When Grief Wells Up

There I was, listening to two first graders give a family presentation in front of their classmates when out of the blue, grief smacked me hard in the belly.  During their presentation, the girls shared that they had been born in 2013. Just like that, I was transported back in time, to a miscarriage I experienced that year. Incredulously, I realized that my baby would now be in kindergarten.  He or she could be giving a class presentation. Grief is funny like that. It comes in waves unexpectedly and reels us backwards into the past, allowing old feelings and sometimes tears to spring to the surface at the most inconvenient times.

I had a similar experience a few weeks ago while at an OB/GYN appointment. I was left in the examination room waiting for the doctor when, from the room next door, I heard the familiar whooshing, horse-beat sounds of a baby’s heartbeat.  Again, I felt emotions normally buried come rising to the surface with memories of the last time I heard a heart beat monitor…

I was at my first prenatal exam, and it was a routine ultrasound.  I had given birth to healthy babies three times, and there was no reason to expect that this fourth pregnancy would not be the same… …until I heard the heartbeat.  It was strong. It was steady, but it sounded unnaturally slow. I looked at the ultrasound technician, who agreed that it was slower than it should be. I was then ushered in to see the midwife, who was not gentle about preparing me for the worst.  Very little hope was offered. I was scheduled to return in a week for a follow-up ultrasound.

You can imagine what an awful week I had.  I left the appointment hysterically crying into my phone, telling my husband the news.  Over the following week, I felt every emotion possible: from hope, to gratitude, to sadness, to despair, to fear, to anger, and back again.  Mother’s Day happened to fall in the middle of that week, which definitely did not help matters.

Finally, I returned for my follow up appointment, this time bringing my husband for support.  There was no heartbeat. There were no longer any signs of life in the same womb, where the week before, I had seen my child and heard her heartbeat.

We were crushed. We grieved.  We cried. We explained the best we could to our children. We wrote a letter to our unborn baby, and packed her ultrasound pictures and the letters away. 

Soon, we began to prepare for a new future: one in which new life would come to our home through foster care and adoption. Hope was ushered in. Life continued.  New life was celebrated. Gratitude was felt.

Still, I think about the baby I lost.  I think about her when I think about heaven.  What will it be like to meet? I think about her at Christmas, because her due date was Christmas Eve.  I think about her when other friends are having babies. I do not grieve as one who has no hope. It isn’t something I think about every day, but it is imprinted on my soul. The Lord taught me much about His comfort through my loss.

So, for those of you who have also lost a baby, know that you are not alone. We are the 1 in 4.  Grieve. Tell your story. Reach out. It’s a grief that not enough people talk about, but many have experienced.  It is a grief that can be triggered unexpectedly and will touch your soul forever. May you be comforted by a Savior who counts every tear, and who loves your baby as much as you.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

2 Corinthians 1: 3-5

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The Art of Losing: An Interview with Marti Ahlman

In this podcast episode my guest, Marti Ahlman, eloquently recounts her experiences of grief and loss. She shares how the Lord has provided for and sustained her through each loss: from losing material possessions, to the loss of her husband. As a retired English teacher, Marti appreciates fine literature, and she uses the poem, One Art, by Elizabeth Bishop to illustrate her experience.

Marti Ahlman wears many hats: Daughter, Caregiver, Mother, and Grandmother

Marti shares about how through each loss she has encountered, she found the Lord faithful to provide for everything she needed: from food, to clothes, to a place to live. She also talks about relationships in which she was cared for during seasons of loss.

In the episode, Marti expressed that one book she appreciates is Hinds Feet on High Places, because it makes sense of the different seasons of life. More than any other book, however, she has found the Bible to be the book that she returns to and meditates on.

Scripture passages that she mentions in this podcast include:

  • Psalm 23 – which became literal for her, walking through the valley of the shadow of death, and living beside still waters.
  • Philippians 3: 7-9 – counting everything as loss for the sake of Christ
  • John 15 – the painful pruning process of suffering and the fruit it produces
  • II Corinthians 4: 17 – affliction preparing us for an eternal weight of glory

If something you heard in today’s podcast resonated with you, please comment below, or join the conversation on PRN’s Facebook page.

May you be encouraged on your journey with Jesus.

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Grief and Grace: An Interview with Sarah Jonas

For such a young person, Sarah has experienced more than her fair share of grief. In this podcast episode, she shares about her journey of both grief and faith through her mother’s illness and passing.

Sarah and her mother

This podcast will minister to anyone who is currently struggling with their own grief journey, or with those who’s lives, friendships, or families are affected by addiction.

In this episode, Sarah shares a verse that ministered to her throughout the care-giving process:

Fear not, for I am with you;
    be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10 ESV

If this podcast encouraged you, or resonated with you in some way, please feel free to share it with others. You can join in the conversation at PRN’s Facebook page as well.

May you be encouraged on your journey with Jesus!

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And Hope Does Not Put Us to Shame

This week, with one phone call, I brought to a close a four year season in the life of our family.  Some decisions are difficult, and this was one of them.  My husband and I both knew it was the right decision, but sometimes knowing and having peace about a decision doesn’t take away all of the sadness that comes with it.  A door has been closed that may never be reopened, and I am left grieving.

I am grieving many aspects of this closure, but the greatest is my own unmet expectations.  I believed wholeheartedly that I would see a result that has not come to fruition. I am helpless to make it happen by my own willpower.  Only God can see it through, and He will one day if He so chooses.  Only now, it will not come in the way that I expected.

Grief has many faces.  As a counselor, I have supported people experiencing many different forms of grief: grieving love ones who have died, grieving broken marriages, grieving their own poor choices, or grieving hard transitions in life.  Grief is a normal reaction to loss, and losses are a constant part of life here on planet Earth.  Some losses are unfathomably painful, such as the loss of a loved one. Some are common and expected, such as the loss of childhood that accompanies graduating from high school.

A dead end? Or a pillar of cloud to lead us out of the wilderness?

One rarely discussed form of grief is that of unmet expectations: grieving the life you thought you’d have.  Maybe your health has taken a turn for the worse, and your future looks less active and more painful than you envisioned.  Maybe you have a special needs child, and parenting is much more complicated than you ever imagined.  Maybe you have experienced divorce or widowhood, and singleness was never in your plan.  Maybe you struggle with infertility, and it’s too difficult to go to baby showers and show support while your womb remains empty.

These losses are valid and completely worth grieving.  In fact, if we cannot grieve them, we may find the repressed feelings becoming a wellspring of stress, a root of bitterness, or a blanket of depression which isolates and keeps us distanced from others.

There is so much beauty in the Gospel: salvation, rebirth, renewal, forgiveness, and growth.  However, before the new can come, the old must be buried, which is often accompanied by mourning. Jesus died, was buried, and then raised to life, which in turn gave us new life.  Jesus said:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”  John 12:24-25 ESV

Romans 5:5 ESV

 For believers, the incredibly hopeful thing about grieving expectations is that we’re not just laying something to rest.  We’re exchanging it for something better. Our loving Father has a plan much greater than you or I can know.  So, when we grieve what we so desperately wanted, but did not receive, we can look ahead with hope for what is coming.  It may still be on the horizon.  If not, eternity is the final destination, and we will lack for absolutely nothing there.  We will not be lonely.  Our health will be phenomenal.  We will be radiant.  Then, we will have new perspective and will be incredibly grateful that the Lord exchanged our paltry plans for His own.

So, I will grieve my own vision and expectation and place it in the hand of the Father, where He will exchange it for His plan.  

Pause: Take a deep breath and quiet your soul.  Read Romans 5:3-5.  In this passage, Paul begins writing about suffering and ends with hope.  How does this spiritual progression work?

Renew: Take stock of your own life.  Is there an area in your life where there is an unmet expectation or a recent loss that you need to grieve?   If so, give yourself permission to grieve.  Cry, journal, pray, talk to a trusted friend, family member, or counselor, and work through it.

Next:  Reflect this week about times that the Lord has exchanged your own plans for His.  How did it work out?  What did you learn in the process?

May the God of All Comfort embrace you and fill you with hope for the future!

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