Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Grief is a Funny Thing

My heart was pounding and I told myself not to cry. It wasn't the first time I've spoken publicly, but it certainly was the most personal presentation I've ever given. Recently I shared our testimony at an event for women and couples who have lost children in and outside the womb through miscarriage, abortion or foster care/adoption, SIDS, etc. I spoke about our recent miscarriage and shared the many and confusing emotions that have ensued in the last four months. 

I made it halfway through without crying. I hate crying in public but the well of emotion spilled over when I spoke of the pain we've wrestled with in regards to our pregnancy loss: "And, because it is fairly common and because it is a less tangible form of loss it’s something that people stop talking about very quickly, and you’re left to tie up loose ends and sort of just move on with life." I stood silent for a minute before continuing, trying to keep the tears from picking up momentum.

Tying up loose ends and just moving on has never been my strong suit. I like solid and decided closure, wrongs to be made right and pains acknowledged. When life doesn't hand me those things, as it rarely does, I try to stuff the confusion and pain below the surface, avoiding the tumultuous emotions and soldiering on, because, what else is there to do? And, isn't that what people expect of us anyway?

But grief is a funny thing. Sometimes its origin and conclusion are easily identified, but often it stretches its painful fingers through time and space, swallowing a specific loss into a vacuum of all your unresolved losses. This has been true for me recently. Our miscarriage has embodied all of the loss we have experienced in the last few years, complicating the already painful emotions. Were my tears for the loss of our baby or  the loss of our beloved city or the isolation we felt as we left? Were they for the years of intense ministry we saw in St. Louis and the distress of seeing so many lost and hurting? Were they tears of decompression as the physically and emotionally intense environment of North City were processed? I still can't tell you.

In the days following the service I have done a lot of thinking and healing, and realizing that I still have so far to go. The service for child loss was a beautiful moment to say out loud what hurts and to look into the eyes of others who understood your pain. It was a time to acknowledge that there is no shame in grieving and, yet, there is hope. There was a sense of closure that accompanied this acknowledgement.

Even in light of this healing experience I am realizing that I still have so far to go. There are many of our recent losses that don't have such poignant closure. Anger, anxiety, guilt, and depression, like concentric circles, can ripple outward from the point of unresolved grief. In the past few weeks I am discovering they have had more impact on my life than I even knew.

As I shared in our testimony, the Lord has been so faithful to our family. He has led us through difficult seasons of life with merciful hands, embodying for us the verses of Lamentations 3:22-24 which say, “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’”

These words are truth and they have been our hope, even in the darkest hours. However, just the other day I realized afresh how I often cling to these words, putting one foot in front of the other, yet don't let them penetrate the deepest places of my heart. During our Sunday service we prayed the words of Psalm 122:7 "[May] peace be within your walls" and I had to admit that there has not been peace within the walls of my heart lately. Processing again the loss of our baby along side our other losses has whipped up the hurricane winds of my mind, spewing random and entangled feelings of sadness and anxiety and guilt anew, and I need the peace of Christ to calm the storm. I find myself frustrated by the one step forward, two steps back, process of healing.

On one hand healing is such a complicated process and yet on the other hand it's not, for in all things the answer is Christ. I don't know if I'll ever be better at handling the loose ends of life, but I can be better at acknowledging my need for and surrender to Christ in all situations. It is he who brings about the healing.

His mercies are new every morning. He is my Hope. He is my Peace. He is my Healer.

1 comment:

  1. We've been experiencing some effects of the "less tangible form of loss" lately, especially as we come up toward Avelyn(Baby #1)'s due date next Friday. Hard to make sense of so much of it - Growing weary of the "How's Jennifer?" question while also not being ready for the idea of No One Cares Anymore.

    So far to go. Yes. So far to go.

    Grace and peace, friends.