February 28, 2014

Grief Is Grief

We met her last autumn in that tiny Goodwill, among the shelves of books that no one had a use for any longer.  She began silently passing books to our girls that she thought they'd like.  She noticed our nine year old's current fascination with weather, and located a few on hurricanes.

I left my husband with the girls as I browsed past the books and into the clothing racks.  I found a few peasant skirts I fancied with elastic waistbands I could alter to fit.

Within a few minutes he came over to me with eyes intense.  "Come here.  We need to pray for this woman, together."

She shared with us that just a few months earlier her only child, a son only a few months old, had died tragically in an accident.  He had choked on something at day care while she was at work.  Her tired face and eyes said that it felt like yesterday.  Still so fresh and raw.

We listened.  We grieved with her.  We encouraged.  And we lifted her up.  We prayed together, there in the private back corner of a Goodwill.

We exchanged information, that I regretfully lost pretty quickly, and we haven't seen her again.

Until tonight.

One week and four days since our fifth daughter, Jane Malise, was born to heaven.
And on the very day that marked the one year anniversary of the death of her baby boy.

This was beyond coincidence.  This was Providence.

She started out the conversation in the cold grocery parking lot.  "Aren't you the woman from Goodwill?"

I laughed yes.  We hugged.  She smiled through tears and blurted out the significance of today.  I said I was so glad to see her today then.  I didn't hesitate and vomited out more words to add to the grief pot.

"We lost a baby less than two weeks ago. Her name was Jane."

We hugged again.  And this time she said how glad she was to see me today.


I explained that I couldn't have looked at her today with the heart I have now if this hadn't happened.  She said she understood.  Which was so dern good to hear and know that she meant it.  She did understand.

I told her how angry and hurt I am today.  Yes, terribly missing my baby.  But more angry at ignorant people.  I'm angry that people expect me to just move on.

I'm angry that out of the true goodness of their hearts they say things so extremely ridiculous and unknowingly hurtful to mothers who have lost a child to miscarriage.  Things like this:

"It was God's plan... she obviously fulfilled her purpose... God was merciful to your family in protecting you from the burden of caring for a disabled child... at least you know she's in heaven and you'll see her again... at least you have kids already, you should be thankful for them... buck up, don't worry, y'all got a good track record, you'll have another... at least it wasn't one of your other children... at least you weren't much further along because that would have been harder... at least... at least... at least..."

I was shivering in the the parking lot tonight as we talked, but neither one of us wanted our conversation to end.  We needed each other.  We needed each other TODAY.

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She held me as I sobbed my first real good sob since the day I saw Jane's precious little, lifeless body on the ultrasound screen.  One week and four days ago since I lay there on the exam table bleeding my littlest one out on a sheet.  One week and four days since no one thought to pass along that information to the lab tech in the next room who took my blood and asked happily, "Oh, you're pregnant! How far along are you? Is this your first?"  I just looked at her a few seconds not knowing what to say, then said just louder than a whisper, "No mam, she's our fifth daughter."  Because she was.

"I'll always wonder who she would have been!" I heard myself saying through broken sobs as this woman in the parking lot held me tighter.

She said simply, "Me too."

"I know it would have been different if I held her alive and knew her like you did your son..." I apologized.

"Grief is grief," she said.

Grief. Is. Grief.

She, this woman who held her living son, who fed him, played with him, laughed with him, soothed his tears, wiped his nose, video taped his first crawl...

She saw no difference in the devastation.  She saw lives lost.  She saw a mother's grief.
"What if you held the hand of a grieving mom who miscarried at 4 weeks, 6 weeks, 18 weeks or more?  What if you never compared the loss of a 4-weeker to a 20-weeker?  What if you never said anything that started with, "At least . . . "  What if you didn't try to stifle her tears? What if you welcomed them? And matched her tears with your own?  What if you held back any trite, easy answers that promised God's will and promised easy comfort? What if you just wrapped your arms around her the way Christ would?  What if you made that meal, bought those flowers and wrote that card?  What if you went to the hospital and sat in the waiting room for her, even if you wouldn't see her? Just because she is your friend. Just because that's what you do when someone is sick in the hospital or their child is dying.  What if you called her child by name?  What if you went to the service if they planned one? What if you helped her find a support group? What if you offered to go with her?  What if you prayed constantly for that hole in her heart that will one day scab, one day scar, but will never fully heal?  What if all your actions when dealing with loss of any kind, affirmed that fact that all life -- ALL LIFE -- is good, worthy of recognition and worthy of grief.  What if you didn't just affirm to the world that all babies are valuable -- but you also affirmed to a bereaved mom that HER baby was irreplaceable, and would forever be missed?
'A person is a person, no matter how small.'"
"We have to fall together," she said as she brought her hands toward one another, "or we'll fall apart."

Suffering transcends difference.  The art of solidarity.  Providence.

"There is a support group that a woman leads that I go to sometimes," she said.  "She lost her 6 week old baby now 30 years ago, and she uses writing to heal; uses writing prompts to lead us, guide us, and help us through where we are at and so we can help others.  Would you like to go with me?"

This woman in the parking lot?  The same one from Goodwill?  Yeah, she didn't know that I write.  That I feel the most honest me when I write.  That God pricks and heals my soul when I write.  And that sometimes He graciously uses my writing to encourage others.

"I'd love to," I said, and smiled a good smile.

My husband had loaded all the groceries in the back of our van while we spoke.  As we began to drive away she motioned for him to roll down his driver's window.

"Take care of her," my new friend said smiling, but with eyes that ran it deep.

He always does.  Jane was his girl too.

You, mama-friend, you who have this wound similar,
Give yourself time.  Allow yourself the sobs, and if you have other children, let them see you cry.  Pray with them in that moment together.  You have nothing to explain to people that don't understand.  That's not your job.  They don't have to understand or be okay with what you need.  It doesn't matter if they seem irritated that you had to cancel that luncheon or lesson again.  Or maybe they might.  Maybe they'll be tender and say things like my husband was told tonight on the phone when he made calls for me, "Tell her to take all the time she needs; we'll be here."  But either way-  Just. Take. Time.  And find someone or someones to "fall together" with.  We must know we are not alone, that how we feel is not abnormal, and that there is hope in tomorrow.

Dear mama-friend who needs a voice today to bring a light of validation to your grief after miscarriage,
The truth of this life lost has been ascertained.  Your story as that life's mother has been corroborated.  Your grief has been found as something substantial and authentic.  Your soul and body has been given the stamp of approval, the go ahead, the green light...  to rest. and to bear. this. out.  You are not alone.

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  1. Thank you. People need to hear this! It's comforting to a heart that's been hurt similarly. Very wise- grief is grief, and we really just need friends who aren't afraid to go there with us.

    1. "We need friends who aren't afraid to go there with us." LOVED that. Thanks, friend. :)

  2. Thank you Rebecca. Our first baby was born into heaven in 2010 and our fourth on March 1 this year. My heart is aching for this baby and for someone to care. I am so thankful I found you today. God Bless you and your family. I'm so sorry for your loss. Prayers of peace and comfort.

    1. Oh, Carly, I'm so sorry to hear that. In scripture we're told to "grieve with those who grieve and rejoice with those who rejoice." I am grieving with you know for your little ones, especially the most recent, raw open wound you find yourself with right now. I care. I care for you, friend, and it's true: we have to fall together or we'll fall apart. Please continue to write me and let me know how you're doing.

  3. I went to school with Chris Whyde & he pointed me here after my 4th baby was just "born to Heaven" (I love that) April 30th after I had a cyst rupture & saw her heart beating strongly on the ultrasound the day before. I keep telling myself that she was only 8 weeks & 2 days old & some people have had it much worse & I should just be stronger, but I've been really struggling. I had been really sick this pregnancy like I was with my 2 other girls & when my kids kept asking why I was always so sick, we started watching all kinds of weekly progress videos & then even natural birthing videos-they asked for them too :-P...& it was just a reminder that I could do this & it's so worth it in the end. I was beyond thrilled to make our youngest a big sister because she adores babies. When I went in after my 1st cyst rupture & they said the baby's heartbeat was so strong they weren't worried about the baby even with all my pain & blood, I was so relieved & thrilled despite all the pain. Even before I went into labor that night, I threw up a lot like normal & they had actually told me I had 2 cysts & only 1 had ruptured, so when I went through a great deal of pain & felt like I was in back labor again, I just assumed my 2nd cyst must have ruptured since they weren't worried about the baby, but with how much pain I was experiencing & how much blood I lost & how faint & pale I was, I told my husband I needed him to stay home from work to watch the kids because I wasn't strong enough & I needed to make sure that it wasn't going to affect the baby. The ultrasound technician didn't say anything right away & kept just measuring my uterus. I was thinking she was probably just checking my cysts & kept wondering why there wasn't a baby since it said uterus until she finally told me how sorry she was that I had lost her. I felt so numb after that. I couldn't believe I passed my baby without even realizing it & just felt so unbelievably empty & horrid that I didn't even know. I have had all my babies naturally & all the other ones, I could walk just fine & get on afterwards, but I don't know if it was due to my other cyst rupturing as well, but even the next day I had more pain than any of my other births-which definitely were not easy at all. I've barely been able to bring myself out of bed most days & whenever my youngest took a nap this week, I told my older 2 (4 & 5), they could just put on a movie because I needed a nap too. My house has looked like a tornado passed through & I've just been struggling so much. This was the 1st day I even tried since everything happened & it was only because I felt like I needed to. But at the same time, it was probably good for me. I had just packed up all my pre-maternity clothes a week before & pulled out only maternity & felt so accomplished & was due on the same day as my sister-in-law as well & while I definitely don't want to forget, it hurts so badly to remember too. It just all happened so fast & I didn't feel like I had closure, yet, I keep telling myself it's probably better than if my baby were older, 'cause I don't know how anybody gets passed that. But as you said, grief is grief, & I need to probably ease up on myself more, because I know I wouldn't be so hard on others. It is so hard. My hubby & I had just watched "Heaven is for Real" the weekend before as well & I think God was trying to prepare me through that. I cried so much through that movie even before losing our baby. Thank you so much for this post. Sorry I just vented so much to you since you don't even know me. Thank you for using your gifts to bless others! I pray that God blesses you as well & helps comfort us & others after such hard losses!


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