He Comforts us in Troubles
We went in for our 20 week ultrasound, excited to see our little one on the screen, only to have our worlds turned upside down. The tech left the room, and returned with the doctor. After taking a quick look, he said the words no pregnant mother wants to hear "I'm sorry, but your baby's heart has stopped beating". Two days later, after a long induction, our second daughter, Lainey, was born silently. We were devastated, but we still had a child at home to take care of. I was determined not to get swallowed up in my pain and grief, even though it felt so all consuming. In an effort to make sense of the senseless, and to get myself to a place where I could feel ready to have another child I turned to three places: internet support groups, books about baby loss and grief, and God.
In the internet support group I found something so precious- understanding. In a time where you feel so dark and alone, I found a sisterhood of women who understood all of the pain, the hopelessness, the "weird" things that you felt that you wouldn't dare say out loud to someone who had never experienced a loss like this. These ladies became a lifeline.
Two weeks after my loss, on Good Friday, I found myself watching "The Passion of the Christ". And I sobbed. As I watched this movie thru the eyes of a grieving parent, I realized that God intimately knew and understood my pain. I found a comfort deep in my soul at that moment.
The books- I read voraciously. I must have read at least nine. And while I found comfort and healing in the words and stories in all of the books- there was one quote that stuck with me all of these years. To paraphrase- "Our precious babies have not died in vain if our love for them inspires us to do good for others." The love a parent feels for a child lasts a lifetime, and when a parent loses that child- they have no where to direct that love. The depth of the grief feels bottomless. I loved my baby girl, and I wanted to show that love to others, instead of dwelling on the depth of my pain, I wanted to express my love thru acts of kindness for other grieving parents. I reached out to my new friends in the online support group and one thing became obvious- most of us wished we had more things to remember our babies by. Tangible keepsakes we could touch were a rare commodity.
For the first several years, as my daughter's birthday approached, I would start shopping for a keepsake box and fill it with a list of things designed to preserve and create tangible memories and keepsakes for parents- a plaster handprint kit, ziplock bags to keep clothing and blankets that touched their child so that their scent could be preserved, small bags to hold locks of hair or nail clippings, a Christmas ornament of an angel to hang on their tree every year as a reminder of their angel baby. Since I could not give my child a gift on her birthday, I gave this keepsake box to the hospital to provide for a grieving family, hoping the gift of tangible memories would help them thru their own grief.
As the years passed, my gifts changed. I have had friends, coworkers and neighbors who have experienced losses. I show up for them in meaningful ways. When we lose a child people say "if you need anything let me know." And their intentions are good, but very rarely will a grieving parent know what to ask for, or even be willing to reach out and ask for it if they do know what they need. Instead of asking, I show up with a home cooked meal, or a care package. I make a point to remember due dates, birthdates, their child's name- and follow up with them during those times when it feels like everyone else has forgotten and the world has moved on, yet you are stuck in a deep pit of renewed grief that comes with major milestones. I will send a card, or a text, or show up again with something just to have a chance to say "your child mattered, I haven't forgotten, someone cares". My best memories of those dark days after my loss were of the people who showed up for me- who weren't afraid to sit with me in my grief, let me cry, talk about my daughter, and listen without judgement or fear. The gifts of their love was healing balm on my broken heart.
Every year as my daughter's birthday approaches, I give a gift of kindness to someone. I never know in advance what that will be, or who will receive it. But God always places it on my heart and provides me an opportunity to comfort someone and show them love. This spring my daughter would have been 14. I still have hard days, but they are few and far between. I will always miss her, but I also know that each year that passes is one more closer to the day I am reunited with her in Heaven, where I will never ever have to let her go.
2 Corinthians 1: 3-4 "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts usin all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God."