2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself,
and God our Father,
who loved us
and gave us eternal comfort
and good hope through grace,
comfort your hearts
and establish them in every good work and word.
A lot of us try to laugh it off when our period starts, saying that it is a good time to have a glass of wine and indulge in some chocolate. We grab a heating pad and swallow a couple tablets of Ibuprofen, and curl up anywhere remotely comfortable to wait out the cramps, the bloating, the pain, the annoyance.
But what about when getting your period is no longer about simply getting through feeling sick and pained and hormonal and annoyed for four (or fourteen, depending on how the Lord made your specific body) days out of every month… what about when getting your period is a monthly reminder of the emptiness that you carry around in your body?
What about when you have spent months or years praying for a positive pregnancy test? To pee in a cup, dip in a stick, and wait the two eternally long minutes to see whether two little lines show up… and then only one single, lonely little line shows up… and the loneliness of that line is a faint echo of the emptiness that you feel right there in the depth of your body.
What about when getting your period is a gory, bloody, physically painful and emotional wrenching reminder of miscarrying your baby?
What about when you are enduring a period that isn’t supposed to be happening because you were supposed to still be pregnant?
What about those days when your body is bleeding out from the miscarriage itself, and you think your body will never end the process of delivering that precious little lifeless body of your baby into your hands?
What about the hours that feel like days, and the days that feel like months, and it all jumbles together into an endless mush of numbing time where your heart oozes pain and seeps grief every single moment?
Is curling up on the couch with a heating pad, a chocolate bar, and a glass of wine the way to find comfort? And do we have to have to endure the lonely, empty grief always alone?
Well, it may not be a bad start, but it certainly is not the end of the story.
When I suffered my first miscarriage a little over eight years ago (can you believe Covenant would be so grownup already?), I was suddenly thrown into the receiving end of a whole host of tangible comforts. Enduring eight more miscarriages in the next few years gave me even more opportunities to receive with open hands various comforts from family, friends, even strangers. I still have a host of these tangible comforts in my home or recorded in family memory books & photo albums. I have pocketed many of these ideas to share with others who have suddenly found themselves in the throes of this particular grief.
I have not suffered the particular grief of infertility as defined by an inability to conceive a baby in my womb.
I have repeatedly suffered the particular grief of infertility as defined by an inability to carry a living baby to term in my womb.
And I would hasten to guess that the pains of these things, the griefs they carry, (and particularly when they overlap) are more similar than I can imagine. I pray that God would give me opportunities to extend tangible comforts to my sisters along the continuum of suffering infertility’s grief, in ways that would glorify Him and bless them in their specific stories.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. Call this some highlights, if you will.
And please, if you have experience especially on the receiving end of tangible comforts when caught in the throes of miscarriage’s grief, would you leave a comment with your own highlights, where the blessing and grace felt most pertinent at the time?
When I Needed Comfort,
these Tangible Graces Showed Up
When my first baby died, I don’t know how many people sent us flowers, but they were numerous. And every single one meant the world to my broken, bleeding heart.
One friend of mine (from adolescence) sent me a single white rose for a baby (and she did this numerous times). I still have one of them (Mercy’s, so it has been long dried) in its vase with its ribbon here on the vanity in my bedroom.
I have received rose bushes for a couple of my babies, and a peony when Fidelis died.
Some people don’t like receiving flowers when suffering grief, because flowers tend to die; and death reminds us of, well, death. But I happen to be one of the people who love them anyway. Even if they do die, and it reminds me. I mean, honestly: it’s not like I was going to forget in the first place.
Cards, emails, blog comments
We were flooded with sympathy cards and emails and blog comments when Covenant died. It has been much less so as the years have passed, and the babies’ deaths have piled up. Take that as you will.
But as someone who is spoken to deeply by the written word, these notes (even if the author inadvertently puts their foot in their mouth, I know the intent was love and compassion) lift up my soul.
My brother and his wife have given us freezer meals and Pizza Hut gift cards, which have been incredible helps when I have been physically or emotionally absolutely otherwise unable to feed my family (or myself).
My parents have shown up on our doorstep with baskets full of hot food to feed us dinners. Sometimes my mother has brought me hot plates right in my own bed. She has fed my husband and children when I could not; and she has fed me when I did not want to. She cared for our bodies, and by so doing she cared for our souls.
One dear couple would do “hit and run” food drops on our doorstep when we still lived in town. A plate of cookies. A pie. They never stayed to force small talk on us. They simply wanted to minister to us, from our tastebuds to our guts to our broken hearts. I’ve never eaten a chocolate chip cookie the same way since then.
My parents gave us a framed piece of artwork highlighting hope (using the first few verses of Romans 5) when Covenant Hope died. It has been on our bedroom wall ever since.
An online friend I’ve never met sent me two beach sunset pictures with my babies’ names on them. One is in our bedroom, one is in our guestroom. She also sent a card that pictures an empty swing on the front of it in the middle of a lush green background: I framed it, and it has been in our family room ever since, because that empty swing speaks volumes to me.
One time, I think it might have been after my fourth or fifth miscarriage although I honestly forget exactly when it was, I received a big package in the mail that was a care package contributed to by women mostly from around various corners of North America whom I had never met, and many of whom were not Christians: it was filled with cozy socks, candy, candles, a blank journal, teas, and a whole host of other things. Women who had never met me, nor met each other, banded together across the distance to put together a care package for me. I might have bawled the best kind of tears.
Another time, I think it was after my son Hosanna died, the wife of our church’s pastoral intern put together a gift bag for us, again filled with various items to bless our hearts and let us know we were cared for. A little brass bird candleholder from that package has been in our family room ever since, and is a continual reminder that our Lord cares for us more than any sparrow.
A third time, after my daughter Heritage died, a friend of mine (mostly long-distance friend, largely through blogging and email communication) gathered a couple of ladies from her church, and they put together a gift bag for us: lotion, lip gloss, toenail polish, Starbucks money, a deep red mug (that I use fondly for my morning coffee), chocolate, and more… and we visited their church a couple of weeks later, this care package was quietly placed at my feet. Women who barely knew me, but had deep compassion for my grief, once again came together with what could look like a random conglomeration of little blessings, and put them in one place and put it at my feet… and let me tell you, I was blessed.
One friend of mine, who now lives far away, gave me a piece of mother’s jewelry. It is a heart, with a little tiny birthstone for each of my babies dangling from it. This gift from that particular friend spoke more to me than any words she ever said.
My mother has given me remembrance jewelry in more veiled fashion through the years. She gave me a pair of pink pearl earrings for my first Mother’s Day, when as of yet I had no babies in my arms but my womb had carried two. She gave me a bracelet made of seven silver strands another Mother’s Day when I had seven babies in heaven. She gave me a necklace with a cross that says “let your faith be bigger than your fear” when I was miscarrying repeatedly again, and we thought the doors to grow our family were closing forever. And when she found out I was pregnant for the thirteenth time, she brought over a silver ring with thirteen leaves on it, and the word hope inscribed inside.
I am not a phone person, I will probably never really be a phone person.
But this one friend just about turned me into one, because she would call, she would sing psalms with me over the phone, she would pray for me over the phone, she would cry with me over the phone.
And if you ever left me a voicemail (not being a phone person, my voicemail is well-used…), those too have ministered greatly to my soul. Using your own voice to tell me that I am remembered, our grief is not forgotten, our child is honored, our tears are acknowledged, our needs are your concern. Thank you.
This can very clearly be a double-edged sword, and it must be used with wisdom and extremely carefully.
I am not talking about the type of silence where you don’t let me know that you care; that’s simply called being absent in the face of need.
I am talking specifically about the kind of silence where you sit in the dust and the ashes with someone who is grieving, and you don’t try to fix it with platitudes or offer glimpses of hope that may or may not actually exist.
The kind of silence where you showed up, and we sat side-by-side on my family room couch, cupping warm mugs of tea in our hands. We didn’t have to talk. We simply sat. And I wasn’t alone. It was like a silent prayer became a tangible presence. And that kind of silence can be a gift.
Lastly, never underestimate the power of human touch and human tears.
These are graces from God, comforts built right into our very DNA.
A touch of my shoulder, a clasping of my hands, and sometimes a hug…
Your adding to the tears shed for the sake of my baby’s death and for the sake of my mommy-grief…
These too are tangible gifts. I do not take them lightly. But I open my hands for them, I receive them, I thank you for them.
Next time, I will share a short list of books and online resources that have ministered to me in my grief, and been another source of comfort when in even my darkest of days.