Instead, you have an ending. A miscarriage, a stillborn child, maybe weeks in the NICU only to end in a graveside service. The loss you feel is overwhelming and often accompanied by questions that no one can answer. Suddenly you can relate to the women mentioned in the gospel:
Then Herod, when he realized he had been outwitted by the wise men, flew into a rage. He gave orders to massacre all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, in keeping with the time he had learned from the wise men. Then what was spoken through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; and she refused to be consoled because they are no more. – Matthew 2:16-18
Matthew tells us that this was a fulfillment of a specific prophecy. It comes from the book of Jeremiah, chapter 31, which tells of the captive Israelites being able to return home from Babylon. Right in the middle of all the rejoicing about being home, there is this verse about Rachel weeping, for all the ones who did not come home.
If you are walking through the loss of an infant, it might feel that joy is impossible. You don’t know how to live a full life anymore. You might feel pressure to move on – whatever “moving on” might look like. A well-intentioned family may push you to make plans for the future or hide your pain. All the comfort that is offered may feel oppressive.
You could be feeling like you did something wrong. Maybe you have a great deal of fear about having another baby. It might be hard to see others with their healthy families. If this is a season of loss and grief for you, there are some simple truths you can hold in your darkest moments.
It is okay to lament and grieve.The shortest verse in the Bible is, “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35) After learning about the death of a friend, and despite knowing that resurrection was coming, John 11 gives us an image of the Savior grieving. Jesus wept with Mary and Martha. He felt his own grief and participated in the sisters’ loss.
The Bible has a lot to say about grieving and lamenting. Jeremiah authored the book in the Old Testament called Lamentations. The Psalms are full of weeping and sorrow. David mourned a child; Job lost all his children. All of them were given the space to grieve, as evidenced in the pages of Scripture.
Give yourself space to mourn and grieve your loss.
Take time to mourn the life of your child, as well as the hopes and dreams that you had for that child. Use up boxes of tissues, let teardrops land on journal pages. Don’t let the feelings you have become bottled up. Express your honest lament to the God who hears our cries.
Grieving is not something that people naturally know how to practice. Your grief may make your family and friends uncomfortable, but this is not the time for you to worry about making them comfortable. Allow yourself distance from those whose presence is unhelpful, and draw near to those who offer comfort and support in ways that you need it. Let those who love you know what you need, whether food, hugs, time, or space.
Grief is unique to each personality and situation. Each person grieves differently, and you will need to be patient with yourself as you learn how you grieve. Know that grieving is rarely a linear, predictable process, nor does it need to be. Allow God and your loved ones to comfort you on the difficult days, and allow yourself to feel joy and gratitude on the better days.
You are fearfully and wonderfully made,
And so is your child. It will be tempting to think that you are broken or that you made a mistake. Your brain will go in spirals trying to figure out what could have been. When you find that you are thinking this way, draw comfort from the fact that God calls His creation good. Your body is His creation, and your baby is His creation.
It is important to take care of yourself through this difficult time, and to allow others to care for you. If your doctor recommends some things to make you healthier, listen to him/her. They are not criticizing you; they are helping you.
And if you find yourself steeped in feelings of self-blame, persistently overwhelmed by your grief, or alone and in need of someone to support you through the process of grieving, consider reaching out to a therapist. You are precious and loved, worthy of care and support. You are wonderfully made, and the works of the Lord are marvelous, even when things do not go according to the plans we hold dear.
Joy will come.
Jeremiah 31 has several verses that touch on the idea of joy beyond grief.
v.2 The people who survived the sword found favor in the wilderness
v.9 They will come weeping, but I will bring them back with consolation
v.13 I will turn their mourning into joy, giving them consolation, and bringing happiness out of grief.
Grief does not need to be the end of the story. It should be a pivotal point in the story, where you learn to trust that God is good, having faith that joy is on the other side. There is not a timeline for when joy will come.
As you walk through grief you will often find that joy is far more like the coming of spring. First, the snow melts, then there are patches of mud and brown spots that don’t seem anything like spring. Young shoots of green may peek above the surface of the ground, and you think, “Spring is finally here.”
A sudden snowstorm buries them, and you wonder if the cold and damp will ever leave. The snow melts quicker now, the shoots grow bigger and stronger. Rainstorms knock down branches and you clean the yard that has gradually become greener. You have come through the winter. You did not make the sunshine any brighter or the flowers bud any sooner. You cannot make yourself joyful, but joy will come.
Hold your child in your heart.
There are many ways to honor the life of your child. If you had the opportunity to name and know that child, there is a good chance that you will have objects that hold the memory. There could be a funeral, a celebration of life to share with others.
Or maybe you barely had a chance to get used to the idea of being pregnant, and then you miscarried. You held that life for a blink and then it was gone. Many parents will give that life a name. Names are a way to hold the memory of a good gift from God. As you go forward in life, you may find that certain dates jump out to you, such as a due date missed, or a birthday never celebrated. When those moments come (and they will), pause to remember your child.
Your child’s life is a gift
It can be tempting to dismiss a child’s life as wasted simply because it was short. Do not place the value of your child on how long they lived and what they did or did not accomplish. Jesus let children come to him because they are a good gift from God. That which God makes has value, because He made it, not because of anything you did.
“Broken Heart”, Courtesy of Kelly Sikkema, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Tears”, Courtesy of Luis Galvez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Comfort”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Leaf Heart”, courtesy of Georgia de Lotz, Unsplash.com, CC0 License