of my life has struck a blow and yet I am not undone. I feel undone at times; paralyzed by sudden panic over potential future loss, future grief, as though one more experience could be the straw that breaks this camel’s back. Imagining my future without God’s presence there with me is (unfortunately) a trap I fall into often. Grief has underscored my faulty imagination and highlighted the prideful root of my anxiety.  Grief has exposed the ways in which I have minimized God’s presence, power, and competence and magnified everything else. Grief has and continues to be the most sanctifying tutor the Holy Spirit has ever given me.

Who knew that grace could come in the form of grief?

-a

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Surrender the Pen: the Struggle to Embrace My Entire Story

I started a journal for both Sam and Dylan the night I found out I was pregnant with each of them. This intense drive to write would pull my very awake self out of bed in the middle of the night. It’s how “Letters to Little” started, and how I’ve continued to process losing Dylan.

People grieve differently. Hell, I think grief comes in different forms and ways even within my own being. Some days I just want to get it all out, as though once it’s out it will be out for good; whereas on other days, I want to hold everything so closely as though I can will Dylan’s presence and life back into my womb. I say this because, for me, grief has been anything but linear. Stages of grief have ebbed and flowed, sometimes occurring simultaneously, and though one moment I may feel at peace with God, the next I may feel incredibly pissed off. This is important because it’s easy to read a blog and walk away with a sense of permanency, but a post is very similar to a picture. It’s a snapshot, a scene of sorts, but it can never fully encompass someone’s grieving process. I say all of this to preface an entry I wrote two weeks ago in Dylan’s journal. I say all of this because what I am about to share is insanely personal to me, but by no means is my intent to communicate it is true of you or for you in your own experiences with grief. The hope is always that this is encouraging for someone, but I want to be clear that this is me working out my own loss – not me telling you how to work out yours.

“My precious baby –

As I write this, I am sitting on a balcony, overlooking the ocean. The warm breeze is pretty healing and the rhythmic sound of the waves lulls me into a peaceful place. Sammy just went down for a nap, and so it’s just me.

Before we lost you, I would talk to you. I’d lay Sam down for his nap, pick up my schoolwork and say, ‘Okay baby, we got this.’ I said that the day after we lost you and then burst into tears, realizing I was alone.

I’ve had a lot of emotions and hormones coursing through my body; muddling my brain. It’s left me pretty frustrated, to be honest. Nothing makes sense. I’m angry and confused, and mostly just sad. I realize it’s incredibly arrogant and entitled to be angry at God for your death. I never deserved you in the first place, and I know the gracious gift that you, your brother, your dad – our family – is from God Himself. I’m disappointed; this is not the way I wanted this story to go down. Then, if I was writing this story, you probably wouldn’t have existed.

See, I would’ve never written Nashville, or a character like your dad, into my story. I would never write in someone so unique, unexpected, and different from me; someone so kind and gentle, patient and warm, and generous. I would’ve never been so bold to think a man (so obviously not my type) would and could love me so insanely well. And then I would’ve never written your brother Sam. Not only would he not exist without your dad, but even in my wildest dreams, I could never create a character as funny, smart, adorable and stubborn. I would never think I could parent such a kid, or be deserving of such a gift. It’s part of why I grieve you so. I wonder at who you are and what a treasure you would be to unpack and observe. My heart aches for what will never be known this side of heaven; for you are an endless trove of possibility.

This is not how I would’ve written our story, and yet I wouldn’t have written any of the goodness or the pain. My story would be lifeless in so many ways. Though I grieve you; though my heart is forever changed and, at the moment quite broken, you remain one of my greatest gifts. I’m so thankful to be your mom, Dylan. I know you’re living it up in heaven right now. Never will you know pain, grief, loss or disappointment, which makes me so happy despite this intense feeling of missing you.

When Israel was a young nation, they begged Samuel for a king. It wasn’t enough to have God rule over them; they wanted to be like the other nations. This bothered Samuel. God reminds Samuel that this is not so much a rejection of Samuel as Israel’s judge, but a rejection of God as their king. Samuel was experiencing a small taste of what God was experiencing, and it wasn’t fun. God tells Samuel to give the people what they want, but not before informing them of the consequences of their choice. They didn’t care. They wanted someone to fight their battles for them, despite the reality that God had successfully fought their battles for years; they wanted someone tangible.

In so many ways, I want what Israel wanted even though I know how it turned out for them. I don’t want a king, but I want you in the flesh. I want to reject this part of the story and go back to when you were alive; your heartbeat so perfect, your little body so formed already in such a short time. I want to go back to having my sweet study buddy and dreaming with your dad about what life might look like in this new season. I want to, and have tried to, reject all of the suffocating feelings of sadness. I want a rewrite…but to reject this part of my story is to reject the author and editor of my entire story.

I want to believe that God doesn’t will death; that He didn’t write this, but rather within the limits of his authority that men granted at the fall, Satan willed this. I know God gets the final edits, like He did in Job’s story, but I’d like to think that this wasn’t His original design. Though there’s a lot of confusion there, and murky theological implications, one thing I do know is that God is writing my story. He is the author and perfector of my faith. He is the one who will finish the good work He began in me. I am His workmanship. I am not God and He is not like me. His ways are not my ways. His thoughts are not my thoughts. He is so much higher and wiser than I am. None of this makes sense to me, but He didn’t ask me to write this story. He asked me to trust Him with the pen.

As I sit here, listening to wave after wave, I am reminded that there is a sense of peace in the rhythm of the ocean. I remember a moment of swimming in some intense waves as a teenager. I was a strong swimmer, but I lost track of how far out I was and began to feel overwhelmed by how tired I felt. I remember questioning my ability to handle my current situation; a feeling that seems familiar in these days. That sense of panic clinching around my heart, forcing the air outside of my lungs, suffocating the life out of me. It took me a bit to realize I could use the waves to my advantage. Rather than fighting the current, I could ride the waves in and walk back to where I wanted to be on the shore. The rhythm brought me back to solid ground.

Fighting these feelings is most natural to me, but riding them into a firm foundation in the Gospel is not. It’s hard. I don’t want to feel vulnerable, to have unanswered questions, to hurt, but maybe there’s peace in these waves. Peace that goes beyond a feeling. Peace that is the person of Christ. The peace that stands in the gap for us. The peace that opens the door for us. The very shalom of God, where nothing is missing, nothing is lacking, nothing is incomplete or broken.

Though a part of me will be missing until eternity, I’m believing there is wholeness available in the purest of forms. I am believing I’m not alone in these waves.

All my love my sweet D,

Mom.”