The Tunnel: days following a miscarriage

empty arms october pregnancy loss awareness october pregnancy infant loss awareness October is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month. I invite you to read these words from Chelsea, our last guest post for the month. Chelsea and her husband have been married for over 10 years. She loves americanos, is a notary, and is trying to radically pursue what it means to die to herself. She has walked through 4 IVF's and 6 IUI's, and through all of that a lot of pain, loss and 3 miscarriages. Meet Chelsea:

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“I’m so sorry to tell you …”

All the phone calls started the same way. In some cases, I was anticipating this call, the bleeding had already started. In others, the hope levels had risen high enough in my chest to anticipate a different set of words coming from the doctor’s mouth. Either way, the outcome was the same. “This pregnancy is no longer viable. I am sorry to share that you are miscarrying.”

Numbness set in. Tears flowed. Questions started flying up to God faster than my brain could think them. My heart would pound loudly. I’d feel sick to my stomach. “This is happening. I am losing my baby.”

When Natalie asked me to write something for her blog, I wanted to invite you into this small, dark tunnel that is the days following a miscarriage. Because miscarriages happen. Not just to me and my husband, but to you or your friend or your sister-in-law or your pastor’s wife. We have walked into this dark tunnel 3 separate times, and each time, the loss and grief is unique, yet overwhelming.

I remember my first miscarriage, lying on the bed, genuinely wondering if I would ever be able to get up again. Every part of me ached. I cried over the loss of dreams, the life that we would never see. I felt physically, emotionally and spiritually strained. God, where are you? Why me?

The heaviness almost became unbearable. I could feel the weight of sadness puncturing my soul, encasing me like a thick wool blanket. I remembering feeling so thirsty but knowing that drinking water would only eventually result in a trip to the bathroom, which held a painful, visible reminder to the sorrow I was feeling.

One of the many hard parts about miscarrying was realizing that life was still going on around me. Days began to pass and with it, I had to shower, grocery shop, go to work, cook dinner, visit the doctor. The fact that people around me were smiling and laughing seemed so surreal. Didn’t they know how sad I felt?

I remember the first time my husband and I laughed together after each of our miscarriages. It almost felt disloyal to our angel baby. Were we allowed to be happy and laugh when that baby never would?

Slowly, and only thanks to God’s peace, strength and presence, the sadness got a little less heavy. It still lingered, mostly catching me off guard in small moments - observing a child at Target, watching a mom hustle a crying baby out of a church service, seeing a commercial on TV with a tiny infant. My breath would catch and my eyes would fill. I would slip in and out of present moments and into a delicate room of reflection and sorrow.

The reality is, deep grief, that kind that comes after losing a child through miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss, can be all-consuming. Even when you believe in God, even when you know His promises are good, even when you feel His peaceful reassurance of His presence. Even then, grief is hard. Sadness is real, loss is tangible, yet Hope is at hand.

Friends, grieving takes time and there is no right or wrong way to do it. If you need to rest, do it. If you need to scream into a pillow, do it. If you want to hibernate and grieve quietly, do it. If you need to cry, rent The Notebook and sob. If you need to eat McDonald’s French fries, eat them. If you want to go to the movies, grab a drink with friends or sit in a coffee shop, go there. The truth is, there is no wrong way to grieve. Be gentle with yourself. Give yourself the permission to take care of YOU. Be cautious not to shut out your partner. Keep those lines of communication open, even if it’s just to whisper “I feel sad today”.

Put your healing first. Trust that those around you know you are doing the best you can. Sometimes it means you simply have to walk through an ocean of tears.

Healing takes prayer. It takes bringing your grief to His feet each and every day, even if you have no words left to say. God is big enough for your questions, compassionate enough to gather you in His arms, gentle enough to calm you. And even then, it will still hurt. But, in time, it will hurt a little less. The tears do slow down. I promise. Then, the heavy wool blanket of grief that covered you will start to feel a little bit more like a cotton afghan, then a thin scarf, and at some point, you will be able to separate that fabric from hanging on you all the time. The tunnel opens up, fresh air lets in, and a renewed strength comes. When that time comes, it doesn’t mean you have forgotten. It simply means you are moving forward with a new beautiful scar on your heart.

The tunnel is never easy but the words of Psalm 34:18 (ESV) encourage my heart: “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Friends, let’s thank Him today for His goodness even in the sorrow. And let’s remember we are never, ever alone.

With love and hugs,

Chelsea

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Thanks for reading! I love to get to know new friends. Feel free to check out my personal blog at www.trialsbringjoy.com or on Instagram at @chels819.

To the Christian, walking through suffering

to the christian walking through suffering Dear You, yes, you who is walking through suffering, wading through the trenches of grief and irrevocable loss, as well as trying to honor God and "be the Christian you're called to be."

You don't have to have it all together. You don't have to live a picture perfect life, forcing smiles and lifted hands when you'd rather fall to your face and crumble into the carpet fibers. Your grief is valid. Your suffering undeniable. You have permission to be human.

You have been told to lift your hands and praise God through the storm, because that's what Christians do. You have been told to smile and believe that it doesn't hurt, because Christians don't have to hurt, they have God. You have been told that this happened for a reason, Gods timing is perfect, and that if you don't have peace or joy amidst your hell-on-earth, you obviously don't have faith in the same God as I do.  You have been told that this life doesn't matter, only the next. To shrug it off and get over it, move on already. And I know, trust me, because I have said some of these things, the words are mostly from pure hearts wanting to help; when you're able, see through the clouded fog of hurt and grasp their pure loving heart.

Yes, I believe in peace that surpasses understanding. Yes I have experienced glimpses of joy amidst the most treacherous of days. Yes I believe that God will use things for a greater good. But I also believe that it is okay to be honest with where you're at. Even if its "ugly." Especially if its ugly. I also believe that there are dark nights of our souls, and that joy comes in the morning, whenever the morning comes. I believe that life consists of times of complete light hearted joy, of morning light, but that those times are followed by the dark night. That night is inevitable, we cannot deny or escape it, and that morning will come, but until it does, you are stuck in the night.

Sometimes trusting Him when everything is coming undone looks like staining your tears into the carpet, head bowed, palms up in surrender, letting Him know your honest heart. Just because you're walking in grief and experiencing despair doesn't mean you're not trusting Him. Grief doesn't mean you're not being a "good Christian." We must move away from the idea that there is a measuring stick. Jesus wept and mourned and let His tears fall to the ground; He weeps and breaks with you, my friend.

Dear You, who is breaking to pieces, only when you're alone out of fear for disappointing humans.. Dear You, who carries the weight of guilt and shame for feeling sorrow, on top of the weight of grief.. Dear You, who feels lonely, isolated, separated from the rest of humanity as you walk through suffering alone, for fear of what new advice you'll hear next...

Please breathe. Please be kind to yourself. Please be gentle. Please be honest.

Suffering comes in many forms. It is not comparable or quantifiable.

Whether you are walking through suffering isolated or with people by your side or a mixture of both, (because though people are there, this is a journey with you and Jesus), I need you to know that God is glorified regardless of the way "you are." Regardless of if you lift your hands and say the right words and plaster on a smile that isn't genuine .. OR if you're damaged, breaking daily all day, wondering if you can make it through the next hour, feeling like a complete train wreck, a messy pile of broken flesh with a bleeding heart, He will still be glorified. 

Those words were the words that saved me in my darkest days of this year. When I was tempted to throw away my desire to be authentic and real, when I thought that plastering on fakeness was the way to save who I was, to save my friendships and relationships, to save my Christian-Faith...those words were what stopped me up, halted me, exclaimed that Jesus needs my honesty and integrity, He does not need a certain way of being.

May integrity and honesty protect me,     for I put my hope in you. Psalm 25:21

No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,     and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy,     and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

The way of honesty is the way of humility, the way of humility is the way of Christ.

Lets get back to the key words that I am here to remind you: Jesus will be glorified even if you are a train wreck. Jesus doesnt ask you to muster up and will yourself to be what you're not. He doesn't ask you to fake it 'til you make it.

You see that's the thing about God. He has His way. He will bring people closer to His cross, His heart, regardless of how you walk [or limp] through suffering. This is a beautiful thing, my friend: He will do the work of bringing glory to His name. Jesus does not place a heavy burden on you to pretend or makeshift an attitude that is not feasible, or honest. Your job is to cling to the cross, to cling to Christ, and be honest before His feet. Even if that honesty says, "Im upset, I'm hurt, I don't get it, I am not liking this, I don't know what to pray." Even if the words sound 'unChristian.'

He will bring glory to His name without you mustering what you do not have. 

I'm beginning to believe that as long as you're honest, He will use you powerfully. That especially in your suffering and ugliness and damaged brokenness, He will prevail and shine His glory and love and grace.

He is most evident in your weakness."My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness."  God is revealed through the broken cracks of who you are.

I see Jesus when I look at Christine and Keith; completely surrendered in humility, bending beneath the weight of the story that is being written for them. Their story is not a desired one; their story is that of broken bodies and broken hearts, diseases that will not leave until Heaven is reached, dreams and plans buried. Christine does not jump for joy at the story being written for her, at the cup she is being served. They are not asking for more suffering; yet they still brings these burdens to His feet, day after day. Christine faithfully and boldly asks Jesus for healing, continually bends to His will and His way, and aches to trust Him. She told me it isn't easy. It isn't glory.  She doesn't pretend or make light of their suffering; not even on Sunday morning. She is honest and clear about the pain and the agony of disease and the thief that it is.

In the broken cracks of who she is and the damaged part of her heart, Jesus reveals Himself more clearly than she may ever know.

Dear You. Keep on keeping on...even if keeping on is simply breathing in and breathing out, opening your eyes.. or not. Keeping on may mean you're simply choosing to breathe.

Dear You: please be kind to yourself, be gentle. The grace that engulfs is thick and unending.

It's okay to be human.

 

In the trenches of grief

finding christ in grief Trudging through grief is like trudging through mud. Mud as waves: powerful and thick, vast and unknown, mysterious and dangerous, dominant.

[My eyes are red with weeping; darkness covers my eyes. -JOB 16:16]

[Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. -KING DAVID Psalm 30:5]

As the waves of sorrow billow onto the shore of where you once stood, you wonder when and how and why you are now in the middle of the gushing water that threatens to crush your fragile and frail body.

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[I too have been assigned months of futility, long and weary nights of misery. When I go to bed, I think, 'When will it be morning?' But the night drags on and I toss til dawn. -JOB 7:3-4]

You catch glimpses of rocks, boulders, in the distance and wonder how they remain so faithfully strong up against the wall of the earth. They bolster the dirt that turns into mountains and you wonder how they do that? How do stones enlarge themselves to be strong and mighty, so much so that they hold up the earth as hills to hike and we walk above and below and beside them? How do those stones and those rocks abide on the shore and never leave land, continuing to exist safely ashore? Sure, high tide kicks in and the swelling waves sink their splashes onto the rock's surface; but never are the rocks, boulders, hurled into the depths of those surging masses of water in danger. The rocks do not toss around among the towering surges of ocean, they are not fickle and weak, bending beneath the strength of...water. They dwell in the sand upon the shore at the very base of the mountain. If only you could stand on that rock.

[The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. -KIND DAVID Psalm 18:2]

Grief is dreadful and distressing, often dislocating you into the dwelling of depression. Pressed deep within yourself, that is how depression feels. Pressed-deep within yourself. Trapped, entangled, imprisoned by self and sorrow and sadness and suffering.

[I cannot keep from speaking. I must express my anguish. I must complain in my bitterness. -JOB 7:11]

Some sit with you in silence, not forcing words or furthering hurt. Some hug you as you sob and pray with you when you have no words. And it is no wonder God gave us the church - to find a few close friends who offer grace instead of shame.

Some say [out of love] they understand but they don't. How could they? They are not you; they do not feel your feels or know your heart or know your time with Him. They may understand to an extent but this was not given to them to process, this was given to you and only He fully understands. They assume incorrectly and offer formulas that mean nothing but agony and guilt to you. Formulas that sound righteous and right, holy and honorable, devoted and devout. But formulas are just that: formulas. And He does not work with formulas. There is no formulating your way out of the trenches of grief and despair and into His place of peace and refuge. There is no one formula to march out from the waves with your very own strength to stand upon the Rock. I know this so well, because often I am placed in the category of "they," in my self-righteous state of thinking I know. And for that I am terribly and awfully sorry. Gravely, I apologize for thinking that I know where you are, because surely I do not. I am not Him. I am both culprit and critic. I am guilty as charged.

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[People who are at ease mock those in trouble. They give a push to people who are stumbling...Please be quiet! That is the smartest thing you could do. -JOB 12:5, 13:5]

I have something for you, dear Reader, who may reads these words and may [or may not] nod with each syllable. I have something for you that was given to me today, as I was stuck in the depths of despair, unsure that I could be pulled out. As I drove from point A to point B in my shiny vehicle-car, I sobbed into the wheel that steers and I had no will and no discipline to speak Truth to combat the dark cloud that looms all the days and all the nights, stringing together in darkness. But I have a friend that is dear, dear to me and dear to you, now, because I will share the Truth words she sent to me while I was out in the waves being tossed around much like a rag doll. Brace yourself now, for tears will ensue if you are needing a stony hard and angry heart to be broken and crumbled at the cross in humility. Ready? Commence reading and read aloud:

I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Your plans are to bring me good and not to harm me.

You will never leave or forsake me.

You have loved me with an everlasting love.

Nothing can separate me from the love of God.

I am made in your image.

In you, I am new.

You are faithful.

As I obey you, you will give me the desires of my heart.

Even the birds are beautifully clothed and fed, you care for me.

You clothe me in strength and dignity.

You uphold  the weak and comfort the broken hearted.

Sorrow is for a short while but your joy will come in the morning. Your joy is my strength.

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My dear Readers, many whom I know and many I do not, I pray hopeful prayers that your eyes can be wide open for the healing balm of beauty of this earth, ears open to the morning sounds of bird's praises, and your senses open to the gifts of tastes and smells that delight you. It is in the small and minute that we can find grace to get through the long and low days. I am beginning to believe that it is in the trenches of grief that we can find Him more than we ever have, among the pain and the aches and the agony and they heart-breaks. In the trenches of grief, He is there, still and quiet, but there. May your heart be touched with the duplicity of love reaching out to you through your sorrow. I pray these things would be written on your heart as He relentlessly pursues you with His overwhelmingly beautiful love.