Processing miscarriage

Thank you so much for your advice and wisdom on my last post. I wrote what follows before I read your stories, but I could be quoting you. You also said some things I’d never thought of before. Thanks for being so brave in sharing your words.

Here are the suggestions good women gave to me, which I will share in turn. I will not tell their stories, but they were right. Thank you, Jean, Renee, Becca, Rachel, Marlene, Stephanie, Renita, Chastin, Hope Anne, and Cynthia. In the interest of being concise I’m afraid of sounding terse and superior… Please know that I’m talking out of pain I will not describe here.

*****

Confession: I don’t have a philosophy of miscarriage. It’s unfortunate that when a Trouble comes, my ideas and theories about it fly away. Or maybe that’s a good thing? I have found nothing to stave off the pain or to match the needs of varied situations, and a numbered list has a ridiculousness all its own.

But in the weeks following my miscarriage, Jesus began the work healing me. (He’s not done yet.) Here are some of the things His daughters taught me.

IMG_1185

1. Talk to other women who’ve experienced this loss.

One strange thing about pain (any pain, whether cancer or abuse or the death of a loved one) is that you enter unwittingly, even unwillingly, a sisterhood of those who have known this pain. After you come to accept that you are here, gathered with others around a life event you’d never have chosen, you may find much comfort in this place. These other stories are not yours, and do not need to define yours, but are there in a circle of strength around you. Your grief is not isolated. Your sorrow does not stand alone.

Miscarriage can be part of a healthy family story. It has touched countless women without destroying them; it is not the end of the path.

As Rosina pointed out yesterday (and several of you demonstrated), anyone softened by sorrow can offer meaningful care. Let’s not demand that someone must have walked in OUR SHOES before receiving the love they have to give…

2. Find a few physical things by which to remember your baby.

Early miscarriages especially give little closure, little to say goodbye to. You might fill a box with the notes and cards you receive over that time, plant a special tree or flower, stand a Willow Tree figurine on your mantel, write a letter, sew a little blanket, or put a remembrance stone in your garden. Somehow, touch the things that will remind you of him.

3. Give yourself time and grace.

Though many experience it, miscarriage is also a private pain—no one but you held this child. It is okay to feel a lot, to cry. You have been touched by love and human life, and cannot be unchanged. Journal, talk to a friend, listen to music late at night when you can’t sleep. Give your emotions and your hormones time to settle. Don’t be hard on yourself or blame the body that betrayed you.

4. Spend time with your spouse.

Let him comfort you and sorrow with you. He’s part of this story, and it’s his loss too, though he’ll process it differently. Even after the tears are done and the words are silenced, be together. Treasure his presence and his feelings.

5. Name your baby.

…Even if you do not share his name with others. He is real, and your loss is somehow validated by naming him.

6. Re-read Psalm 139.

I couldn’t find God’s heart in the weeks after losing my baby. Most of the time I thought He probably didn’t care. He drew near and opened my eyes each time I read David’s words about an unborn child, depicting the loving and intimate involvement of the Father.

7. Steep yourself in love.

There will be a few very painful reminders along the way: the first pregnancy news from a friend, the baby who is born when yours would have been, the next Mother’s Day. You will survive this thing by loving, not by hating. Open your arms and heart to the little people around you, and to the women whose bellies are rounded with unborn life.

8. Hold onto faith.

(This one was hardest for me.)

God may seem different than you ever thought him to be. Heaven may seem more real than ever, or an uncertain castle in the air. When you have no assurance of your own, lean on the faith of others and trust their words. Feel, more than figure out. You can experience the pain without finding answers for all the hard questions right now.

He is good. And the story is not done yet…

On miscarriage

Dear Son,

It is always easier not to feel.

Some days, even weeks, I am entirely numb, knowing I lost you but unable to feel a thing—no love, no loss, no tears. Then comes a day when it all breaks over me. And afterwards I get up and clean my house again and cook supper for my family.

I am getting good at loving people I cannot keep. When someone says to me “How many children do you have?” I do not know what to say.

There is one I loved who never belonged to me, and another whose eyes fill my mind, though I only see him once a week. There are three precious ones who were born to me, loved and nurtured while days turned into years. There is another I’ve loved for five months and will never forget. There is one baby with Jesus, and another whom I prepared for and gave a name to but never met, and another we pray for every night, who has not yet been. There are nine nieces and eleven nephews whom I love more than I thought possible, and more on the way, and more in heaven. There are children of friends and colleagues passing through my home every week, children whom I love like mine while they are here. There are little strangers whose pictures hang on my refrigerator because I love their mothers.

These names I say in my mind, these faces I hold in my heart. I do not know how many children I have. What does “have” mean?

My heart is not whole anymore. But you are in it as long as I live. This is what is true, though you feel irretrievably gone, passed clean out of this world into another where I cannot follow. I will never hold you in this life. My own body betrayed me, dropped this precious thing I intended to carry, dropped it down down down

You were a gift in a circle, from God’s heart to my body to God’s heart. I learned to wail like David, a song I never hoped to sing. My son, oh my son, my son.

I have rarely found God when I screamed into the sky (though I have done this many times in my life), but when, after my grief and outrage are spent, I turn to see Him standing at my elbow. He is always quiet then, and His eyes are steady. There are tears on His face.

I lost my Son too. I love more children than I can keep.

He is not up there somewhere dealing out pain to humanity. He is here in flesh at the grave, weeping, ready to speak the resurrection words.

I am learning that belonging to God does not spare me deep sorrow, loss, and pain. I am human—not immune to suffering, not held in a bubble of calm in a world of injustice, but allowed like Christ to pass through anguish. Love is the only thing that redeems, and love cannot live in this world without being wrenched on a rack.

But you? You are forever safe, forever loved.

God does not have to explain Himself to me, nor I to you. You have passed into the realm where questions meet the Answer, and all explanations are behind you. You are my rich gift of God—this is the name we gave you. I hold to Him in hope, and to you, though it does nothing to dissolve the pain.

We are loved, little son of God.

-Mommy

*****

Thank you for your kind words when I told you I lost a baby. It means something to me to know you care, though I dare not wallow in your sympathy. I would prefer this, especially if you have lost a pregnancy of your own—please tell me what comfort you found most precious then, what truth God planted in your heart, how someone loved you. Next time I will take my turn, and share what has been most healing for me.

Remembering Grandpa

When I was a child, I had more grandmothers than I could count—grandmothers and step-grandmothers and great-grandmothers, all beloved—

but only one Grandpa.

ted fishing

Grandpa was from Minnesota—a tough cookie, hardly sick a day in his life. He loved snow and popcorn and apple cider and northern lakes.

josh baiting

He could tell stories that left us in stitches, praying for breath. Like the one about his first date, when a prankster friend put a hunk of Limburger cheese on his radiator. Like the one about his snazzy new yellow car and the neighbor dog who kept coming over to pee on the tires, until Grandpa pinched a 110-volt wire in the car door and the whole thing went live.

kelly and her worm

He’d been a rebel teen who headed for the back forty whenever the preacher came around. But when he found Jesus he never looked back. Powerful revivalist, staunch premillenialist, he was a black-and-whiter, firm in his faith and sure of what he believed.

aarick fishing

I had only one Grandpa.

Photo credit to Andrew Coblentz

Photo credit to Andrew Coblentz

Two weeks ago, I packed up some of his favorite things—fishing tackle, fresh baked cookies, apple cider, and a tin of popcorn—and headed for a park with my family.

popcorn

When I spent his funeral numb, I thought that someday, when I could feel again, I would bury something—maybe get a box and pack it with some symbols: a fishing bobber, a photograph, a whoopie pie—and bury it in a hole in the ground. When I was ready.

memorabilia

Then I thought Grandpa would never like that. Bad waste of a good whoopie pie.

Kelly's first catch ever

Kelly’s first catch: a beautiful little walleye

So I spent time talking and eating and fishing with my family, and we remembered him. This was the way I wanted to say goodbye, because I could not say it when the time was right.

candle 1

To those who wondered if I was finding fault with the church that hosted the funeral, I can only say how sorry I am for the misunderstanding. I hate saying things wrong.

I’ve never seen a congregation so devoted to a very old man… the care and honor they gave him was beyond praiseworthy. I wrote of my own numbness and pain. There are many times in my life when I long for Presence and cannot find it.

candle 2

After supper we remembered what we loved about Grandpa. Some of us wrote it on helium balloons–

balloons

my balloon

regan's balloon

andi's balloon

and then a child counted to three

and we let them go.

Goodbye, Grandpa.

Light brown hair

Her world is receding, shrinking into a pale aqua cube with bright lights, lots of cords, an IV drip for every need, and a trio of inhabitants: herself, her husband, and her mother. The hospital staff are waiters and butlers, serving IV’s, checking the cords, and bowing themselves out.

She is receding too. Like a babe in arms she sleeps away her days, needs to burp, eats tiny bites of soft food off a spoon held to her lips, takes trembling steps.

My only sister oh my sister.

IMG_6994She is an angel of wishes, hands clasped, patient face. I am a loving angel–except angel. My magic is gone with my wings; shorn of power to shield.

I never liked it that her hair was lighter than mine, that she was the Mary with golden and I the Laura with brown. No one serenades plain brown hair. Except once when we were small I found in a folk book a song called How I Long for Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair. I hated that, then.

Now she has none.

And I would give—oh worlds

 

Jesus, my sister.

Alice in wonderland, or not

Walking through the woods, I found a little door.

door

I’m sure I saw a welcome mat laid down, curled from waiting.

door closeup

I’d like to stop in for tea sipped from an acorn cup, and some sweet nut cakes. I’d like to forget that I’m adult, that there are dirty dishes and bad news waiting in the house.

What is your view of pain? she asked me.

I don’t know. I have no opinion of it whatsoever. I would like to find shelter among the close darkness of the tree roots, drinking sustenance from the earth like they do.

redemption way

redemption lane

What is your view of pain?

I don’t know. Does Redemption Way really look like that—dappled shades of peaceful living?

The_ScreamNo. It’s a road flooded with drama, lined with fire, set with sinkholes. You can lose your soul on Redemption Way.

I’d like to stay away from it if I can, sip that acorn tea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

But the goal here is to grow, not shrink.

With every bite you grow larger, Alice.

I suppose I must go through the looking glass to see Redemption Way for what it is. It looks red and screaming from one side; green and healing when I look back over my shoulder, seeing how He carried us.

redemption lane

I have redeemed you
I will be with you
They shall not overwhelm you
You shall not be burned
The flame shall not consume you
I have called you by name

You are mine.

*****

All images owned by Shari Zook, with the obvious exception of The Scream, Edvard Munch, public domain in the United States.