Be Free to Grieve

When a child loses his parent, they are called an orphan When a spouse loses his or her partner, they are called a widow or widower. When a parent loses their child, there isn’t a word to describe them.
— President Ronald Regan

As many of us are all too keenly aware, October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. This month is set aside as a way to recognize and remember the painful loss that so many parents experience in both the United States and around the world. It's a month meant to comfort and grieve. And it is a month meant to inform and provide resources for parents who have lost their children due to miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, stillbirths, birth defects, SIDS, and other causes. It is a month that should be surrounded in providing love and understanding to parents grieving a loss.

One in four couples are thought to experience at least one miscarriage. One in four. As many of you know, we are one of those parents who lost a child due to miscarriage. Jenny and her husand are one of those parents who were faced with complicated medical issues meaning adoption was their only hope to having children. Don't get me wrong... adoption is their passion and they are overjoyed that became their option. But as wonderful as it has been for their precious family, Jenny had to face and work through a very real grief of never having the experience of carrying and birthing a child. 

The more we talk about our own losses and the more we talk to so many of you who have experienced similar losses, one thing has become clear. There is no right or wrong way to grieve the loss of a child. 

There are some of us who, at the mere mention of a past pregnancy, can tell you the day they found out they were pregnant, their original due date, how old their child would be today and the day they lost their child. They find comfort in the dates. Through the remembrance of dates, they fight to make that child's life count. Many friends who fall into this category have found it a beautiful reminder and memento of hope and grief to keep a little token on a bookshelf in their homes to remember the child by. Several of them have little figurines of angels or a little boy or girl playing. Some keep the ultrasound pictures tucked away in the worn pages of their Bibles. Some have a tattoo they've added with simply the awareness ribbon and a date. These tokens, these reminders, have brought about much peace to their families by reminding them they, for however briefly, loved this child deeply. Whether they were ever able to hold them in their arms here on earth, they are comforted in knowing how much they were loved in their hearts.

There are some of us who cannot bear to remember the dates. We could go back and figure them out if pressed. We could comb through doctors records and calendars and find the dates that marked our greatest loss. But for us, remembering the dates means remembering a pain that was almost too much to bear. I fall under this category. As good as I am with remembering the most useless numbers in the known world, I could not tell you the date I began to miscarry. I could not tell you what my due date was for our first child. I don't want to remember to dates, the pain. However, my first child, my first pregnancy was no less real. I think of my child I lost often and miss him or her deeply. I wonder what he or she would look like now. Though I don't remember my first due date, I know he or she would be five now and I wonder just what he love doing? What would make her laugh? What would make him cry? I don't have any tokens set on my shelves to remind me of my angel baby. But I do find that I am attracted to buying jewelry that includes an angel wings. I just bought a cute necklace that in the little pendant included both a key and an angel wing. As I wear it, I find myself gripping onto it, lost in thought about how my angel baby was the key to unlocking my heart for God. Through dealing with the grief of my loss angel baby, I was able to fully give God my entire heart. I find myself praying often for him/her when I wear it and thinking fondly of the day I will be reunited with him/her in heaven. I long for the day I can finally hold my first precious child in my arms.

Friends, there is no right or wrong way to grieve the loss of a child. There is no minimum length of pregnancy for it to count when you heart breaks. So often I hear well-meaning friends say things like "well at least you weren't pregnant very long, so that probably makes it better." We all know that's not true. I cannot begin to understand the pain and loss of another. I cannot comprehend the emotional blow one undergoes when they have a stillbirth and an empty nursery to return home to. But I also know that does not in any way lesson the pain of what we went through in my first trimester loss at 10 weeks. Grief was never meant to be compared. Grief doesn't come with a manual or an expected time to recover from it. Grief is something that should bring us together. Rather than comparing whose grief is greater or loss more dramatic, let's just simply acknowledge it is 100% real by the one working through it. Let's simply give a hug and a shoulder to lean on and a "I know, I've been through it too." There is so much healing that takes place in that little statement, in that reminder that the brokenhearted one is not alone. 

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
— Psalm 34:18

For those of you who have dealt with pregnancy and infancy loss, I am so sorry. My heart breaks with and for you. I pray you have found a support system that will allow you to grieve at your own pace, in your own time, and even years later look back with those memories and lost dreams. We are not meant to be permanently paralyzed from a loss, but surely we are forever marked by the impact that precious life had on us, regardless how brief. I do pray that in whatever way you need to grieve, that you give yourself the grace to do so. I pray you and your spouse cling to one another and support each other as you face your grief both jointly and independently. I pray your grief brings you closer and closer to experiencing the beautiful and completely healing comfort and hope of God. I pray you take as long as you need and you keep grieving until you find yourself surrounded in a peace that takes away your pain.

If you have experienced pregnancy or infant loss, or if you are having to come to terms with grieving that you will never be able to carry a child on your own, Jenny and I would love to pray with you and to love on you. Please leave a comment below with as much or as little detail as you are comfortable with or write us at hi@ournotsoengineeredlife.com and know you, your family, and your little one will be prayed for. We have been where you are and we are permanently changed by what we experienced.