David Murray has some very helpful things to say about depression and ministering to the depressed.
HT: Justin Taylor
David Murray has some very helpful things to say about depression and ministering to the depressed.
HT: Justin Taylor
Back in July, after my miscarriage, my dad came over and planted a tree in our yard as a memorial to the little one we said goodbye to. Spring has made it green and growing.
It seems fitting to me that the tree is an early bloomer.
My own excitement at seeing the blossoms was matched only by my oldest daughter’s, who is committed to watering the tree.
I look forward to many years of blossoms as we remember our early bloomer who God took in His timing–His perfect timing–which will probably always seem early to me.
It’s not an easy topic for me.
But it is what I’m living with day after day. And in my naivete I thought it would be easier.
Not that being pregnant now isn’t a blessing. Not that it isn’t exciting and wonderful and anticipatory. It is. And I thank God for it.
But it’s also scarier. Like the shine has come off of the penny. And it’s more real– less myopic, if that makes any sense.
Strangely enough the easiest person to talk to about the new baby is my 5-year-old daughter Eliza. Probably because every single time we talk about the new baby in mommy’s tummy, when we end, she always finishes up by saying, “if this one doesn’t die.”
All our plans and hopes and speculation may happen, “if this baby doesn’t die.” She couldn’t be more right. She acknowledges and actually speaks out loud what I am thinking most of the time and don’t have the guts to say.
Plus, by saying, “if this baby lives,” she is remembering the baby who didn’t live. Not many people do that. I’m sure it would be a hard thing to do, if you’re a friend. But, I’ll speak for myself when I say, remembering matters. It’s validating, albeit sad, to fill out a form at the doctor that lists this pregnancy as my 5th, even though, if/when this baby is born it will be my 4th child to bring home. It’s validating, because, at least in some small clinical way, it’s remembering.
Remembering with words matters. Speaking things out loud matters.
What a gift to me that Eliza gets it. And what a gift that she isn’t taking this new one for granted. She doesn’t pray for it to be a girl or a boy. She just prays that he or she will live (although, without realizing it she’s started to refer to the baby as “her”).
I pray the same thing as Eliza. And I spend a lot of time praying that God would make me treasure Him so much, that somehow, if I lost another, I would grab hold of Him in the darkness, and be willing to trust that He is good. Again.
Tomorrow is my 16 week checkup. This baby is more than twice as old as the last one lived to be. What an impact those short weeks of life and subsequent death had on me. They have made me more thankful and less entitled about the past 16 weeks of new life.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us.”
Everybody has rough days. Hard days. Painful days. Difficult days.
It’s one of the things every human has in common, isn’t it? It’s easy to become myopic on these days.
Lately I’ve been trying to recognize what God’s grace looks like in my life on these difficult days. Intellectually I know that God’s grace may very well be the difficulty. But in the midst of it, I rarely feel this. Although knowing it does make a huge difference.
Anyway, today I’m making a small list of how God’s grace is felt by me in the hard moments.. sometimes moments that string along for days or weeks.
1) I feel God’s grace when my 5-yr-old daughter sees my difficulty and ministers to me by offering to play with her younger sister in the other room. Thank you Lord.
2) I feel God’s grace through a husband who’s willing to do whatever it takes to make sure his wife is well-cared for.
3) I feel God’s grace when phone call from a stranger jars me out of some unhelpful thoughts and unwittingly reveals that my life is really a string of blessing upon blessing.
4) I feel God’s grace in Advil Liquid Gels.
5) I feel God’s grace in a messy house that is evidence that we have friends who like us enough to come to our home and stay for a few hours. I wish it lasted longer.
6) I feel God’s grace in a schedule that is empty today, but full tomorrow, and keeps me from drowning at home.
7) I feel God’s grace in the ministry of His Word. It is powerful. It is active. It contains the power and Person of the Gospel, which I need. Everyday.
8) I feel God’s grace in the gift of prayer. The Spirit and the Lord Jesus make it possible for me to pray to God the Father. They cover me and utter for me. They bring me to the throne of a Tender Father, not a wrathful one.
9) I feel God’s grace in the sun heating up my back as I type this. And a house with many windows that lets it stream in. And when I’m done I will turn around and soak it in on my face and my eyeballs.
10) I feel God’s grace in that, when I sat down, I only had 4 or 5 things to list as His felt grace for today, but He is faithful in showing me many more. More than I could ever record.
How are you experiencing His grace today?
I think a lot of miscarriages happen with little said or done.
Many women miscarry before they’ve had the chance to tell family and friends that they’re pregnant. And so, after the loss of their little ones, they soldier on. The baby is remembered mainly in the heart of a grieving mother.
For me, it’s helpful to have physical reminders of the little one who’s no longer with us. It helps me to keep from feeling like I’m grieving for something small and insignificant.
A visible physical reminder says, “Yes, there was a baby in you. Yes, you did carry him or her. Yes, you had a lifetime of love for that little one. Yes, the baby was taken away in a physically painful and heart-wrenching way. It was all real. It happened.”
And I want to remember that baby. I want to remember the happy months of that pregnancy.
So, I have two ways of doing that. I didn’t come up with either way.
The first is something my friend told me she does. She keeps a memory box of everything relating to the babies no longer with her. I keep my things in a file. Sympathy cards that people have given me, special emails printed out, congratulations from when we announced we were expecting. Anything tangible that relates to the baby goes in my file.
The second is a tree that my parents bought for us and my dad came and planted in our yard. It’s a white blossoming crabapple. (And yes, I will dig it up and take it with us if we ever move). It was a very thoughtful gesture by my dad and it means a lot to me.
The kids helped plant it and after they were done Tom read most of Psalm 139 for us and prayed. It’s been helpful for the kids in understanding what happened. They know the baby in my tummy died, and our baby tree helps them remember it in a sweet and sad way; remembering and honoring.
And I’m hoping that as the tree grows and blooms it will be a sweeter remembrance to me than it is now. A reminder of a gift that was given only for a short time, but of eternal value.
I think when difficulties/trials/catastrophes/sufferings are brought to bear on our lives, an apt message to preach to our own soul is always, “Repent!”
It’s so offensive. And the message seems to rub salt in the wound. It’s kind of like, “Hey, I am enduring a terrible loss, the last thing I need to do is be reminded that I’m a terrible sinner.”
And, for many, it seems to imply that if only we had repented sooner, the calamity would not have happened, so then guilt follows, as if we caused the calamity. (For instance, if I hadn’t made an idol of my children, the Lord wouldn’t have taken one away).
But not everyone who loses a child has made an idol of them. So, what then? Is the message still “repent”? And I think it is. God’s purposes in the trials He brings to us are beyond finding out. And I believe the purposes are vast, not singular. And I also believe that for those who are in Christ, they are always good purposes.
[Sidebar: I am NOT advocating that friends who see another friend experience a trial immediately respond with the message, "Repent!" Bad form! We don't want to end up like Job's "friends." And if you are prone to pointing out the reasons why a certain trial has befallen a friend (unless there is obvious consequence-producing sin), think twice. God's ways are unsearchable. Humble yourself, you may be next.]
Repentance is always good for us and we’re always in need of it.
Shortly after I found out I was pregnant with the little one that the Lord took at 8 weeks, I wrote this:
“Not all calamities and sufferings are given for the specific cause of jerking us out of rebellion. But I dare say that all calamities and suffering should have the effect of causing us to draw nearer to God.
So, I’m praying now, as things are good and blessings flow like water and honey in my life, that I’ll think now about how to respond when calamity comes. That I’ll get a footing for the hard times that I may one day face.
And that my footing will be in the Word and in Jesus Christ, the one Mediator between God and man, without whom, meeting my Maker would be more fearsome than any earthly calamity.”
How often the Lord has brought this to mind as I wage war against being engulfed by sorrow. I preach to myself, “Repent! Draw near to God. Get your footing in the Word. Gaze at the cross. Do not fear the loss of a child, fear the Lord and love Him.”
[Pastor John has some thoughts on repentance and tornadoes today..]
It’s called, A Grief Conserved, and I recommend it.
Here’s how it begins:
“Something’s wrong with this baby,” my ultrasound technician told me. She had just scanned Mrs. Jones (a fictitious name) at 20 weeks and went on to describe her findings, findings that surely meant little chance of survival for that baby. As I later spoke with Mrs. Jones to relay the findings, she wept. I arranged an appointment with a maternal-fetal medicine (MFM) specialist.
The next day I received an urgent call from my patient. Through more tears, she described her visit in which the MFM doctor confirmed the grim prognosis. The baby would die, probably within a week or two. The MFM insisted on scheduling her for an abortion in three days. “Do I have to have an abortion?” she asked. I promised to call the MFM and assured her she did not have to abort.
The reality of unborn babies with fatal genetic abnormalities often goes un-talked about. At least it seems that way to me. I think it’s worth considering, especially for those of us who have had no reason to consider it: how we would handle a baby in utero that will almost inevitably die prior to birth?
The article continues:
“But what happens when a routine 20-week ultrasound shows a baby with a profound abnormality, possibly an abnormality that will certainly result in the death of the baby prior to or shortly after birth? Or when a genetic test is done and shows similar results and the patient then decides against abortion? What then?
Enter perinatal hospice, the brain child of Byron Calhoun, a pro-life maternal-fetal medicine specialist.
Perinatal hospice honors life. The woman carrying the disabled child receives extensive counseling and birth preparation involving the combined efforts of MFM specialists, OB/GYN doctors, neonatologists, anesthesia services, chaplains, pastors, social workers, labor and delivery nurses, and neonatal nurses. She carries the pregnancy to its natural conclusion. She and her husband are allowed to grieve and prepare for the short time God may grant them with their child while their baby lives inside or outside the womb. Such a process obviates the grief caused by elective abortion, killing the child before it could be born.
I think perinatal hospice is something worth knowing about and relaying to your friends. We cannot know what the Lord may have in store for us. Take a minute and read the rest of the article. Here’s the last clip I’ll offer:
“Even those mystified by a patient choosing life have recognized the value of Calhoun’s idea, as perinatal hospice programs now dot the nation. But this mystery is no mystery to us. As Job 1:21 states, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
I’ve noticed that there is definite protocol on what to say and what not to say when someone has experienced loss.
I’m not sure anyone knows exactly what the protocol is, but it’s out there, eluding people, nonetheless.
My mom said a funny thing to me the other day. She said, “I feel badly. I went and looked up some resources on comforting people dealing with miscarriage and realized that I’ve already said three of the things you’re not supposed to say.”
I chuckled a little and said, “Really? I hadn’t noticed.” And it’s true. I hadn’t.
Two opposite realities have emerged as I listen to people talk to me, trying to provide some comfort and consolation:
1) If they really love me (or you), they can’t say the wrong thing. All the remarks that may not be perfect melt away when I see the true care they have for me in the Lord. Some friends seem to have a window into your soul, while others struggle to understand, but either way, their love covers it all.
2) Everything everyone says feels, in some sense, like the wrong thing, because it feels like there is only one “right” thing and that would be to tell me that none of this happened and my little one is still alive and growing in my tummy.
So, on the one hand, no one can say the right thing, because no one can tell me it was all a bad dream. And on the other hand anyone can say the right thing, if they’re motivated by genuine love.
I don’t want to negate the fact that some very insensitive things are said to people during their time of grief. I’m not immune to this and I think it’s good to have some “don’t say” lists to de-hallmark-ize and de-trivialize the things people get in the habit of saying.
But, on the other hand, people get paralyzed when they’re made to feel that no one can or should speak into another’s loss.
All this to say that if it comes down to a choice between avoiding and saying nothing versus taking a risk and saying the less-than-perfect thing, I vote for the latter.
I’d rather have someone who really loves me step up and say something, than look at me uncomfortably from a distance and feel that avoidance is a must because they don’t want to say the wrong thing. Even when I’m emotionally exhausted and want to be left alone, the person who speaks to me out of their love for the Lord and for me can never be faulted.
And who knows but that the Lord might use those words or the remembrance of their care at a later time to minister to my soul.
So my encouragement to you, dear reader, is to be the body of Christ to your grieving friends: be His arms around them and His soothing voice comforting them. And if you’re the one hurting, let them do that for you, even if it isn’t how you would have scripted it. That’s what I’m aiming for, very imperfectly, as I walk in this valley.
Believe it or not, I usually have a pretty clear head. I’m a straight thinker. Clear lines, logical progressions, even with the chaos of motherhood, I can usually keep my thinking fairly rational.
But this past week I have felt the person who is normally driven by reason disappear.
Grief and sorrow will do that to you.
So I’ve decided to sort out the grief and the good things of this past week. And many hold elements of both. Nothing is clean and simple here.
1) I feel grief and goodness that my miscarriage started while we were at the funeral of Tom’s 102 year old aunt, who was passionate for Jesus.
2) I felt mostly grief, but a tinge of goodness, when our family sat down for supper for the first time since the miscarriage and Eliza went to get napkins, and the only ones we had had a picture of baby’s feet at 10 weeks old in the womb on them. I held back the tears as ten-week-old baby feet sat in my lap.
3) I felt mostly goodness, but some grief, when Eliza told me, with hope in her eyes, she would pray for God to give us another baby.
4) I feel grief and goodness, when many of my friends who are expecting babies, come to give me hugs and their tummies stick out into my empty one.
5) I feel incredible goodness when my friend, who’s been through this all too many times, tells me that she has a special love for and relationship with her friend’s child born at the time her baby should have been. She is a miracle to me.
6) I feel grief and goodness when so many friends offer to bring meals and care for us in every possible way. We are blessed with people we don’t deserve, and yet, the meals and offerings mean that something has happened that I want to pretend didn’t happen.
7) I feel grief that Tom and I are walking through this sadness, but goodness that we’re walking through it together.
8) I feel goodness when I look at the three child-gifts that came to me without complication or heartache. I have taken that for granted for much too long.
9) I feel grief and goodness when I read or hear of other’s experiences of loss: grief and anger that I have joined their ranks; goodness that they are there, ministering to me in my sadness and denial.
10) I feel grief that my plans won’t happen. I had this baby planned. And now my plan is foiled. But, I know that this is the ultimate goodness, because my plans aren’t trustworthy and good. They’re just mine.
So I may not feel the goodness of His plan yet, but I know His plan is good and I’ll spend my life discovering and feeling the ways that His plan is better, while I grieve over the ways He has wounded me with His good plan.
It’s with a heavy and broken heart that I write to say I miscarried our little one this past weekend.
We are grieving the baby that has left us with an empty belly and empty arms.
I am wishing that I could have had one more day, or week, or month to carry him or her. Each day was unspeakably precious and brought so much joy and anticipation.
It is a low time for us as we think of the little one that the Lord lent to us for what seems like much too short a time. I was 8 weeks along in the pregnancy.
The time with that little one was worth all the heartache that losing him or her now brings. The Lord has taken away. His name is still blessed.
He has not forgotten us. The Man of Sorrows remembers us in our affliction.
Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall!
20 My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me.
21 But this I call to mind,
and k therefore I have hope:
22 l The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; 
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
26 It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
27 It is good for a man that he bear
the yoke in his youth.
28 Let him sit alone in silence
when it is laid on him;
29 let him put his mouth in the dust—
there may yet be hope;
30 let him give his cheek to the one who strikes,
and let him be filled with insults.