Tag Archives: grief

Context: A Brief Observation of Matthew 14

I grew up in the church.  I have heard the stories of Jesus feeding the 5000 and of Jesus walking on the water, but I only recently realized the context of these stories.  What was actually happening in the life of Jesus during these miraculous events.

Because Matthew 14 opens up with the death of John the Baptist.  I don’t know how close Jesus and John were growing up.  I know that when everything was happening to Mary, the angel told her about everything happening to Elizabeth, and Mary traveled to help.  I know that in the womb, John recognized the divine nature of Jesus, just as he does at Jesus’s baptism.  But I don’t know how much they spent time together between these two events.

But here, we come to the end of John’s life.  Herod had imprisoned him for speaking out against his relationship with his brother’s wife, Herodias.  And during a party, John’s head is presented to Herodias’s daughter on a platter.  John is dead.  His body, what is left, is buried by his disciples. And word is sent to Jesus.

When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns.

Matthew 14:13

He set out on a boat to a place where he thought he would be alone.  But when he arrived, the people were there, waiting for him.  And he had compassion.  I just can’t imagine, in those moments of grief, his compassion compelled him to teach, encourage, and heal those around him.

This chosen remote place wasn’t ideal for dinner preparations, which prompts the miraculous feeding of the 5000.  Once everyone is fed and there are enough leftovers to sustain his followers.  He sends them away on the boat he arrived in.  He dismisses the crowd.  And he goes to the mountainside to pray.

Because this entire time, he has yet to have a moment to grieve.  A moment to spend with his Father, perhaps talking to him about his loss.  If ever he needed a recharge, this would be one of those moments.  At then, at dawn, he walks on the water.

Yes.  Feeding over 5000 people with five loaves and two fish is amazing.  Walking on crashing waves through howling winds is amazing.  But doing it all in the midst of grief.  In the loss of family, both physically and spiritually, he kept going.  I just want to sit today in the awe of Jesus’s compassion.  He came on this earth to love and to show us how to love.  He grieved and then he showed the power of God over this broken earth.  In his lowest moments, he relied on the miraculous divine strength of God to do amazing things.  It gives me hope that even in the lowest grief, God is still working, preparing to do things beautiful and miraculous.

A Personal Note For The Weekend

Oh my goodness, you guys. This week has been a crazy year, hasn’t it? I remember joking that January seemed to go on forever, but then came COVID-19 and quarantine, and now peaceful protests and violent encounters happening every day across our country.

In the midst of everything, my uncle passed away this week.

I don’t talk much about my extended family, or really a whole lot about my family in general since the birth of my son. I wasn’t exactly close to my uncle. Growing up, I saw him for only a couple of days a year around Christmas. He used to make the best manicotti on Christmas Eve.

Even though I wasn’t very close to him, I know my family is hurting. This is my dad’s younger brother. My grandmother and my uncle’s two adult children are having to make difficult decisions this week, and I can’t be there in person to support them. Though I am supporting all of them from afar through phone calls, texts, and Zoom. It’s all just still very difficult.

Grief is weird. We grieve pretty much any time there is change or transition in our life. And there are a lot of people grieving right now for so many reasons. There is so much pain and sadness, that I feel tempted to put my own grief on the back burner to focus on others.

But the funny thing about grief is that it really doesn’t let you do that. When it needs attention, it demands it. I’ve felt that weight this week, physically, mentally, and emotionally. It’s affected my ability to carry out every aspect of my life.

So, I’m going back to the basics this weekend of making sure I have space to grieve loss, grieve with others, and still manage to do the day to day (I mean, I’ve still got a toddler running around here, I can’t let it go to total chaos). I’m still committed to learning and listening. That’s not going to stop. So I’m taking the opportunity to slow down, to pay attention to what needs to be done right now and to listen to where God is leading me next.

What To Do When She is Pregnant, and You Are Not

I hesitate to write this post because, full disclosure, I have people in my life who are pregnant right now, and I didn’t want them to feel like I was singling them out or directing this post towards them in any way.  But, coincidentally, I’ve had a lot of conversations with friends who are in the trenches of pregnancy loss and infertility who are met with this dilemma (without even knowing my own situation), and the conversations that I’ve had with them have been so helpful, eye-opening, and uplifting that I feel like I want to share.

PreggoFriends

Because it’s not normal to hear that a new, precious life is coming into this world and respond to it with grief.  And we, as the women of pregnancy loss, get that.  We want to be happy.  We want to feel nothing but joy and excitement for what is coming.  But sometimes that is difficult because it means that time is moving on, and it’s a reminder that our precious babies are not here with us.  And we wonder if we will ever get to experience this same joy.

So, here are some things that I’ve learned from conversations with others as well as through my own journey.

  1. It’s okay to not be okay.  I feel like there is this desire to just get over it and “act normal” for those people we love and care about.  But being honest with yourself and with your friends and family is paramount to your health and the health of your relationships
  2. It’s okay to have boundaries.  You do not have to go to that baby shower.  You do not have to inundate yourself with social media pictures and updates of belly shots. You already know at least some of your limitations, and communicating that to people who love you will help in the long run
  3. It’s okay to challenge yourself.  But even if you don’t go to that baby shower, I challenge you to still get them a gift or send them a card.  I would invite you to pray for them, or even ask them for specific prayers about their pregnancy.  Don’t just lock yourself away from everything, because there is a baby coming, and that is something to be excited about.
  4. It’s okay to seek help.  I see a therapist.  I have since about 10 months after my first daughter died.  I found a therapist that specializes in pregnancy and infant loss, having experienced it herself, but that may not always be available in your area.  Try at least one session.  Or at the very, very least find a good, supportive forum.  There are private Facebook groups and groups on several sites where women go for support.  They have been helpful to me on advice as well.

Dear pregnant friends, please be patient with us.  We are not going to go about this perfectly.  We may mess up and say the wrong thing or have a response to something that you weren’t expecting.  Know that we love you and we love this sweet new little one coming into the world.  We are just terrified of our own grief at times, at the unexpectedness of it all.  I’ve had reactions to milestones in other people’s pregnancies that I had no idea would affect me so much.

I am pretty lucky to have very aware friends and family who have supported me over the last four years of our pregnancy loss journey.  But I know that this isn’t true for a lot of women in my life, and I wanted to reach out and let them know that they are not alone.

 

3 Ways To Survive the Holidays

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We lost our first daughter the day before Thanksgiving two years ago.  After our loss, we went straight into the holidays.  I remember how difficult that first holiday was, trying to navigate through grief and the holiday season.  Just like every other holiday season, I wanted to create memories and honor traditions, but it didn’t feel the same with the loss. All of the traditions and rituals were a reminder of what was missing.

I know a lot of people who are navigating their first holiday season without someone they love, and I wanted to share with you three things that I have learned that have helped me.

We all need space.  It is important especially during this busy season to remember to create space in your week for some self-care.  It may take a bit of planning and a bit of trying different things, but taking the time to care for yourself before immersing yourself in the chaos of the holidays can really help.  Just like in the airplane talk before takeoff, you must put the oxygen mask on your first before helping others.  Maybe it’s keeping a journal and carving out some time in your day to write.  Maybe it’s taking a hot bath one night a week.  Or maybe it’s a designated time for coffee with a trusted friend.  Whatever it is that will help you take moments of oxygen, create some space for it.

We need to take it at our own pace.  I remember that first year wishing that I could just take the grief, put it on a shelf, and resume the happy holidays.  But grief always seemed to find it’s way back into my arms when I least expected it, and at the most inopportune times.  I would compare myself to others who were grieving, some who seemed to be grieving more and some who seemed to have moved on with ease.  Of course, I didn’t know their whole story, and comparing myself to anyone for anything never helps.  I needed to be okay with where I was in my own grief, and be okay with voicing my needs when I was ready to do so.  Embracing it makes it a little easier to walk through grief.

We need to give ourselves grace.  Even though I’ve learned a lot about myself over the last two years, and a lot about grieving, I don’t have it all figured out.  I still have my breakdown moments, hours or days.  I still don’t know what to ask for at times. Sometimes I know what I need but I’m still afraid to ask.  The best I can do is realize that I’m still learning every day.  Learning about grief.  Learning about myself.  And giving myself the grace to be okay to make mistakes.  Learn from them.  And keep growing.

Navigating the holidays can be difficult for a lot of reasons.  I’m thankful that my community has given me the grace and space to grow through this process and allow me to move at my own pace.  And I’m thankful that God continues to walk with me on this journey through grief even during the holidays.

What The Holidays Are Like

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The Christmas season (which starts with Thanksgiving in my opinion) is probably my favorite time of the year.  There are bright colors, happy songs, and presents.  And my love language is Gifts, so any holiday season that includes giving and receiving of gifts is top notch.

But this is also a time of year that is hard for a lot of people.  Maybe it’s someone who has passed away this year.  Maybe it’s a job that was lost or financial struggles.  Maybe it was a relationship that was broken.

I’ve been reflecting on how this Thanksgiving has been for me and I wanted to share with you a little window into what I’ve learned about grief this year.

I learned that grief manifests in different ways.  In the moment, I didn’t even identify it as grief, but it was.  Everything was heightened.  There were moments I felt depressed and anxious.  I felt guilty when I wanted to be alone when I felt overwhelmed or when I wasn’t very social.  I got to see a lot of my family that I don’t get to see very much, but a lot of the time, I didn’t know what to say or how to start a conversation.  I’m so thankful for my family who has been praying and is so understanding.  Despite myself, we had such great visits with everyone.

My feelings were raw and exposed. There were moments of anger.  In fact, Michael and I had a very lively disagreement (ok, a fight) towards the end of the week that we worked through with grace and a whole lot of listening to each other (of course, this was days after the fight happened, but it was a process).  We definitely grew as people and closer to each other.  It was uncomfortable and hard, but I’m very blessed to have a man who is willing to work through the hard and uncomfortable.

I also learned that grief triggers in different ways.  I learned that young infants crying are a serious trigger for me during these heightened days of grief.  Somewhere along the line, Michael learned that too.  One day this month, we were somewhere and a baby started crying.  Michael was across the room, but he stopped what he was doing and looked at me (we were doing different things at the time).  I nodded to him, and we left shortly after.  Someday, I hope that this won’t be as triggering as I really do love babies, but for now, it is.  So we are just aware of our limitations.

Last year, we were just grieving the first anniversary of my first daughter’s stillbirth, and the days leading up to it were harder than the actual day, itself.  This year, the anniversaries were harder.  Wednesday morning, the day before Thanksgiving was my second daughter’s due date.  When I woke up that morning, that was the first thought that entered my head.  I felt it.  I cried in the shower that morning.  That Saturday was the second stillbirth day of my first daughter.  I cried that day, too, which surprised me.  I wasn’t as ready for that as I thought I would be.

I learned that it’s okay to have conflicting feelings at the same time, which I talked about in the video I posted the Friday after Thanksgiving.

I had moments of happiness as we built memories together just as much as I was sad that my daughters weren’t there physically with me in those memories.

The biggest lesson I took away from this experience is that I’m not alone.  I have amazing people willing to walk through the hard stuff with me and extend grace and space when I need it.  Even when I fear the wind and the waves, God is still right there with me.  I can be in my grief and still say I am blessed.

Grief, Loss, and Thanksgiving (Part 4)

I’ve been sitting, looking at the blinking cursor in front of me for a little while.  I have so many words to say, and yet, none at all.  A year ago, I found out I was no longer pregnantI went into the hospital and gave birth to my stillborn baby girl.

I do want to take a moment to acknowledge some of the blessings I’ve experienced this month leading up to this week.  I’m thankful for a husband who does his amazing best to be there for me in the sad moments.  I’m thankful for random, loving texts from friends and family.  I’m thankful for a church community and a workplace that surround me with love.  I’m thankful for the SPCA who allow me to use their dogs for my own brand of therapy.  I’m thankful for my own dogs who shower me with kisses and snuggles just when I need it.

I have no idea how the rest of this week will go, but right now that doesn’t matter.  What matters is taking the next step, breathing the next breath, and living the next moment.  I don’t think I’m going to write again this week.  I want to give myself some time to just focus on the present. So, Happy Thanksgiving.  I am so thankful for all of you.

The Grieving Process

One of the common responses I received from people in our life who have supported and loved us in this experience was “Grieve how you need to grieve.” I’m a pretty blunt person, so I didn’t think this would be a problem. However, it wasn’t the temptation to hide how I was feeling, it was a fear that I wasn’t grieving in the right way. After seeing people in similar situations on forums and talking to well meaning friends and family members, I questioned whether or not I was grieving in a way that was healthy. I wasn’t thinking the same things other women were saying, or doing the same things they were doing. I truly felt I was in some kind of denial.

However, I still miss being pregnant and feeling her move. I think about the might-have-beens especially through these months when I should still be pregnant and what I might have been doing at this point if I still was. But when I look at the whole picture, I see that what has happened has happened. Instead of focusing on my loss, I want to focus more on doing the things I need to do to heal physically and emotionally so that one day I can get pregnant again, and hopefully be able to hold that baby in my arms and watch them grow.

Even though this is how I felt on the inside, I struggled those first two weeks, trying to grieve the way others around me were grieving because I thought that was how to do it the right way. It wasn’t helping, but I was so afraid that the way I wanted to grieve wasn’t going to help me either. So, I talked to my doctor during an emotional check up (which they do at my clinic, and it’s awesome). I sat in the room and just opened up to her about the struggle I had with my grief. Turns out, I wasn’t that abnormal at all. In fact, half of the couples she had encountered dealt with their miscarriages in the same way. It was a completely healthy way to deal with it and move on from it.

The only way you can be unhealthy in your grief is if you aren’t honest about it. If you are angry at God and want to scream and yell, go for it. If you don’t feel angry at God at all, don’t try to force yourself to be. If you need to have a memorial or funeral to say goodbye, do it, but don’t put yourself through that if it doesn’t help you to move on. Just by embracing the way I grieve and being honest about what I need (or don’t need) when I need it (or don’t need it) has truly helped me move through this process, more than trying to grieve in a way that wasn’t natural or helpful to me.

There are different needs for different people, even at different times. That’s part of why grief is so uncomfortable, especially when you are walking through it with someone else. There isn’t really the right word or phrase that makes things better or makes the process faster or slower, and the same thing doesn’t always work all the time. Hugs helped a lot for me, but sometimes it can feel claustrophobic. Having someone to talk to about what has happened helps me process things, but I have also craved a lot of alone time, organizing my thoughts and my home. The best words spoken to me were “This sucks. This road is hard. But we will be with you if you need us,” but sometimes I would much rather just sit in silence with someone.

On a side note, when you sit in silence with someone, it allows God to fill the space between. Ultimately, he is working through them and you in that very moment. Perhaps talking through moments of silence really only drowns out what the Holy Spirit wants you to hear. I have found through this past experience how much comfort and strength I receive from the silence, from the moments when nothing is said at all. And I appreciate the people who are willing to be there with me in that silence.

I know I’m not alone. We have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support we have received. Those who have walked this path before have been willing to walk with us and have given us hope.  You are all arms of strength to me and blessings from God. I am continually reminded that though this is a storm in our life, it is also just a moment in our eternity. I know that this story isn’t over yet, and I can’t wait to read the next chapter.

Grief, Loss and Thanksgiving: Part Three

Part 3: Thanksgiving

It’s been a week since I first got the diagnosis that I had lost our baby.  Despite the realities of our situation that I’ve experienced this week, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the silver lining blessings I’ve experienced as well.  I tend to describe my personality as an “annoying optimist,” someone who no matter what finds silver linings in any situation, no matter how crazy those may be.  It can be somewhat annoying, but it’s the way I cope.  Anyway, here are only a few of the amazing things that have happened this week.

The medical staff:  The clinic I go to has five different doctors there.  The one that I have seen the most, Dr. W, was the one that saw me for both miscarriage diagnoses.  She arrived right after I delivered last week.  She said when she saw it was me that Monday, she just prayed and hoped that the sonogram would show a healthy baby.  She even brought in another doctor in the hopes that she was wrong, because she wanted to be so wrong.  The doctor she brought in happened to be on call the morning after I delivered, Dr. D.  Dr. D said that she wanted to make sure that I wasn’t just taken care of physically, but emotionally as well.  She said 50% of women who go through this get put on an anti-depressant for a short period of time to help, and that I shouldn’t feel weird if I need to take that option.  Both doctors were such a blessing.

Not only the doctors, but the nurses at the hospital.  Nurses in the L&D ward are a special type of people.  Every single one had no problem staying there and talking to me when I needed to talk, even if it was just clinical questions to distract me from what was going on.  The day nurse was so positive and straight forward.  I never went into a single part of that experience without knowing exactly what to expect and what to watch for.  And it didn’t matter if I only met them once or twice, every nurse was patient and caring, never acting like I was a burden or an inconvenience.  They even said if I just needed to talk, they would be there with a quick push of the call button.

The community.  To say that I’m overwhelmed by the community here and online is an understatement.  There are so many people who were involved.  There’s Lori who came to visit the evening I got my diagnosis and at lunch on Wednesday.  There’s Tod and Candace who came to pray Tuesday night and visited Wednesday evening.  There were the myriad of texts, Facebook messages, and emails we received Tuesday and Wednesday from friends and family, and continue to receive every day (I may not comment back, but believe me, your words are cherished).  My family has also sent their words of comfort and helped where they could.  My mom handled all the pictures and birth stuff from the hospital (as well as being emotional support) which was very needed and I’m so thankful she was able to be here.

Also, my mom shared with me a box given to her at the hospital from a women’s ministry made up of women who had gone through what I had.  In it were notes, verses, a Bible, a journal, and other things to offer encouragement and support to me.  It was unexpected but appreciated.

And then this past weekend, Lori dropped off a basket of goodies given to us from families at church who wanted to do something.  She said it was overwhelming to see how everyone came together for our little family.  I completely agree.  We also received encouragement from our neighbors who were so excited for us and now offer us a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear.  We know that we are loved and that we are so humbled by this experience.

My husband.  There are no words for the amazing man that is my husband.  Throughout this entire pregnancy, he has been there for me.  In the first trimester, when I was sick, he came home after 12 hour days to cook and clean while I laid on the couch.  In the second trimester, he would talk about our baby or how beautiful I was, and he would work on nursery projects or find little gifts or gift ideas for the future.  And then when I lost the baby, he has been there for me every step of the way, handling all the details when I couldn’t.  He stays up with me, when I wake up crying, talking me through it, listening to me, and staying up until I fall back asleep.

This experience has already brought us closer, even more so than the one last year.  Throughout this pregnancy we had learned to become a team.  We have been there for each other through a lot of changes and ups and downs.  And I can’t imagine having anyone else by my side through all of this.  To say I’m blessed or lucky to have him in my life is a complete understatement.  I thought I understood what it meant to marry your best friend, but I had no idea until now.  And what really blows my mind, is that he lost a baby too.  He’s going through loss and pain as well and still stands strong next to me.  Even though the experience for him is different, it’s still the same too.  His strength and love are immeasurable blessings, and I’m so overwhelmed that I get to call this great man my husband.

My relationship with God.  There is absolutely no way I could be upright and typing without the strength of God in me.  All of the above blessings are gifts from God, and I know that.  I am reminded that I’m not alone in my loss even in the Bible.  Job lost all of his children, questioned God, and God answered him.  I know that God will answer my questions too.  Plus, there are a myriad of stories of women in the Bible who struggled with infertility – Rachel, Sarah, Hannah, Elizabeth.  I know that God understands my grief, and just based on the amount of stories included in the Bible, I know he has a special place in his heart for women who go through this at any level.

Additionally, God has put women in my life that have been through what I have that I know are there for me.  I don’t think that was ever a coincidence that they are in my life.  This situation sucks, but I know that God hasn’t forsaken me.  Like I’ve said before, God doesn’t keep me from going through the storms, but he promises to be there every step of the way.

So, coming home on Thanksgiving day from this ordeal, I don’t think was a coincidence either.  God answered prayers that there were no complications and that the process happened quickly and with little physical pain.  We have a community around us, some we don’t even know, that have offered love and support throughout this ordeal as we heal both physically and emotionally.  And for these reasons we are truly grateful.

I don’t want to make light of this.  I’m still going through this every day, day by day.  Some moments are really hard.  Some are easier.  I imagine the easier moments will outweigh the harder ones eventually, but that’s not the reality right now.  I wanted to write all of this down now for two reasons.  One, to let others who may go through something similar have some idea of what to expect (although every experience will be different, even made with different choices, and that’s okay).  And also, so that I can remember where I’ve been.  I won’t be here forever.  And that knowledge along with the love and support around me helps me go through each day, each minute, each moment towards healing.