I remember this one time I told my friend, scared at the thought of moving into an apartment all alone, that she is never actually alone. We talked about God’s omnipresence, sharing the desire to rest secure knowing that He is always with us. I watched that truth flood her soul over the next few months, the truth that God was near. Maybe it’s a Sunday School 101 response or trite way to cope, easing the pain of loneliness, but it’s still true. I’m finding much comfort rehearsing to myself that God is with me. God will never abandon me or leave me. He is Emmanuel – God with us.
I wrote the above about 3 months ago. And at that time, I really believed it.
Then I found out I was pregnant. Fifteen days later, I woke up to cramping and bleeding, and in that Tampa hotel, in the middle of the night, I felt completely alone. And completely out of control. I knew I was miscarrying and I couldn’t do anything about it.
For the next three hours, all I could do was lay there, whispering, “You give and take away – blessed be Your Name.” Once daybreak hit, I called my husband to tell him our baby was with Jesus. I called my midwife and mentally prepared for the days of bleeding ahead. Then I hid my pain as best I could the next two days of work training. I told my coworkers, and in the only way they knew how, they attempted to comfort me. But I was beside myself. I was so shocked and so sad. And I felt abandoned by the God I thought would never leave me.
The months to follow have been filled with lots of tears, questions, anger, jealousy, counseling, prayers, and silence. I’ve endured the awkward exchanges, the texts and phone calls, all the while trying to keep busy for fear that the grief might consume me if I slow down.
I’m no grief expert, but while I walk through my own pain, I’ve learned a few things about grief. There is nothing anyone can do to “fix” the situation. No one can make the hurting feel better. There is no magic phrase that will take the pain away. But there are some terrible things you can say, that act as lemon juice in a fresh papercut…phrases like:
“Well, you’ll have more kids”
“What can I do for you?”
“At least you weren’t farther along”
“Time heals all wounds”
There is one thing more hurtful than the phrases above and that is the silence. As I slowly told family and friends the sad news, there were many responses of love, shared grief, and prayers. And there were some un-returned texts. Unsure of what to say, they said nothing. And it hurt.
Some people think it’s painful if they bring up the loss and continue to follow up in the days and weeks to come, so rather than “bombard” the grief-stricken, they make a blanket statement “I’ll be thinking/praying for you – let me know if you need anything.” And that’s the last they mention it. The problem with this, at least for me, is this loss is always on my mind and you cannot make me more sad than I already am by acknowledging the pain and asking how I’m doing. So when you keep ignoring the elephant that is my grief, when you avoid grabbing coffee with me, or calling me, it tells me that you don’t care, that you’ve forgotten, and that I’m all alone.
These months of grieving have made me think a lot about camping. I love camping, the real, cook-your-food-over-the-fire, sleep-on-the-ground camping. The first thing I always do after parking the car, is pitch the tent. I spread it out on the smoothest part of the ground and hammer stakes into ground, stakes angled clasping the corners of the tent as they promise to make the tent unmovable. I’ve been tempted to go camping during this grief. I’ve wanted to pack my most comfy clothes, isolate myself away from everything and everyone and then pitch a tent and just sit in it. Sit in the self-pity, in the anger, the jealousy, the fear, and the deep sadness.
Just when I begin throwing my sleeping bag into my car, I get interrupted. Every interruption has come from a beautiful woman, who decided to show up in my life. Despite her own struggles and her busy schedule, she chose to draw near to me, being so very present. And each one has spoken truth and love and grace over me, allowing me to be honest with myself and with God. Their words have given me the courage to walk around in the grief, rather than just pitch a tent and sit in it.
“I am so sorry.”
“My heart breaks with yours.”
“You are still a mom.”
“I don’t even know what to say.”
“I am praying for you.”
In the midst of grief, questions and emotions swirling around, all I’ve wanted and needed is people who love me to show up in my mess and shine a little light in the darkness. And they have. And I’m so grateful as I’m very slowly coming to believe again that even when I’m the only one in my apartment, I am never alone. Even when I don’t fully believe it, I will keep rehearsing to myself that God is with me. God will never abandon me or leave me. He is Emmanuel – God with us.