That April it would have near impossible to understand.
That April I lost the little one within me for unknown reasons. I felt empty and my heart bled with grief for the little child we would never know on this earth. We cried. We ached. We buried our little child in the parish cemetery. I remember a few weeks later sitting at the dining room table alone in the house except for the two year old playing in the next room and my body convulsed from the sobs as the tears puddled onto the wood. We grieved that little one and in those raw moments it felt like it would always be that way.
I had heard it said that we would never forget but that time would soothe the rawness of grief. They were right. That baby will always be remembered in our family but I no longer feel those deep achings of grief. I never would have thought it in those bleeding moments but I see now how God used that grief to help us to grow and that there were lessons in store for me that I’m not sure I would have otherwise learned. While I would never suggest this to someone in the throes of their ache and I don’t believe He actively wills them, God can redeem those tragedies and pull good from them. For my own heart, part of that was learning a few different things that I now know I needed to learn.
1. There Are No Guarantees.
I went into Marriage assuming we’d have babies and hopefully, I thought at the time, lots of them. We got pregnant with our first the very first time we used the fertile time of our cycle. It worked and it made sense. Do this, get that. Easy peasy. When we lost our second child at ten weeks, it all seemed to break apart. I suddenly felt vulnerable and broken and betrayed by my own body. I thought I had done all the right things and yet it had failed. This baby died. It was a life changing process for me to realize that there are no guarantees. You can believe the right things and do the right things, but there is no guarantee that you will then have “earned” a baby, or anything in life for that matter. I realized deeper than ever before the fragility of life and with each subsequent pregnancy I have been filled with the understanding that there are no guarantees. I no longer presume that we will have other babies because I just don’t know. Everything in life, and especially every new life we are given, is ultimately an unearned, unmerited, unbelievable gift.
2. How to Hold the Space
Sometimes there is nothing we can do. Sometimes when someone we love is hurting, there is nothing we can say or do except be there and be present. One of the most helpful things that a few people did for me after that loss was to sit silent while I cried. It is a hard thing to learn when you see someone in pain to not want to fix it. We want to say something that will make it all better, to do something to make the hurt go away. But there are times when there is nothing we can do but be there with them in their moment of trial. I work now as a birth doula and often that support is referred to in the birthing community as “holding the space.” Our simple presence can be enough and sometimes it is the only thing we can do as someone we love is hurting or when they have their own trial to work through. We can be present with them in those difficult moments saying nothing, doing nothing, listening to them talk or cry or do whatever they need to do. And sometimes that is exactly what helps the most.
3. The Dignity of Each Unique Person
I knew this before, of course, but after the loss of that baby, I felt it deep within my being. When people would try to comfort me by saying I could have other children or that I should be grateful for my living child, it stung. I didn’t want another child. A generic baby. I wanted this one. This particular completely unique human being would now not be known by the world. This baby was gone and I loved this baby uniquely, just as I now do with any of my other living children. One of them can’t take the place of any other and the loss of one would be uniquely tragic. It made me more aware than ever that each baby was a unique individual and deserving of that respect. It made me grieve all the more deeply the many unique babies lost to abortion. It made me more deeply appreciate each subsequent baby we conceived than I think I otherwise would have.
4. Heaven Will Be Worth It.
The promise of meeting our little one again is such a huge motivator for me in this life to stay in relationship with God and make it to eternal life. There are better reasons, I know. I certainly want to love Him for His own sake but our Lord in His mercy works with us in our weakness. After the loss of our baby, I yearned for heaven more than ever before. The promise that this was not the end and that there was hope of knowing this little son or daughter of mine in eternity motivated me to keep going then and still does to this day.
5. Turn Towards Your Spouse.
We are meant to live in a family. Children are meant to be conceived within the cooperative love of a husband and wife and I believe if the unthinkable does happen and that child dies, that the husband and wife are meant to unite again in a different way as they support each other in their grief. When I struggle with something, I tend to retreat into myself as I work out how I am to deal with it practically, emotionally and spiritually. In many ways I did that after the loss of our baby. During the initial few days after our baby died, we were connected and we grieved together. But as the days and weeks passed, I closed in on myself rather than turning outward to my husband for support. And he, in response, did the same thing. It created a lot of unhealthy dynamics within our Marriage and we’ve had to learn (and relearn again and again) how to turn towards each other in our disappointments and hurts rather than trying to handle them in isolation. Turning inward whether in sadness or joy or fear or anger isolates us from each other and creates distance and even bitterness or blame. We are living a shared life and that means we need to turn to each other in those moments and actively recognize and fight the temptation to do otherwise.
6. Grief Can Bring Tenderness…or Bitterness.
Grieving the loss of anything has the power to soften our hearts to the people around us. It can make our eyes better able to see hidden hurts and make our lips more sensitive to words that could wound. But it also has the power to harden our hearts and make us bitter. The choice of how we will respond to the losses in our lives can make us tender or cold, compassionate or angry. It sometimes takes an act of the will to choose tenderness over bitterness and try to find in our pain the ability to better love the people around us.
7. He Can Make All Things New.
God can take even the most painful tragedy and bring something new and beautiful out of the sorrow. When a few months later we conceived our third baby after the loss of our second, it blew me away time and time again that this new child would not exist without the sacrifice of his older sibling. While God did not actively will the death of that baby, He in His infinite knowledge and power could bring something beautiful from that loss. In fact, none of our other subsequent children would likely exist without that loss. It is mind boggling to ponder. I realize more fully now the power of the Redemption and how God can take tragedy and create of it something amazing and new, something that otherwise could not have happened. Just as He took the Tragedy of all Tragedies of the Cross and brought new life to the world through it, He can take our trials and grief and sufferings and create of it something new and beautiful. The new life that emerged from that loss made profound and clear to me His words on the way up the hill, “Behold, I make all things new.“
Are there ways that loss has changed you?