There’s only one place busier than a restaurant after church, and that’s a grocery store. I grabbed what I needed, headed to an express lane, and that’s when I spotted them—a young couple from my church who had become first-time parents six weeks earlier.
I avoided eye contact but not until after I noticed the baby carrier in their cart, draped in all shades of pink. I tried to blend into the crowded checkout area when I heard, “Hi, Patricia!” I exhaled and put on my best smile as I turned and said, “Hiiii. Oh my goodness, who do we have here?”
The pink blanket was pulled back, but I maintained eye contact with the mom, a perfectly lovely woman who I didn’t know well. I asked how she was feeling, and she looked at her daughter as she spoke.
I felt a hint of panic rise because I knew what I had to do. I followed the mom’s gaze down into the sea of fluffy pink and saw yet another shade of pink in the form of a tiny, sleeping baby. I drew in a jagged breath and spoke the truth.
She was beautiful.
It was hard for me to focus, and I hoped I was oohing and ahhing in the right places. After a few minutes, I wished them a good day, cooed goodbye in the general direction of the shopping cart and dove into a checkout lane.
I dug my fingernails into the palm of my hand, in an effort to distract myself because I could feel my eyes filling with tears. I blinked them down onto my cheeks and quickly wiped them away.
I mentally berated myself for being unable to handle such a situation and ended my thought as I do so often.
…after all this time.
After all this time I still can’t handle something as simple as a chance meeting that includes a baby.
After all this time I can’t deny feeling jealous that everyone else seems to be given this gift except me.
And after all this time, I wonder if I’ll ever find the bottom of my grief.
It’s been a dozen years since my last miscarriage. The one that was met with the realization that the motherhood door was closing and I was to be forever stranded on the other side.
I did my “job” at the time and I grieved. The lost babies, the unfulfilled dreams, the reality of accepting a life so drastically different than the one I’d hoped for.
That makes my grief sound organized and tidy. It wasn’t. It was messy and raw and made me question everything I knew to be real. Including God.
I continued going to church but it was more out of duty than actual worship. The music consistently obliterated what few coping skills I had. Week after week I was gutted by the lyrics, forced to retreat to the back of the darkened sanctuary where it was easier to hide until the message began.
After a couple months of this, a friend of a friend greeted me after the service and asked, “How are you doing?” There was something about his intentional tone of voice, the eye contact, the feeling of genuine concern, that made it hard to fake my typical “I’m ok.”
I sighed, met my friend’s eyes and said, “I just don’t know. It’s not like I’m actually mad at God, I just don’t know what to say to him anymore.”
My friend looked at me with care and said, “God can take whatever you have to tell him.” His gaze moved to the empty space next to where I stood. He nodded toward the space next to my shoulder and said, “He’s been right there with you the whole time, he hasn’t gone anywhere.”
All I could do was nod and choke out a “thank you” as he gave me a hug and moved on.
Grief is in two parts. The first is loss. The second is the remaking of life. ~ Anne Roiphe
I hoped the remaking would lead me back to a prayer life but I still had the bitter taste of the Scriptures that had been my mantra during my pregnancies.
“And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” Matthew 21:22 ESV
I railed at the words. Promises made—but because I didn’t “have faith”—promises seemingly unkept.
Anger didn’t visit nearly as often as Sorrow but when it did, I felt strangely energized. Where Sorrow lay me down on the couch and covered me with an afghan, Anger poked me in the ribs and dared me to strike back.
I clung to snippets of Scripture that matched my mood and Job became Anger’s advocate.
“I loathe my very life; therefore I will give free rein to my complaint and speak out in the bitterness of my soul.” Job 10:1 (NIV)
Finally I had words that resonated. But the energy they provided was fleeting. Cherry-picking Scripture was like binging on candy when what I needed was nourishment that would sustain me.
If grief demanded that I remake my life, it found my prayer life in shambles. Leaving Job behind, I found what matched my broken heart in the Psalms.
“Evening and morning and noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice.” Psalm 55:17 (ESV)
If complaining and moaning counted as prayer, that was something I could get behind. In time, lamenting with Scripture bridged the language barrier of grief when I otherwise had no words. When I didn’t know what to say, he heard my cries. When all I could do was scream, he accepted my anger.
When all I could feel was sadness, he remained near and promised to never leave. And when it felt like I was falling apart, he used my sorrow as mortar to strengthen and reinforce me as He remade my life. To this day—and because Grief doesn’t keep a calendar—as He continues to remake my life.
Even after all this time.