First, I feel the need to thank you afresh, readers, for the outpouring of love and support we have received after my last post. I will never forget it - who knew we had built such a community? As touched as I was by the support, I was equally... co-heartbroken? sympathy-griefstricken? secondhand mournful?...whatever the word is for feeling simultaneously saddened and surrounded by the chorus of "me too" that came pouring in from other moms and dads. I am not the first woman to have her hopes shattered in an instant. I am not the first mom to deliver a lifeless baby. I am not the first parent to bury a child. And that sucks and we all very well know it.
Oh, how well we know it.
And I feel the need to speak the truth, even though my voice in shaking and my grief is fresh and our journeys are all different. To all of the mamas and mourners who share this awful, unique space of loss with me, who have asked me to continue to speak for and with and to us, here is what I have so far:
1. It has been the physical aspect of losing our baby that has surprised and baffled me the most. I can make as much or as little progress as possible in my emotional and mental healing...but the fact remains that there is a part of my body that was supposed to stick around another couple of months...and it's gone. I dealt with hormonal consequences -PPD and crazy hair loss and fatigue- when I had Aidah...but no one tells you that you'll still experience those things even when there's no baby to make it immediately worthwhile. No one tells you that you can feel mentally strong and emotionally stable and absolutely physically bereft all at the same time. That it will feel as though some cosmic melon-baller came and scooped you out, trailing bits of blood and soul and strength. That you'll feel an emptiness that can't really be explained. It is the strangest feeling to grieve for someone who was attached to you. Grief is mental and emotional WORK but the physical disconnect - that's something that seemingly will just. take. time. I don't want to be a downer or to exploit my experience. Miscarriage is something we don't talk about. Like we think it's contagious or jinxing or something. But I want to offer a hearty ME TOO to the mamas who have felt this baffling and unique version of grief. Our bodies grieve our babies just as much as our minds and hearts do. I'm learning to accept and honor that. And to offer this poor, proud, persistent body of mine as much care and rest as I can in the meantime.
2. Grief is a changeling. I didn't feel the relief and the rage in this until my friend Maeven - who is a therapist - spelled it out for me. Grief is sneaky. Those five stages? DID YOU KNOW THEY ARE NEITHER CONSECUTIVE NOR CUMULATIVE? They don't follow an order and they can be revisited again and again. AND AGAIN. So, if you are as ridiculous as I am and Googled "five stages of grief" and then breathed a sigh of relief thinking "I have felt very accepting lately, so it looks like I'm done!" YOU'D BE SO WRONG. In fact, I'm overusing my caps lock because it seems I'm spending this week locked in stage "two" - anger. I'm angry that my hair is falling out and that I took all of my damn maternity clothes out of the garage literally hours before I miscarried. I'm angry that Aidah is still an only child. I'm angry that I have to do hard things. I want to be the person who is ABLE to do hard things...but never forced to actually do them. And Maeven says that all anger is rooted in hurt or sadness. And that makes me feel a little better. And Maeven says that the Church needs to work on language to allow for anger - God-given emotion that it is. And that makes me feel a little better too. Grief is a different beast to wrestle every day. Somedays a gorilla who chokes me and sits on my ribs. Somedays a small pest to be shooed to the corner. Somedays a relentless crow just pecking and pecking. Somedays I catch it. Somedays it crushes me. Somedays I am so tired from fighting it but it just won't let me sleep. It is the world's most impossible puzzle because it changes every damn day. But Maeven and Britt and Harrison and all of our other people -- all of our collective Emmanuel-- sit with me in this. They are the manifestation of a steadfast Father and that makes me feel a little better too. Because grief can feel quite lonely, can't it?
3. Let's give ourselves permission to reject Christian cliches. I want to tread lightly here, because - as I said in my previous post - I realize everyone is only doing the best they can. A few months ago, I probably would have said similar things, never having stood on this side of the vale. But, as Albert Camus said that, "good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding".
I am hoping to just create some understanding. My least favorite cliche has been, "everything happens for a reason." Listen, friends: your loved one did not die for "a reason". My daughter's death was not a tool that God - in some cold and intellectual sovereignty- used' to draw me closer. That is crap and to imply that it's truth only makes Him look small and mean in my eyes and makes my sorrow feel inappropriate in a time when I so desperately need to sit in its significance. Our precious ones died for one very simple reason: that we live in a broken world. A world where sin has twisted and corrupted every good thing - including our bodies. It's a place where babies die and genocides happen and hate festers and wicked men frustratingly prosper. People are mean to each other and - worse - they're apathetic toward each other. It. is. broken. My daughter died because the fullness of God's goodness is achingly absent and sin is ever-obviously present. That's the "reason for everything". Yes, we serve a God who is bigger than our losses, outside of our timeline, all-knowing and ultimately for us...and because of that I truly do believe that even our griefs can be woven into a rich and brutiful tapestry of worship. But never for one second believe that He is so petty or powerless that He needs to wield brokenness. He redeems brokenness. There is a huge difference.
4. For what it is worth, here is a passage from Isaiah that I have been meditating on. It's originally written to the people of Israel...but as is true for so much of Scripture, it extends comfort and purpose to all of God's people.
Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands, the walls you're rebuilding are ever before me. Your children hasten back, and your enemies depart from you. Lift up your eyes and look around; all of your children gather and come to you. As surely as I live, declares the Lord, you will wear them all as ornaments; you will put them on, like a bride. - Isaiah 49:15
This passage is epsecially tender for me because the "ornament" in the last verse comes from the Hebrew "Adah" -- the same word we named Aidah after, asking God that she would be a woman who wakes up and ornaments herself with hope.
Mamas and mourners -- He never said our paths would be easy, He only promised that we'd never go alone and that our stories would continue into wholeness. Let's meditate on the hope that someday, in the fullness of God's presence - beyond all of this present brokenness - all of our babies will be gathered to us. And we'll pick them up and squeeze them and stand whole and proud and ornamented by their beauty.
This grief is hard. It sucks. I hear you and I see you. Thanks for hearing and seeing me too.
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