Being Thankful in Grief
My daughter and I were the best of friends. People who didn’t know us often thought we were sisters, because of our cheerful camaraderie. She was an only child, and perhaps, growing up as an army family with my husband often away for extended periods, our bond as a mother and daughter grew uncommonly close. All the more reason why her passing cut so incredibly deep.
2013 was a rough year. Health problems emerged for which we never did find the cause, but she began having seizures. There were financial hardships. Then, she and her husband separated. As 2014 began, we looked forward to a more hope-filled and brighter year. We had just celebrated her 36th birthday. And then, suddenly, she was gone.
When tragedies happen, everyone wants to know why. Why did this happen? I don’t have all the answers, but I do know this. In John 16:33, Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.” Life is not always sunny and happy and wonderful. Sometimes, there’s pain. Jesus said himself troubles would come, BUT not to despair. He overcame, so we could be overcomers.
That’s the kind of promise I cling to in my heartbreak. I am thankful for the overcoming grace of God which sustains us, even in this. I am thankful for God’s loving arms which I cling to in my tears. I’m thankful for my relationship with God, and for knowing, before this ever happened, that God is good and kind and loving. He cares, and He carries our grief.
I am thankful for many things. I’m thankful she doesn’t have seizures anymore, and she is completely whole and well. I’m thankful that the cares and heartaches of this world which were such a burden in the last year of her life, no longer plague her. I know she is joyful in the presence of God.
I’m thankful for all the wonderful years of her life we had together. Such good memories to cherish! I might have been childless, otherwise. She was our miracle. I’m thankful for God blessing us with her and for every year of her life.
I’m thankful for what a blessing she was to others. She was a gifted teacher and touched more lives than she even knew. People still come up to us and share anecdotes of ways she ministered to them or their child. I am thankful for her gifts and talents and the precious legacy she left to us.
I had sometimes thought about my daughter’s eventual grief when she would face losing her father and me. I would rather bear this grief for her than that she should have to bear it for us. I’m thankful she won’t have to grieve for us someday.
I’m thankful for this taste of grief, bitter as it is, because I’ve grown so much in ways I might not have otherwise. I never realized how many people are walking through a grief journey of their own. Before, I might have felt compassion, but now, I know what it’s like. It’s true that we are able to comfort others because of the comfort we have received. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
I’m thankful for the promise of heaven for those who trust and believe in Jesus. The movie, Heaven is For Real, came out a short time after her passing, and it blessed us so much. Other books and testimonies have also helped strengthen our vision and understanding of what heaven is like. These things have greatly encouraged and comforted us.
God does not keep every bad thing from happening, but He is very much with us in our sorrow. He comforts, and strengthens, and helps us go on, even when—especially when—we think we cannot. And, that is worthy of thanksgiving.
Sara Faith Nelson is a retired teacher and aspiring writer. She writes devotions and blogs about her grief journey on her website, Sunshine for the Journey. Many have said they’ve been comforted and encouraged by her sharing. On her Facebook page, she enjoys passing on positive and hope-filled messages. She and her husband live in Arizona. Sara enjoys bird-watching, rock collecting, and adding to her collection of coffee mugs and tea cups.
I’m thankful that 6 years ago, I gave birth to the beautiful baby boy who change my life. You see, if it weren’t for him, my husband and I would have never come to Christ. We found out in September of 2008 our baby was going to be born with multiple birth defects. Looking for answers, we walked into the church behind our house. And even though we have switched which church we attend, we have never turned away from our faith we gained during the 10 months of our son’s life. As hard as it was, I wouldn’t trade that time for anything.
I live in central Indiana with my husband and the two beautiful daughters God has blessed me with. I’m fortunate to be a stay at home mom and will be homeschooling my daughters, when they get old enough.
This is a post I’ve tackled before but I’ve switched my blog server around enough that it’s something I thought I’d revisit.
Earlier this month I confessed that I used to hate January 2nd. One year I had a $12,000 car accident while 10 weeks into a high risk pregnancy. Four years later, I learned on January 2 day I miscarried.
Last year I wrote about how it took me a long time to not judge those who ended their pregnancies by choice. I realize that’s something that affects ever one in four women, and on the other side of my grief I understand how many women hurt from that loss. I’ve yet to meet one woman who jumps for joy and exclaims how glad they are that they had an abortion.
But today I’m going to tackle my miscarriage experience. I believe someone out there will read this at just the right time for them, and pray my post helps in some small way.
As I mentioned on January 2, my miscarriage started during worship time at church on New Year’s Eve day. I was an infertility/high risk patient because of PCOS, and had a 30 month old at home. I was so sick during that first pregnancy, and although everyone told me each pregnancy differed, deep down I knew something was wrong from the get-go. I refused to utter it, afraid if I said it, it would come true. Instead, I asked for prayer.
The ER wouldn’t confirm it, instead telling me to wait until the doctor’s office opened at the beginning of the new year. My doctor brought me right in, in fact I was the first ultrasound of their 2001. It didn’t take long for his optimism turn. The progesterone I took to maintain the pregnancy was also why the miscarriage wasn’t showing many physical symptoms. He told me to stop the progesterone and let nature take its course. He gave his condolences, gave me brochures, and scheduled a follow up appointment.
I remember at the time being strong because the office was so sad. I encouraged them and stood tall as I walked out. I was alone because my husband stayed home to watch our son. When I turned on the ignition I heard My Redeemer Lives and the phrase Let Everything that Has Breath Praise the Lord.
I barely made it two steps inside our home when I announced the news, and collapsed into his arms. I don’t know how long I cried, but I did.
The crying didn’t stop for a year.
But that first night I remember needing to attend my brother-in-law’s birthday. Everyone said they would understand if I didn’t go, but we felt like we should. Right before we left our pastor called and offered to come over. My husband answered the call and said it was okay, no need. After all, “We have peace about this.”
That’s when my anger began.
And lasted for a year.
The physical discomfort was there, but all these years later it’s still the onslaught of emotions. I was scared because I didn’t know what to physically expect and it was still, in my opinion, one of those issues you weren’t supposed to talk about. Because of that, I was anxious about what to do when the baby literally passed. Would I recognize what we believed to be our daughter? I was still in the first trimester. This really upset me.
When the time came, I was beside myself. I had no idea what to do and felt like I had no one to talk to.
So I wrapped what I found, small as it was, and kept wrapping, hoping I was being respectful and having a burial of sorts. I hid my wrapping for awhile, still not sure what to do. I don’t know how long I hid everything, but it was a long time. And when I felt the time was right, I took care of the wrapping in a way I felt was respectful and permanent.
Yet—much longer I held onto the cards, letters, articles, notes, and anything that came from that time. I printed all the e-mails. In fact, I still have the box. I wrapped it in pink baby wrapping and everything went in there. Everything. From the congratulations cards when we first announced to the test I had in a baggie to all the cards before and after. In time I let go of the test and probably the cards from the beginning, but I still have the box. I don’t open it anymore, but I know where it is. That 30 month old is now 13 and a few months ago he learned of the miscarriage. I let him know where the box is and we could look at it anytime, or not.
For too long I held onto the anger. For those that have miscarried, they get it. Wal*Mart tempted me in ways I didn’t think possible. I’d see parents slap their young children. Call them the “f” word. Scream at them. I can’t tell you how many times I had to leave the store before I accosted the parents in anger. Justice felt so foreign to me I was certain if I took action, I’d end up in jail, not the parents.
I was angry at teenagers for their pregnancies and my blanket judgement that they were all clueless and undeserving. Big families? Same thoughts. They met their quota, it was someone else’s turn who deserved to be pregnant. Namely, me.
I reserved my deepest seething grudge for my husband. How dare he speak for me, tell our pastor that “we” had peace? We did not. What I didn’t know was right away God gave him a vision of what the baby’s condition was. Her care would have been constant, her pain great. My husband totally got that God is God, and even if we didn’t understand this, we needed to trust Him. I didn’t get that same vision for years.
How did I not become an angry person for life? By His grace, that’s for sure. He let me know if I kept this up, I was doing nothing but “spinning my tires.” Oh how I spun. When it seemed like I’d spin into isolation, furious at the world, my best friend since kindergarten stepped in. I rebuffed her offers for playdates, or for her to come to me. She finally gave a date and time and told me to be there. When I arrived, she let me know I had an hour to speak my mind-say everything, no matter how profane, just get it out. God could handle it. He already knew. So just stop hiding it and let it out.
So I did.
In those 60 minutes, I aired everything growing in my heart, and by speaking it, I grew lighter. When I was done, she led me in prayer for forgiveness, healing, and restoration.
It was amazing.
The process was slow, but I was done spinning tires. In a matter of months I started attending a study at church, and on my own began the Believing God study by Beth Moore. The church study helped me continue to surrender, and there was significant growth in my faith. The Beth Moore study was online with thousands around the world. Toward the end of the study she gave a call to picture our mountain, and watch it crumble. I activated a stomp as I sat in the computer chair, and I could see a huge mountainous boulder turn to little pebbles that I stepped over.
At the end of the study I told God I still wanted to know the medical reason behind the miscarriage. I knew He had every right not to share that with me, but if that was the case, I needed Him to take my longing to know away. A month after the study I learned I had an undetected infection. I was told that yes, that definitely could have been the reason. I took an antibiotic.
A month later, I was pregnant.
If you’re spinning your tires, please know if I could reach across the screen and hug you, I would. I’d tell you that you had an hour to spill it, and nothing would offend me, and that Your Heavenly Father’s shoulders can take it. And then I’d start a prayer and I’d believe God this would be the beginning of the healing process for you. One that would refine you and make you stronger than ever. The same? No. Will you ever forget? No, I haven’t. But I get it.
And one day, I think you will, too.