Walking With You was created to help support those who have lost a child. Together we share our stories, helpful information, scriptures, encouraging words, prayer requests, and more. Thank you to those of you who have joined us over the years, for courageously sharing your stories. If you haven’t joined us our private Walking With You Facebook support group, and would like to, you are more than welcome. This week, we are sharing our first steps into the sea of grief.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: A time to be born and a time to die…A time to weep and a time to laugh…A time to mourn and a time to dance…
A Time To Weep…
Grief has many stages. It is different for everyone and seems to come at will with a life of its own. Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason to the emotions that spill forth. You cannot predict when it will come, although there are certain triggers that you may come to know as you swim in this sea. It is a struggle to visit these places of early grief and to feel the weight of that great sorrow. But for those walking in that place of new grief, it is so important to know that there is a God big enough to carry us through this, that no matter how forsaken we may feel, we are not, that we are not alone, and that we will not remain tossed about in this relentless sea forever.
From a previous post: In the beginning, I felt as if I were drowning. The sea of grief was relentless. Soon, I learned to tread water, though, and the sea became less rocky as I stopped resisting the waves. One day, I realized that I had learned to swim in this sea. The waves of grief still rushed in at times, but I was learning to be a stronger swimmer.
It was a sea of grief that seemed to be choking the life out of me. I flailed about those first days. From the moment they wheeled me out of the hospital, past the nursery, and into the world without my baby girls, I felt like I was drowning. One of the first stark realizations was that life would never really be the same, that Tim and I would never be the same.
At twenty-one years old, we didn’t have a lot of experience with death. We had lost grandparents and that was difficult. But, grandparents are supposed to die. Babies aren’t. While most of our peers still partied through careless days at college, we stood over the grave of our babies. Words cannot describe the ache, the physical ache that began with my arms and went straight to the depths of my heart and soul. If you are walking with us, I don’t have to describe it. You know it well.
I cried buckets of tears. Cried by day and cried in my sleep at night. I would wake up already crying, still reliving the moment I said good-bye to my girls. I was too weak and broken to function. I didn’t leave the house for a couple months. I didn’t answer the phone or the door in the early weeks. Ginny, my mother, and Tim formed a protective layer between me and the outside world. Flowers came and I would sob. Christmas ornaments in memory of Faith and Grace (born in November). Ginny answered the door. I curled up in sorrow.
I struggled with going to church. I went, but it was so hard. We had been praying for a miracle, believing for a miracle. And the miracle that happened was not the one we had asked for. I wasn’t angry with God. It just felt so tender. The worship songs…the scripture…the prayers. Everything pierced my broken heart, welling up the emotions that were always waiting just below the surface. It was so painful to enter the world without the identical twin daughters that should have filled our household with the abundance of all things baby girl. That’s what we had been preparing for, hoping for, praying for. Not this emptiness…this silence. Not this agony of missing.
It may sound as if I were grieving without hope. The truth is, I was just grieving. I knew God was the place to go with my sorrow, and I went to Him. But, the hurt was still there. It didn’t leave right away. There was not a quick fix. It needed to hurt. The tears needed to fall. I needed to talk about my babies, to feel the weight of their absence. And, yes…even to wallow a little.
As Christians, sometimes I think we expect people to just always feel joyful, as if they are a failure when they feel sorrow; as if they are lacking faith. I really struggled with that. The thing is, our world had been turned upside down. We didn’t know which end was up anymore. I often felt guilty that I was so overcome with sorrow, thinking I was a failure as a Christian. When I did feel a moment of joy, I felt guilty wondering what kind of a mother laughs after losing her baby. I learned that guilt is part of the journey. Knowing that didn’t make it go away. But in time, God did ease that guilt.
In the last several years, I have learned a lot about grieving. I have watched many people walk through the sea of sorrow, and I’ve returned there myself a couple times. Today, I don’t judge myself or others and the way we choose to walk this path. There is no magic timetable for grief or a right or wrong way to do it. And, when someone is walking this path, it is no time to judge their performance. They are just trying to survive it. Trying not to drown under the tumultuous waves that continually crash into us, over us, and all around us. It is a time for mercy and grace. Not judgment.
If you are someone reading this and wondering when your friend will get over the loss of her child, the answer is – never. She will never stop missing her baby. In time, God can comfort her sorrow, ease her pain, restore her joy…but for as long as she walks this earth, she will have moments of missing her baby. She is forever changed. Don’t rush her. Don’t try to tell her she needs to move on. Do not assume that because she is grieving a certain way, that she is doing it wrong. Avoid telling her how she should be walking this path. She may feel sorrow. She may feel nothing. She may be angry. She may have peace. Or a combination of all of the above. Just let her and love her.
And, if you are a mommy in the new stages of grief, overwhelmed with sorrow…wondering if you will feel this way forever…please know this: You are forever changed. But, over time, those changes will become a beautiful part of the tapestry of your life. You will always miss your baby, but you will adjust to a “new normal,” You will not feel like you are drowning forever. You will laugh again and take joy in the pleasures of life again…you will. Your life may be different, but it is not without hope.
With our son, Thomas, my grief was different. I was so blessed and comforted in the moments I had as Thomas’ mother. Still glowing from the presence of Jesus when he carried Thomas home, my heart experienced so much healing. It meant so much to me to be the one to hold him as he left this earth. I was so shocked by the loss of Faith and Grace, so robbed of the chance to mother them, that the moments I shared with Thomas healed that broken part of me. I felt assured that my babies were with Jesus, and for several days, I just basked in the glow of that promise.
The other reason my grief was different was that I was a little rebellious. I steadied myself, digging in my heels in resistance when the first waves did indeed rush in a few days after Thomas’ funeral. My breasts filled with milk, and again, there was no baby to feed. As if my body were weeping, nothing would stop the flow. But, while my body wept, I did not want to give in to the depth of the sorrow again.
When sobs would threaten and waves of grief rushed in, I would start to cry and just shake my head, saying “NO!” over and over. I did not ever want to feel that out of control again. So, I would not allow the sorrow to completely overtake me. Not because I’m so strong or some great pillar of faith. Mostly because I just didn’t want to be at grief’s mercy again.
After Thomas passed, we were in the midst of searching for a new church. In a way, that made the whole church thing a little easier. It was a refreshing change to be in a place where no one knew where we had walked; instead of the small town we lived in where everyone knew and avoided the subject (and sometimes us!) like the plague. Indeed, I wonder if they almost did think that something akin to a plague had come upon us. I mean, let’s face it. No one wants to think that babies die, not even one baby. But three babies in less than two years. I don’t blame them, really.
If you are being too hard on those who stay away, think for just a moment of something that you haven’t endured: something that could be your biggest fear. Something horrible and unthinkable. Would you want to visit that situation, and look into the face of that sorrow if you didn’t have to? Of course not. We won’t get into the fact that people are often insensitive and just don’t get it (at least not in this post). We’re actually going to give that subject it’s very own post.
Another thing we will save for another post (next week actually) is the fact that couples grieve differently. And this can cause stress on a marriage. After losing Faith and Grace, Tim and I were drawn closer. But, losing Thomas was so hard on Tim. It just seemed like too much after losing Faith and Grace. A sorrow settled upon our household for a time. I delved into scripture…seeking the Lord’s comfort. Desperate to understand. I will share further on in this grief journey of the anger that came after losing Thomas, and the healing that followed. But…these were the early days. Messy and imperfect…just like grief.
He has sent me (Jesus) to bind up the brokenhearted…To comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion-To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. – Isaiah 61:1b-3 Next week, we will talk a little about the struggles for couple who face grief. We will share a little about the father’s perspective and the strain on marriage after the loss of a child.