Amie, one of our dear contributors here, has kindly offered to share her story of grief and the Lord’s hand in her life amidst great loss. May it be a blessing to you. She will be sharing posts from this series once or twice a week or so for the next month. ~Ashley
When we first became pregnant we were surprised to learn we were pregnant with identical twin girls. 20 weeks into the pregnancy we learned that our girls suffered from a rare condition called Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome. We experienced a miraculous healing of all symptoms related to this deadly disease and at 32 weeks gave birth to our twin girls. Marylou Janice, our firstborn was stillborn. Providence Joy was just over 2lbs. There was no known cause for Marylou’s death. Time has given me the courage to share some of what God has taught me through our experience of anticipation, joy and grief. It is my hope that I can use this venue and our journey to share with you, dear reader, pieces of what we have learned and experienced so you can walk away with a greater understanding of our God, even amidst pain.
My prayer as I write this is that I will be able to give you a glimpse into a grieving heart and hopefully some ideas for biblically embracing those that grieve around you.
When Marylou and Providence were born I felt like I was watching someone else’s life, or if it were my life, that I was viewing it through a heavy fog. From the moment the doctor walked in the door and said, “I am so sorry” my body shut down and retreated into numbness. After my C-section I held Marylou for awhile before the doctors took her away and then I just sat there. That night I couldn’t sleep for fear that this nightmare would somehow become reality. This numbness, fog and unbelief are the blessings God gives us for those first few weeks. Had grief hit me all at once I don’t think I could have physically survived the emotional pain and trauma, but instead my grief was given to me slowly. On this journey of mourning it seems that just as I think I am done I find new depths to my pain.
As those of us who have experienced loss journey down the path of grief there are two temptations that those who mourn and those standing beside them most often make, avoiding grief and comparing grief. We are from a society where we are uncomfortable with pain. Because we try and avoid pain often people try to take away grief as well. Some of the most hurtful things people have said to us are, “at least you have one child” or “twins would have been too much work” or “at least Marylou died before you had a chance to know her”. These words sting so deeply because they try and take our gift of grief and minimize it. Our joy in Providence’s life is huge but it has nothing to do with the depth of pain we feel over losing Marylou. We celebrate Providence’s life but her life in no way negates the loss we feel over her sister’s death. Good things do not cancel out grief or pain. We grieve so deeply because we loved so deeply and trying to lessen the situation does nothing other then to try and chip away at some of that love and its natural response when the person you love is taken away.
When Christ learned of Lazarus death even though he knew it was temporary he grieves with Mary and Martha. The Bible says he “weeps”. I will never forget looking up at Jon as he held Marylou for the first time. We were in the operating room and tears ran freely down his cheeks as he held his firstborn and prayed God would heal her. As time passed and he realized God’s answer was, “no” he wept. He wept for his daughter’s life, what she would never get to experience, the things we would never be able to tell her and the relationship between them that was unnaturally severed until eternity. His weeping did not negate his knowledge and joy that she was with her Savior it mourned that she was not with us now, that death was present in this world. He embraced his grief as he embraced his daughter and in doing so acknowledged the terrible hold sin has on this world.
Another way we try and cope with pain is by comparing grief. The trouble with comparing grief though is we always end up on the losing side. If my grief is worse then someone else’s how is there ever hope to get through it. If my grief is not as great as another my mourning seems shallow or unjustified. Loss is loss; it is all just as bad. I find myself often slipping into this comparison, trying to figure out if my grief is worse then the woman, who miscarried early on her pregnancy because I carried my baby longer, or better then the woman whose son died before his third birthday. But the reality is that loss is loss, it is unnatural and results in grief, one is not worse then the other they are all equally bad. This does not mean all grief is the same; it simply means that loss cannot be quantified.
I met a woman in NICU who taught this to me. The nurses introduced us, she delivered twin boys, one was stillborn and the other lived for three weeks in NICU before he died. At first I didn’t want to talk with her, I wondered how I could let her see my pain when I still had a daughter that was living. I’ll never forget what she did, she held me tight and cried with and for me. She told me how painful it was to lose Nathan, her firstborn, and allowed me to weep for Marylou. In not comparing her grief to mine she allowed us to be unified in our loss and to support each other. We were able to navigate our mourning together and encourage and hold up on another because we knew that loss is not quantified it is loss and it is all just as bad.
You may be wondering why I write about grief today, 22 months after losing Marylou. It is because I am grieving deeply right now, often I can go days without thinking of or mourning Marylou and then God shows me a new depth to my pain. Sometimes it is during a wedding, when I realize I will never get to give my girl away, or when Providence reaches a new milestone and I long to see Marylou reach the same goal, sometimes it is when I meet a fellow mom of twins, or when I rock Rosemary to sleep. In some ways I cherish my grief for it reminds me how much I loved my little girl and today I am grateful that I loved her so deeply. While grief is never desired its lessons can be appreciated. Thank you Marylou for helping me love my Savior with greater depth, for teaching me to walk the path of grief and embrace its lessons. I love you little girl.
What are some ways God has met you in your point of greatest grief? What are some situations you have been in where you can meet people at their point of grief?