Reflections and thoughts on grief from Beth Ann Mergens after experiencing 3 miscarriages within secondary infertility.
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For the last several weeks, we have been eagerly awaiting the birth of my sister’s baby. The other night when I was putting my 5-year-old to bed, he looked right up at me, and with great urgency, he said, “Mom! We have to pray that Auntie’s baby doesn’t come out and go away! Because remember, your baby came out and went to heaven!”
My eyes brimmed with tears, and I quickly finished tucking him in. We’ve talked about the baby often over the last two years (he doesn’t know about the other babies I miscarried), but for some reason that night, his words went straight to my heart. After I left his room I began to weep, as if the wounds of loss were fresh.
Grief is a tricky and difficult path. I am a professional counselor, so I know quite well the importance of honoring and attending to my grief; But, even so, there have been several times that I was just weary and tired of feeling sad, so I decided to push it aside for a while…..only to find it erupting in unexpected moments as if it were shouting, “Please don’t ignore me!” I sometimes question how to be present with my grief, and yet not let it consume my every day, my every moment.
When we lose something, lose someone, lose a dream — when these things die— our bodies remember the experience. In the same way that the smell of watermelon bubblegum and the color lavender make me think of my grandmother, each of my five senses are involved in my memories of loss. Our brain literally files the memories with all of the details (often with details our conscious memory isn’t even aware of), so that it can help us in the future when similar events arise. But sometimes this doesn’t feel helpful. A song, a smell, a feeling can trigger a memory, an emotion, bringing it back — and suddenly a swell of emotions flood over us again.
In some of my darker days of grieving, I had to actively surround myself with truth. Written all over my home, in my car, and blaring from the speakers were the promises of God and the Hope that can be found, even in despair. It felt like I couldn’t turn my eyes away, or the darkness might overwhelm me.
I found great comfort in various places, but one of my anthems during this time I found in Lamentations.
“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” Lamentations 3: 21-26 (ESV)
These tears, this deep feeling of my pain, the allowing myself to mourn, and — please don’t miss this critical piece — the allowing God to comfort me, were all crucial parts of my healing.
I have found that grief in miscarriage is inescapably tied to hope. Without honoring their lives, grieving the losses and how I expected our family to grow, I could not truly access the hope that God has for me. My body would hold onto the grief and create barriers from my heart fully embracing the healing and hope that were to come. We are made as full beings — body, mind, and soul — and ignoring one of these three leaves us without total healing.
Our culture would have us ignore grief, sorrow, and pain rather than deal with or acknowledge it. That's too complicated for others and for us. For the most part, no one knows what to do with messy, hurting people. It is socially acceptable to temporarily fall apart or grieve, but not for too long. But where does that leave us? We fall into hopelessness, helplessness, expecting others or ourselves to fix and heal our hearts from the aches.
In other circles, the standard may be that sadness and despair not linger: that it is sinful or unhealthy to not trust God and move out of these feelings. True, we absolutely cannot live our lives constantly overwhelmed by these feelings. However, emotional are God-given. Feelings are valid and should be experienced.
So what are we to do with grief, hurting, loss and death?
We must turn to the truth.
“We are pressured in every way [hedged in], but not crushed; perplexed [unsure of finding a way out], but not driven to despair; hunted down and persecuted, but not deserted [to stand alone]; struck down, but never destroyed; always carrying around in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the [resurrection] life of Jesus also may be shown in our body. For we who live are constantly [experiencing the threat of] being handed over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the [resurrection] life of Jesus also may be evidenced in our mortal body [which is subject to death]. So physical death is [actively] at work in us, but [spiritual] life [is actively at work] in you.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-12 (AMP)
Death is not pretty. It is pain; it is decay; it is darkness. If the life of Jesus is to be seen in us, if the resurrection is to be seen on earth, there must first be death. This is where our grief lives. But from it, there WILL BE LIFE! To this we can cling!
“For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.” 2 Corinthians 4:11-12
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, emphasis added)
Each and every day God has a plan for our renewal.
The entire story of the Bible after the creation of the earth and fall of man was and is about His restoration and redemption for us. Making broken, new. Beauty from ashes. That’s the whole reason Jesus came and we celebrated Easter last week: his rescue of you and me. He traded his death for the death we deserved, then by defeating death and resurrecting He brings true life, true healing. Although total and complete restoration is our future as followers of Jesus, He does not leave us here. He is moving and changing and creating life out of death —IN US — every day if we will let him!
For me, my grief didn’t resolve just in those very difficult days. It has been a journey. Honoring my babies’ lives through the ink on my arms was profoundly freeing. The art that my children and husband made to represent our angel babies is one of the very dearest gifts. The necklace I wear from a friend honors their three little lives. And regularly, when my son and daughter speak of them, I am reminded that grief is an always and forever, and yet surprising journey, one that does not cease to bear fruit.
Many women have found that honoring their story of infertility and/or pregnancy loss through physical representation has helped their grieving process. Friends & Family this is a beautiful thing to do for them and lovingly honor this special life.
Here are a few ideas:
- Christmas ornaments that symbolize that baby or special date
- Children’s books honoring the life of a baby
- Bottles of Tears makes beautiful gifts to honor loss and pain. www.bottleoftears.com
- Display something in your home to remind you of what God is doing and what God has done through the journey He has you on. Like artwork done together, on etsy or verse canvas of the scripture you clung to. Basically, something displayed to represent that life. whitepepperink has beautiful custom scripture canvas and boards to display.
- Rachelle-isms makes handmade jewelry to encourage mothers to express their unique stories in a beautiful way. www.rachelle-isms.myshopify.com
- Lullaby of Hope makes sweet gift baskets you can request for yourself of another mama who is going through infertility, infant loss, or pregnancy loss. www.lullabyofhope.org
- Plant a tree, plant or something to remember the life. For years they will see blooms of something beautiful even when it hurts they will see beauty. I imagine that’s the way God and Jesus would want to visual love someone hurting.