Before I begin this post, I just want to say one thing: this journey has been a process. I didn’t see the joy in the journey right away. Waiting is hard. Loss is exceptionally hard. I had a massive shift of feelings after our loss, and it took me time, a grieving process, and a whole lot of reliance on the Lord to comfort me. Since writing this post, things have gotten easier. I have hosted baby showers, bought pregnancy gifts, “liked” dozens of birth announcements, and even rocked crying infants during Bible studies. I’m writing this post from my perspective five months ago, when I was smack dab in the middle of my grief. Five months ago, I didn’t think I’d ever be able to do any of those things again.
The Feeling Shift
Sunday, November 12, 2017: One Week After Our Loss
My husband and I walked into church on this chilly, autumn morning. He squeezed my hand and smiled at me. It was our first time out in public together after the loss of our baby. My previous venture out of the house had been unsuccessful, but I was very hopeful that today would be good. I needed more than anything to worship my Sovereign King. I needed the songs of praise to wash over my hurting body.But, as I entered the sanctuary, it felt as if every pregnant woman was wearing a bright red shirt, waving frantically at me. All of the sudden I noticed how many newborn babies were at our church. Every little cry and coo I heard in the rows behind me sounded as if someone was holding a microphone up to their lips. What was this about? Why am I noticing these things, Lord? Make it stop!
I ignored the feelings that were rising up in my chest. I was determined that today was going to be a good day. I was so happy to be back at my church home. We worshipped, and then our pastor made his way to the front.
To our surprise, he announced that today was Baby Dedication day.
Our first trip out of the house as a couple after our loss was to the Infant Dedication Day at our church.
Lord, Are you kidding me? What kind of timing is this? You know I can’t do this right now.
Close to twenty couples walked towards the front of the church. Family members snapped pictures, and the whole congregation was all smiles. Today should be a time of celebrating and praising the Lord, but for me it wasn’t. I just lost my first child only 6 days ago. I sat in my chair looking down at my feet; my grief began to overtake me. I wanted to run, but I was afraid that I’d lose it right in the middle of the aisle. I wanted someone around me to know the intense pain that was welling up in my chest. I was angry that these people were getting to celebrate the birth of their new, healthy child, while mine was gone. How could they be standing up smiling, while I was seconds from tears? I wished so badly that someone would take me by the hand, walk me out, and just simply pray over me. I needed prayer desperately, but no one at my church knew we had just lost our baby.
Lord, I wanted so badly for this to be a good day. This is just unbearable. Please, help me, Lord.
Before our loss, babies never bothered me. I would be the first to hold them and sometimes I’d even offer to change their diapers. Now, just a few days after losing my own, I found it unbearable to see expecting mothers and Facebook announcements. The thought of attending baby showers became a trigger to this indescribable pain that I was harboring. The diaper section at Kroger, women with baby bumps, cooing infants, and conversations about babies- all became really difficult to be around and hear. There was definitely a shift that happened after our loss. I had a couple of friends get pregnant right after we lost, and their milestones became very physical reminders to me of how old my baby should be. Their babies were the size of a blueberry; mine should have been the size of a lemon. They smiled at their ultrasound pictures; all I could see were ultrasounds that would never be. The things that used to bring me such joy were being filtered through the lens of my loss. This was what my grief looked like.
Let Yourself Feel All The Feels
I hated that I was feeling this way. I hated the fact that it was difficult to be around those who were celebrating. I felt so guilty and even ashamed. These feelings were so strong, and really hard to bear. I didn’t ask for this. I never wanted this. How do I make it stop? How can there be good that comes from this, Lord?
During this time, the Lord sent a friend from church into my life (God, You really are good!) She had experienced loss twice. She encouraged me by saying,
“Ashley, don’t try to stuff those feelings you are feeling down. Feel them. Really feel them. Allow yourself to cry and shout out to the Lord. Take time to grieve. It’s okay to be sad.”
So that’s exactly what I did. I let myself cry when This Is Us came on later the next week (yes, the episode where Kate loses her baby. Again, this timing you can’t make up.) When Christmas came around, I was reminded again that there would be no special announcement, and I let myself lay in bed sobbing for three nights so inconsolably that even my husband couldn’t comfort me. I let myself be sad. I didn’t stop a single tear; I just let it all go. I let myself take the time to mourn our loss, and I avoided babies and pregnant women for a couple weeks. I let myself feel all the feels.
I let myself grieve, however, I didn’t unpack there forever. I cried for a good month or two, but I didn’t let myself stay stuck in that pain. My Healer was there to heal my broken heart, and He was also there to protect it. After two months of grieving, I made a choice. I began to work hard and (don’t laugh!) I made a scripture-based plan to protect my heart and mind from being jealous, angry, and bitter towards those who were expecting. I knew the Enemy was really wanting to use our loss for evil, but the Lord promised He would bring good from my pain, and I believed Him.
Lord, Don’t Let My Feelings Affect My Faith
I was really grieving, but I didn’t want my feelings to get in the way of the calling the Lord has on my life. I wanted to remain faithful, and I wanted to stay obedient. I didn’t want these feelings to lead me to a place where I was in opposition of Him or the friends around me. I had to rely on the Lord to help me get through this.
My new prayer (and life anthem) became, “Oh Lord, please, don’t let my feelings affect my faith.”
Don’t let my sadness replace the love I have for others. Don’t let jealously or bitterness prevent me from celebrating with others. Don’t let comparison steal my joy. Don’t let doubt or sorrow cause me to not believe your word. Instead, replace my grief with songs of praise and thanksgiving. Replace any jealously or bitterness with the indescribable peace you freely give. Take me to a place where I can comfort others, because you comfort me.
During this tough season, I met another new friend from church (Again, God’s hand!). I confessed all the feelings that I was going through, and she comforted me by saying, “Ashley, I think it’s more than okay to feel this way. This is one season of your life. Eventually it will be easier, but for now, it’s okay.” When she said those words to me, I could exhale. It’s okay. I’m okay. I will be okay! God understands my grief. This is a season. It’s temporary. It’s okay to be sad. This was a big loss. Her words gave me hope, and I started to see some light at the end of these dark two months.
A Thankful Heart Is a Healing Heart
“Give Thanks to the Lord in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
On the days where I was wavering between a good day and a grief filled day, I would make a list of all the things God has blessed me with. This was part of my plan. Gratitude started to heal my wounds, and by God’s abundant grace, He began creating new life in a heart that felt dead. I would sit in my kitchen and I would write down all the blessings that the Lord had already been so gracious in giving me. My husband was always at the top of the list. Taylor was (and is) God’s perfect gift to me. He is my answered prayer. He lead me closer to the Lord during this time and encouraged me the way a husband should. I really rested on those things, and it gave me a whole new mind shift. I shouted my blessings out loud, and my lists usually got drenched in my tears while doing it. It renewed my sad and hurting heart. My renewed heart slowly became a determined heart. I was determined to believe God. I was determined to obey Him. I was determined to have some sort of good come from something so painful. I was determined to praise Him in this storm, because God is good. God was not my enemy.
At the end of all this, I want to be able to say I trusted the Lord with each sad and bumpy part of the ride. I want to have the faith like Job. I want to be obedient like Abraham. I want to hear God and believe Him and be in close relationship with Him. I want to make my Father proud, and I want to trust Him even when it’s hard. I want to be the oak of righteousness He talks about. I want the Lord to plant my roots so deep in Him that all of His splendor can be on display, even in the worst situations.
Want to hear my entire story? Start at Blog Post 00, and follow along in order!
If you just recently experienced loss, and you can relate to this post, please reach out to me! If you need someone to call you and pray for you, let me know! I’d love to pray for you and your spouse! That’s the whole reason why I share! 🙂
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