“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?