With our second baby’s should-have-been-due date coming up, I’ve been having more emotional meltdowns lately. Most of the time I can be positive and hopeful, but a lot of the time I still feel anger and bitterness. That’s how grieving has been for me. Even I have a hard time accepting the reality of these conflicting emotions, so it shouldn’t surprise me that many others don’t understand it either.
It’s exhausting trying to open up on the hard days. While there are some great people in my life who know how to truly listen, there are just as many who do not. Some ask how I’m doing, but can’t handle an honest answer. In these situations, I’m often met with suggestions of “just stay positive” and “God has a plan”. I’m met with suggestions to adopt or stories of miracles. While none of these things are inherently bad, they are often unhelpful. I’ve come to realize that many of these suggestions are the result of people being uncomfortable with grief.
Our grief is not a problem to be solved. Yes, there are things that need to be figured out with my body. Yes, there are options that we have yet to explore. But resolving the physical issues will not resolve our grief. One child cannot replace another. Bringing children into our family will not suddenly make the grief of our losses go away. Although they will certainly add indescribable amounts of joy and love to our life, there is no “solution” that will erase this painful season we are in.
There are days where the grief hits so hard I can’t even function–holidays, due dates, anniversaries… There are days where I wish I could wake up in a new body. One that’s not so difficult to deal with. One that’s still holding our babies. There are days where I can’t respond to a simple text. And for awhile, people understood that this is part of grieving. But there is no time line for grief, and even after 6 months, I’m still not “over it”.
I feel that there is a common idea of what grief should look like. That it starts out fierce and overwhelming and heavy, then slowly fades leaving only a faint scar that is one day forgotten. However, the reality is that grief is not linear. It’s not a process of accomplishing one stage before leaving it behind forever and moving on the the next. As time goes on there are more and more good days, but, sometimes, the bad days are just as fierce and overwhelming and heavy as the first days. Those are the days where the last thing I want to hear is “stay positive.”
Grief does not negate my hope. Hope does not erase my grief. Grief and hope can, and do, coexist. A difficult day (or week, or season) doesn’t mean that I’m not coping well. An easy day doesn’t mean that I’m “cured” from mourning our losses. Moments of anger or sadness or frustration are not setbacks. Moments of celebration or motivation are not signs that I’m “back to normal”. I have to remind myself of this often, because this process is full of so many inconsistencies and unexpected waves of emotion. Even I have a hard time understanding it all. But there is one thing that brings me joy on my best days and keeps me alive on my worst days, one thing that is consistent: hope.
I have hope for our future. I know that God will redeem this pain. I know He has great things for us. This knowledge, this faith, doesn’t go away on the bad days. Hebrews 6:19 describes hope as an “anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” I like the use of the word anchor, because it helps us understand how it’s possible to have hope on those days filled with overwhelming grief. While my hope might not be obvious, it is still there, deep below the surface keeping me secure.
Grief is complicated, and there’s so much that I’m still learning. I can never expect others to have the “right” response to my pain, just as I can never expect myself to always know how to support others who are experiencing pain that I have not. That’s why it’s so important to talk about these difficult topics–so we can all learn how to best love and support each other.