Seven years ago I walked into Thanksgiving with no thanks to give. At least, not in my conscious thoughts. Separated from our family by nearly 1k miles, we showed up to our Friends-Giving dinner without any food to offer and certainly no warmth or cheer to share. I was 13-weeks pregnant & still struggling daily with with nausea, despite my OB telling me just days prior that my baby’s heart had stopped beating. In a way, I clung to the persisting daily nausea in desperate denial, wishing it meant somehow my doctor was wrong. But she wasn’t. A second ultrasound would confirm our loss a week later.
Even though we got such little time together, there’s much I could share about the first baby I carried in my womb. How I cherished him, and what I’ve learned because of him. But that’s not what this is blog is for.
Today, what I want you to know is that you don’t have to feel full of thanks-giving if you’re grieving. Nor tomorrow, or the next day, or next month. Today, I want you to know that you are allowed to grieve and mourn, and you don’t have to pretend to have a happy holiday or even laugh, unless you want to.
I would love to offer you 5 things that helped me through that deeply dark time in my life. Please know that I am praying for you as I’m writing this.
1. Look for the Light
2. Find Comfort in a Savior who Knows
3. Remember that He Understands
4. Do not Despair
5. Honor What Was, As Well as What Will Be No Longer.
Whether she was supposed to or not, my ultrasound tech told me she couldn’t find the heart beat. She apologized and ushered me into an exam room to wait on my OB. I was in total shock. I couldn’t form thoughts or even understand what I felt inside my body. Was time still moving? Was my heart even beating still? While I stared blankly at the exam room wall, my OB opened the door and in one fell swoop she enwrapped me in a fully embracing hug that opened the flood gates of my eyes & jolted me into reality. We discussed the practicalities and implications of my missed-miscarriage and left quietly out the back door to not disturb the expecting moms in the waiting room… and so I wouldn’t have to face their pregnant bellies.
With my ears ringing and a weight on my chest making it nearly impossible to breathe, by the time my husband and I made it to our car the only conclusive thought I could form in my conscious mind was this:
His mercies are new every day.
I know that it seems cruel and unfair that the world continues turning and that life “goes on” after such a devastating loss. In a way, it is. The Holy Sprit prompted in my heart a small portion of Lamentations 3:22 to remind me that even on that day – the day we received the news that our first child would only be met and held when we reach eternity – Jesus has shown us mercy. The next day He would do the same and 7 years later, still. Being intentional to search out those mercies provided glimmers of light in my darkness.
Not only does Jesus shower us with His mercies, but He knows our sorrows and understands our pain. It is so easy to feel alone in our grief – it’s true that we are unique and so are our experiences, but our God sees you in your very individual situation. In Genesis 16, Hagar had run away from Sarai “who mistreated her” and an Angel of the Lord met her and shared that “the Lord has heard of your misery.” In verse 13 “she gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me.'”
El Roi = The God Who Sees Me
Friend, He sees you in your suffering. And, He knows how you feel. In Isaiah 53, Jesus is described as “a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.” The Hebrew word for acquainted here is “yada,” which means “to know by experience.” He was not simply or vaguely familiar with the idea of grief, he knew it intimately. And when He sees your sorrow he shares in your grief, because He knows your pain. You are not alone, no matter how lonely you feel.
Do Not Despair
If you are in the thick of grief and mourning, I can guarantee that Hope seems far, if not non-existent to you right now. I can also guarantee, that Hope will help you through the grief you’re in. But you must fight for it. The Hope that I refer to is not, however, a change in your circumstances. If you’re battling infertility, well-meaning people will wish for you to become pregnant, or even encourage alternative methods of motherhood – IVF, Fostering, Adoption, etc. If you’re suffering through pregnancy loss during any trimester, or the tragedy of losing a child, people in their naivety may reference the other children you already have or the potential for other children in the future.
But if you are a believer, you must guard your heart from hoping in things that are not guaranteed. This is the difference between hoping for something and hoping in something. The prayer I have used for many years to protect my heart and acknowledge my hopes for things to be changed is founded in this verse:
“May he grant your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans” Psalm 20:4
My prayers would confess the desires held in my heart (for a healthy baby, for example), and admit/remind myself that only God knows all the plans He has for me, and I would ask fort the strength to be faithful to trust Him & His timing.
The last lifeline I would like to throw you in your season of grief is this:
Honor what Was, as well as What Will Not Be.
One of the complexities of pregnancy loss is that there is death of a life that has only been inside another’s life. Yet, the life that was supposed to be, will not become it’s own. The loss of that baby will not be felt as greatly nor remembered as long by those who don’t carry the child within them, nor to the next degree her husband. It’s not their fault they forget, it’s simply hard to remember that which we’ve never seen. They don’t see the child missing in family photos or in group settings, because they did not have a child to see before the child was gone.
A dear friend, who had experienced two miscarriages prior to knowing me, gifted me a necklace with a pressed Forget Me Not flower inside the pendant. It has been so special to have something, anything, to see and hold that shows that my first baby whom I’ve never held, is still with me; part of me. Some months after our loss, my husband and I also drove to a special spot at our local lake and had a “memorial service” of sorts. We talked, prayed, cried, and named our baby there.
You don’t have to do what we did, but I encourage you to do something intentional – when you’re ready – to honor what you’ve lost, past/present, and future.
I will leave you today with this:
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
…a time to weep and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn and a time to dance;
…He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put Eternity in man’s heart…
– Ecclesiastes 3:1,4,11.
It’s ok if your Thanksgiving Day (or whatever day you find yourself reading this) is filled with mourning. It’s ok to not sweep it under the rug, or pretend it isn’t there. It’s also ok if you need a break from your grief to embrace others’ joy if only for a moment. Wherever you are in your grief journey, I pray you find yourself in safe company today, so you can be however you need to be.