“I’m so sorry, there is no heartbeat.” As soon as I heard those devastating words, I knew my life had changed. The hopeful, excited, pregnant me was gone. A new heartbroken me was here to stay.
Minutes earlier, that hopeful me was still there. As the nurse searched my belly for evidence of life, one word stayed on my lips: please.
“Please Jesus, not me, not my baby. Please don’t let this be our story.”
The grief hit me like a ton of bricks. My husband ran up to Labor and Delivery, barely hindered by Covid trifles. We held each other and wept feeling so broken and betrayed. God, how could you do this to us? Shock and sadness muddled my brain, yet a strange calm came over me.
When you lose a baby, you are plunged into a world of horrible decisions. How would I deliver? Would we bury him? What about an autopsy? This calm remained just long enough for me to navigate these questions. I chose a c-section and we declined an autopsy. We held our four-pound one ounce perfect son. We said the goodbyes no parent should ever have to say.
The question of why plagued my mind. I knew I had to shove it away, but it lingered. When tragedy strikes, we often want to find a reason for it. As believers, we are told that God has a plan and that He is in control. There has to be a reason for our sorrows then. . . right?
A part of me knew from past experiences that I may not find an answer for Henry’s death, but I still wanted one. I wanted God to speak loud and clear. I wanted His presence to be powerful. I wanted justice for my sorrows. I think in a way, I had assumed that God’s presence would act as a payment for my pain: “I made you go through this, now here I am.”
I, like most humans, had always feared pain. Just a few months before our own loss, we received some tragic news. Our close family member had just lost their daughter to stillbirth. I was in the second trimester of my own pregnancy when she died. I silently asked myself, what would I do if this happened to Henry? How would I survive? I assumed God’s presence would keep me alive. His voice would be clear as crystal in those difficult days.
In the month after Henry’s death, we entered into a phase I like to call “the grief cocoon.” We were surrounded by the love of our family and friends. I never cooked or cleaned one dish. I wish I could say that I relied heavily on my faith and relationship with God. I wish I could say that His presence was tangible. I wish I could say that I remained hopeful and aware of His plans and purpose, but that just wasn’t the case.
Whenever I tried to pray, the sadness and confusion were louder. I couldn’t form a sentence. All I knew was that God wasn’t showing up. He wasn’t speaking. That still small voice went silent.
I was angry. To be completely honest, I still am sometimes. I was angry at God. I was angry at my body. I was angry at this broken world that takes babies before they are born.
Nearly one month after losing my son I finally opened up. Standing on a beach I uttered one sad prayer: “Ok God, I’m here.”
“You will come out of this stronger and more beautiful.” That was it. A small and simple promise that gave me a chance to take a full breath.
With grief, we often feel like our heads are underwater. Sometimes we get a chance to take quick gasps of air. We survive between the little breaks in the waves of sadness. This one promise came to me like a deep calming breath.
I would make it out of this. On the other side was a stronger, more compassionate me.
I still do not understand why He was so silent before. Why He let me feel so much pain. Why He took Henry from us. These questions of “why” were beginning to fade away. In their absence, the question of “what.” What would God do with my pain? How would He use it for His purpose and glory?
Months after Henry’s death, I was reminded of a scene from the Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis, where the child Diggory begs Aslan for a cure for his dying mother:
“But please, please – won’t you – can’t you give me something that will cure Mother?”
Up till then he had been looking at the Lion’s great feet and the huge claws on them; now, in his despair, he looked up at its face. What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life. For the tawny face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion’s eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory’s own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his Mother than he was himself.
“My son, my son,” said Aslan. “I know. Grief is great.”
It hit me. Maybe God was so silent because there are no words for Him to say. This whole time maybe He was with me, grieving, silently.
He was with me in the love we experienced from our community. The “grief cocoon” was His loving arms holding us through our family and friends. After all, His vision for the Church is everything that we experienced: people loving and serving us as the hands and feet of Jesus.
That strange calm that came over me in the hospital was His peace that surpasses all understanding. He was guiding me even when I couldn’t hear his voice. His silence did not equal His absence.
He is with me as we hope for a second child. He is with me in the ups and downs of navigating grief and the American healthcare system. He is with me in every conversation I have with another grieving mother. He is with me in my anger, sadness, and pain.
Dear friend, He is with you too, even in the silence. If I can encourage you with anything, it is this: be honest. Take an honest look at your feelings and go to God with them. He already knows about your anger, sadness, and pain. There is no sense in hiding even your roughest emotions.
Having faith in grief is tough. I often found myself quoting the man who brought his son to Jesus to be healed, “I believe, help my unbelief!” And sometimes I replace it with, “help me overcome my distrust”, or “help my lack of faith”.
This isn’t easy, but we were never promised a life of ease. Hang in there and know that you are never alone.
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”
I’m a self-employed, pink-haired, married, dog-mom in her late twenties. I am an enneagram type 2, and an ENFP, which means I must help people and have fun doing it. I was raised in a Christian home so naturally, I’ve been baptized twice and asked Jesus into my heart more times than I can count. I hope my words will encourage you to know that you are not alone, you are deeply loved by God, and we are in this together. I am currently the host of The Mourning Dove, a podcast that seeks to normalize grief.