As I stand here in my kitchen baking brownies, while my sweet two-year-old plays with cars at my feet, my heart is heavy. Tears fill my eyes as I think of yet another dear friend who is dealing with this heart-breaking news. News that I know all too well. They say 1 in 4 women will experience some type of miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss. 1 in 4. But to me, it seems a whole lot more common than that. I’ve experienced this life altering loss both personally and second hand more times than I can count. It’s a painful reality of this broken world. So as I think of my sweet friend mourning her loss, I can’t help but express a few thoughts on the journey ahead.
1. You are about to feel a lot of things… and nothing, all at once. Grief is so strange—and strangely, so familiar. You are going to need time. Time to figure out what you feel. Time to be angry, time to be sad, time to be numb. Give yourself time, and space to process. It’s okay to not “be okay”. It’s okay to not know what you feel. So often we think that grief is linear and somehow we will one day “arrive” and “move on.” That is not the case. You will never fully “get over” this loss. You will simply learn a “new normal.” C.S. Lewis describes grief as a spiral, experiencing all the stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) over and over again in new and deeper ways, slowly ascending up to eternity where we will be reunited with our lost and the situation fully redeemed by Christ. I have found this to be true.
2. You are NOT alone. You are about to be surrounded by a community of beautiful women who have walked this road before you. Women who can and will offer you prayers, help, love, comfort, and understanding. 1 in 4 women, many of your friends, have walked a similar road and can lift you up with the encouragement we have received. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” Please don’t believe the lie that you are alone. When I experienced my miscarriage, I was astounded at the number of private messages and notes I got from friends who understood my pain. But I wouldn’t have received such comfort if I hadn’t shared my story. We must be brave and bold enough to share our stories. And in doing so, maybe, just maybe, we can crush this lie of loneliness and shame. Grief is one of those universal things we all share in common, yet so many of us believe we suffer alone. All of us are broken—all of us grieve at some point and in some way. It may look differently for everyone, but that is why it’s so important to share your story.
3. You did nothing wrong. Speaking of lies, this is a big one. Guilt. Every mother’s worst enemy. “Mommy guilt” we call it, as if that somehow makes it cuter, better. There is no greater guilt than that which a loss brings. “What did I do?” “What did I eat?” “What’s wrong with my body?” “Maybe if I just hadn’t…” Why is it so easy for us to go there? We are all broken, yes. We are all sinful, yes. Guilt is an important part of life – helping us decipher right from wrong. But as with anything good and created by God, it can be overtaken and twisted by the evil one. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. There is now no condemnation. Guilt has no place here. "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Give yourself grace; it’s the truth, and it will set you free.
4. The God who sees me. On the day we lost our baby, I was reading through the Psalms and read these words, "I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed". I claimed that verse that day and it gave me comfort and peace. A bird became my symbol for the baby we lost. A few days later I was talking with my sister about it all and told her about all this. The next day she brought us dinner and a sweet gift from our bible study group. I opened it with tears in my eyes knowing that she remembered my "bird story" and had picked out the perfect figurine. I texted her a thank you and she responded with, "you know, the other day (before I told her about the bird significance) I was walking through the store and just felt that I needed to get this for you. Then when you told me about the verse I just knew that God had this in mind for you!" I started bawling as I read those words. A perfect gift straight from the heart of God through the hands of His faithful children. Every time I look at this figure, I am reminded of his enduring love for me, his sheltering of me, comforting me, and caring about me on such a personal level. A while after we lost our baby my friend contacted me about being her Doula. Her due date would be right around what mine would have been. I had the fleeting thought that it would be “just like God” to bring her baby on my baby’s due date as a way of redeeming that day for me. Well, I woke up on the morning of my baby’s due date and found my friend in labor. And sure enough, she gave birth on my baby’s due date! As I was driving to be with her in labor, I was singing along to a Rend Collective song and the words washed over me, “The power of redemption, it gives me wings to soar.”
(Photo Credit: www.julierobisonphotography.com )
This is a part of my story. I’m still living this story, and I will until I die. There will be more pain – and even more redemption. I know how hard it is to see any glory in this – any redemption amid the darkness of your grief right now. But please believe me when I say that you have a God who sees you. He intimately cares for you right now and always – no matter if you feel that or not. He is actively working your redemption story right now and it will be greater and more beautiful than you can ever imagine. This is God’s work – Redemption. Jesus finished that redemption work on our souls on the cross and in that empty grave. No matter if we see this redemption here on earth or in eternity, it is coming! Rest in that.
5. Your story matters. I’ve said it before and I will say it again—your story matters! No matter how you lost your baby, no matter how far along you were, no matter if you gave birth in the hospital or on your mother-in-law’s bathroom floor. No matter if you had no physical pain or enormous physical pain, no matter if you got to see your baby or not, no matter if you never knew their gender and their name or you did. No matter if you knew the reason they died or it is still a mystery, no matter how much time you had with this little one before they were gone. No matter what! Your story matters. Let’s shake off these shackles of guilt and shame and fear. Let’s be brave together and share our redemption stories even if we can’t make sense of it. He is making all things new! I love you, sweet sister. You are precious to God. You are not alone.
“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 [backs] of my hands..."
- Bethany Payne - Photographer at Life & Peace Photography