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 the impact our loss(es) and how the waves of grief ripples flow to our relationship.
Tim and I were married very young and we had a two-year-old when we faced the loss of our twin daughters, Faith and Grace. I had endured a long and extremely difficult hospital stay that caused a great deal of stress and concern for my young husband. We were twenty-one years old at the time. Losing Faith and Grace was such a shock for us. We had prayed and hoped for a miracle. Quite honestly, I just didn’t think that our babies would be among those that didn’t make it. Maybe I was just young enough that I still thought I was invincible, and that covered my children as well. I don’t know what Tim thought at the time, and I was too absorbed in my own pain to ask. Just the same, we were shocked and devastated.
Some of the details are fuzzy for me, as time has marred the clarity of my memories. I do remember Tim missing me and worrying about us during the long hospital stay. It took all my strength to survive, so I didn’t feel the missing as much at the time.
He tried to make me laugh while wheeling my ridiculously large pregnant self to the specialist. I remember his smile when we found out we would have identical twin girls. And I remember the anguish on his face as the tears fell while he stood beside me while I held our baby girls and sang Amazing Grace. Once more, he tried to make me laugh and succeeded some hours after our daughters were born sleeping. He slept in the recovery room watching some random movie with me. I could never forget the ache of leaving the hospital with empty arms and a canyon of emptiness in my heart. Leaning on him for strength as we stood by their grave on that cold November day. The agony of sorrow when he went back to work. He held me often during those early days, as I cried.
Even while we were in the hospital, I knew that we were forever changed by the loss of our girls, that we had shared something that only the two of us could ever really understand. It separated us from the rest of the world and bound us more solidly as one flesh. I believe it drew us closer. He was quiet with his grief, having to remain strong. He needed to return to work right away to support our family and pay the mountain of medical bills.
There came a time when I knew my need to grieve openly and talk about the girls brought him pain, and I was grateful to share all my emotions and words with my friend, Ginny. I respected Tim’s need to protect himself and our family from the emotions in planning the memorial service, keeping it private. We didn’t want to add the family drama that often came with any event on both sides of our families to an already painful time. We weren’t prepared to have a funeral for our children. It seemed so unspeakable to us. And we both felt protective of our girls. It was important to me to respect his need to keep things private.
Months later, we began trying to have another baby, and I think Tim wanted to help ease the ache of emptiness for me, for both of us. I have often felt a great burden for the dads who grieve for their babies in a world that doesn’t allow them to express their feelings openly. They have to be strong. A father doesn’t just feel the weight of his own loss, but the pain he sees his wife enduring – a pain he can do nothing to fix. A pain he couldn’t protect her from. He couldn’t protect his family from this.
Finally, after many complications that left my body battling infection for about a year after the birth of Faith and Grace, we conceived Thomas. We felt relieved, apprehensive, and excited. Midway through the pregnancy, we sat in that room and heard the words “incompatible with life” in regards to our precious son. I looked over at Tim, and I saw the life drain out of him. It was as if the light went out and darkness filled his face. Hope left. I have never felt more darkness, myself.
I remember him convincing me to take the steps to leave the hospital. Next, facing “the choice.” He was quiet, but seemed relieved when I chose to continue the pregnancy. He supported that decision. As I watched him agonize over the fact that he was helpless to protect our family from walking this path again, I struggled with the burden of being “the one” who brought this pain on our family. I know that wasn’t really true. But, I felt that burden.
To this day, one of the hardest things, the thought that brings tears to my eyes each time I think of it, is the grief of Tim and Timothy; the fact that I couldn’t spare them of this pain. The sorrow it caused them to watch me carry our sweet Thomas, knowing we would have to say good-bye to him. The stress of that time was heavy on us. I wish I would have had the knowledge or support of those who had walked there, like so many of you. I did have the Lord, and He was enough. He carried me and poured out His grace on our family. But, sometimes, I think I could have done more to cherish that time.
I felt that my presence caused pain to my family. A reminder of impending sorrow. It may not have. They didn’t say that to me, but there was a distance. Mostly because of the stress of the situation. Tim was quiet and distant as the time grew near to meet our Thomas. The pain caused him to delve deep into a protective shell. I clung to the Lord for strength, and leaned on Ginny and Dinah, as he wrestled with what was happening within.
When Thomas was born, the pain was so great for Tim. I felt the joy of meeting Thomas, while Tim’s sorrow broke forth heavily. We leaned on each other once more in those early days. He respected that I needed to talk about and remember our children, and I respected that he often needed me to do that with someone other than him. After the initial days of grief, we talked little about the experience to each other.
This time when the desperate ache for a baby to fill my empty arms came, neither of us had the courage to say that we were ready to try for another baby. Fear of another loss was so strong. Tim was very protective of the threat of additional pain for our family. When we were surprised with James’ conception, it was a time of great trepidation and anticipation. I wanted to hold on to hope and joy, knowing that I would not get this chance again. I wanted to cherish every moment I was given with this precious baby. But, for Tim, all that we had endured had taken its toll, and the stress of watching me struggle through another pregnancy and the possibility of another loss was just too much. It was a very difficult time in our marriage.
God brought us through so many trials over the course of our marriage. He has healed our brokenness, renewed our love and strengthened our joy. We walk with Him and trust in Him together, now. But it was quite a journey to this place. There is so much about that time between us that needs to stay between us. But, I want to share a few things because I know that many of you struggle with the fact that men and women grieve differently.
Some of the main topics we are asked about are marriage concerns and grieving differently as a couple. Men and women are made differently (as you well know!). And we grieve differently. Every individual, actually, is unique in their grief. Your partner may be quiet, distant, angry, protective, or tearful. You may feel like talking about your babies, need to be close, may feel angry, tearful, or distant. You may not be feeling the same things at the same time. This can cause division and resentment when we do not understand that our spouse is still grieving, even if he/she is not grieving the same way we are.
Tim and I shared this sorrow, and this entire journey, but we rarely talk about it. We are able to talk about pieces of our story more now than we did years ago. He supports this ministry and all that we are doing. He is part of this ministry, and he helps make decisions, often reaching out in his own way to those who cross our path. We have always respected each other’s need to grieve differently and communicate that grief in different ways. It doesn’t mean that we did not offer love and support to each other. We did and we do. But, sometimes, I went to a friend to talk or share a memory that I thought may be painful for him. And we did not allow that to come between us.
It’s okay that he didn’t want to go to a special remembrance service years later. And it’s okay with him that I did need to go. I think it is important to recognize and free each other from expectations here. It will prevent being hurt when we feel that our expectations are not met. And it prevents resentment and division from forming between the two of us.
We are not some perfect example to be held up for display. Indeed, our path to the beauty we experience today was once covered in tattered ashes of brokenness. It is a messy journey, and we often didn’t “do it right.” We are truly bathed in God’s grace. I could write several statistics stating that there is no way Tim and I should still be married. We were married young, parents young, from divorced families (generations of divorced families actually), and we lost three of five of our children by the time we were twenty-three years old. And yet, here we are loving each other and the God that kept us through it all.
I do not say that as any great success on our part, but as a testimony to the greatness of the God we serve and the power of His grace that is always sufficient. We share a love today that is deeper and sweeter because of where we have walked. It is true that our God does “make all things beautiful in His time.”
Here are just a few words of wisdom we have gleaned:
1. Respect each other’s need to grieve differently. If at all possible, do not do things that may bring pain to your spouse. At the same time, do not deprive yourself of doing the things you feel you need to do to honor your baby your way. Find a way to honor your baby that also honors the feelings of your spouse.
2. Find time to laugh and do things that you enjoy together. Grieving is hard, heavy work. Find some time to keep it light.
3. Keep life as simple as you can. Try not to take on too much for your family schedule. Protect yourselves and each other from extra stress or things that may bring unneeded sorrow.
4. Find ways to honor the memory of your baby as a family.
5. Communicate with love and respect.
6. Take comfort in physical affection. Do not turn away from each other but turn toward each other.
7. Pray together and for each other. God is able to mend your broken hearts and keep your marriage. Guard your marriage and bathe it in prayer. You may feel too weak to pray sometimes. That’s okay. Saying, “God, help me…it hurts too much to even pray.” is still a prayer. It’s been a prayer of mine many times.
Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken. ~Ecclesiastes 4:8-12
Thank you again for joining us. Please let us know if we can support you in any way as you grieve the loss of your baby. I would be happy to send you a Dreams of You Memory Package and to pray for your needs. Also, it can help to share with someone who has walked this path. It is our desire to encourage you in your marriage…to pray for you…and offer any support we have to give. Next week, we will be sharing about how our other children faced their grief and ways to support them as they grieve their sibling. If you do not have children, we will also include facing another pregnancy after the loss.