Grief is uncomfortable. Not just for the griever, but for those next to or in the general vicinity of the griever.
Of course, I knew nothing about this until what had begun as a season of gratitude quickly and unexpectedly transitioned to one of deep grief.
On a cold January night, I arrived at the hospital trying to breathe through the pain of the labor contractions ripping through my abdomen. My husband pushed the call button from outside the locked doors of the labor and delivery unit to notify the nurses of our arrival. I was about to have a baby, but I knew this wasn’t going to be the dreamy birth experience I had hoped for upon realizing I was pregnant. This was going to be more like a nightmare.
Within an hour of our arrival, our baby slipped into this world silently. Being that I was just over 20 weeks pregnant, we hadn’t expected a good outcome. We knew what we were walking into when the nurses buzzed us through the doors that night. We were headed straight into loss. Heartache. And what I instinctively knew would become the greatest grief of this life.
Eighteen hours later, I was released, returning home with a few mementos of the birth and death I’d just experienced. Pamphlets outlining resources for women who have lost a baby. A small gift bag containing a miniature teddy bear and doll-sized knitted blanket. A few snapshots of my baby.
I was no longer carrying my baby, only his absence.
It took some time for me to even begin to engage with the world outside of my home again.
But when I started taking small steps toward regular life, it became clear that my grief made life uncomfortable not only for me, but for others as well. Just as I averted my gaze from babies and pregnant women, I noticed how people averted their gaze from me, the formerly pregnant woman without a baby.
Like the woman from church who brushed shoulders with me at the grocery store and turned her head away when we made awkward eye contact. Or the pregnant mother of my daughter’s classmate who suddenly seemed to avoid me, maybe because she assumed that her pregnant belly was a painful reminder of what I didn’t have, or maybe because I was a painful reminder that pregnancy doesn’t always end with a baby to bring home. And then there was the dermatologist who immediately changed the subject, his cheeks suddenly bright red, when I tearfully told him I’d lost my baby after he inquired about my recent pregnancy.
For several months after my loss, my church attendance was sporadic. Because pregnant women were hard to miss and gurgling babies filled the pews, church felt like a landmine of triggers. Even if I sat in the back row and kept my head down, the moment I opened my mouth to sing or pray, my throat constricted and my eyes filled with tears. I was the sad soul in what felt like a mass of rejoicing. And what felt like a blessing and curse all at once was that no one seemed to notice.
Not only were my, what I like to call public displays of affliction, uncomfortable for me, but I could tell that other people also felt uncomfortable. Not only with the topic of my loss but with the never-predictable tears that resulted from it.
I won’t pretend that my relationship with God was bright and cheery during this period of my life, but I did cling to the belief that He was there, with me in the darkness of grief. He wasn’t uncomfortable with it.
He didn’t avert His gaze when my tears ran wild in public. He didn’t avoid me. He wasn’t afraid of my emotions, my hurt. He was there. He met me in the heartache. Listening. Offering compassion. For not only did He love me — He loved the baby that I loved, too.
For He has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; He has not hidden His face from Him but has listened to His cry for help. — Psalm 22:24
He saw and heard me. He drew near when others seemed to distance themselves.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. — Psalm 34:18
And this is true for your grief, too. Maybe, like me, you’ve experienced the loss of a child. Or maybe you’re navigating the loss of a spouse, parent, friend, or any number of other connections.
Loss and the grief that follows can be a difficult subject for us to be honest about. Even when those around us don’t avert their eyes from our pain, but instead ask us how we’re doing, we often respond with a “Fine,” or an “I’m okay,” because we know that the truth will likely make them uncomfortable. Feelings of anger, loneliness, envy, even hopelessness can be uncomfortable admissions for us and make for uncomfortable responses from others.
But no matter what your grief looks like, or how uncomfortable it makes you or anyone else, God is not uncomfortable with it. Not at all. Where it’s easier for people to take the route of avoidance, God gladly invites you to draw near in all your grief-filled honesty.
Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need. — Hebrews 4:16
Written for Devotionals Daily by Jenny Alberts, author of Courageously Expecting.
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Take your grief to God. He is here for you and for every bit of your honest gut-wrenching pain. Don’t hold back! Tell Him everything! Not everyone can handle the truth, but God can. And, He wants the whole truth. Bring it to Him. ~ Devotionals Daily