Friday, August 28, 2015

Lessons in Loss - 6 months out

6 months ago this week my life changed suddenly and drastically. My 3.5 month old baby boy, Noah, was called home to the Lord. When he entered Heaven, the physical aspect of me entered a version of hell on earth; my soul, however, was awakened to God's beauty and grace. My journey through grief has only just begun but I have learned quite a bit during the first half of this year without him.

1) Love continues to grow beyond the grave. 

Noah did not make me a mother. His big sister did. I know what it feels like to birth a child and watch her hit all of her milestones. I know what it's like to let her sprout little wings and fly. I know what it feels like when your heart beats outside of your chest in the form of a little human that your body grew. The love a mother has for her child is insatiable. It is unquenchable. It could never be matched by another form of love (apart from God's) this side of Heaven. It grows daily and deeply. You love your child this way simply because they are yours but watching them grow and change each day, observing their interactions, listening to their voice, and knowing all of the things that make that child unique nurtures your love for them.

But what about when you love a child that disappears right before your eyes? I carried Noah for 40 weeks inside of my womb. Then God granted me 14 weeks and 5 days with him in the traditional form of mother and child. I knew everything there was to know about him. I spent every moment of that time making sure he was perfectly cared for. I watched him grow and change. I loved him with a love deeper than I could ever put into words. Then one day, literally in the blink of an eye, he was gone.

The love I had for him did not slowly start to slip away from me as the time has ticked on without him. In fact my love for him has only grown stronger. The love I have for him has transcended time. It has crossed through worlds. It has permeated everything I do and everything I touch. It is a love that meets Noah each and every day as he walks along streets of gold. It is the same love that will meet him at the gates of Heaven whenever I am called home too. It is the kind of love that I wish everyone in the world could experience but I pray no one else ever has to.

2) True empathy is a gift and not everyone has it.

The people who have helped me most are the people who willingly try to put themselves in my shoes. They are the ones who desperately want to take the pain from me for just a moment. The selfless ones. The ones who would bear this burden just to provide me with a second of relief. Those people are special and they are rare and yet God has strategically placed quite a few of these angels in my life.

For the most part, people are only able to understand and appropriately respond to what they are personally able to feel. If they have not felt your pain they can not fully understand it. This often leads to very well meaning people with great intentions often saying things to you that are in actuality deeply hurtful.

"At least he's no longer in pain." "God had a better plan for him." "The most beautiful flowers are the ones picked first." "God must have needed another angel."  "I hope you have better luck next time." These are only examples and they are offered with the purest of intentions but each of those phrases are like the twist of a knife. Before I lost Noah, my mouth spoke similar words. They are basically kind sentiments but they provide little comfort when they are in reference to the child you would give anything to have back. These words actually remind the person experiencing such deep pain how few people truly understand what losing a child feels like. You really just don't know until you know.

To say this is not to negate the appreciation I have for the kindness and love so many people have shown me. I have encountered a multitude of genuine and thoughtful hearts over the last 6 months, people that truly want nothing more than to help. They just don't know how and that's okay.

There are also people who have their "this could never happen to me" wall up. These are the people who are not even trying to understand because letting your pain in makes them feel too vulnerable. This can be extremely difficult for the bereaved mother and it is where grace is necessary. No one is perfect. We are human and we are built to protect ourselves from harm. I don't blame anyone for never wanting to feel an ounce of the pain of child loss... I certainly didn't want to either but that choice was taken from me when Noah died.

In these moments, when a person has just said something to us that pushes a button deep within and we think "What is wrong with you?! Why would you think it's okay to say that to me?" We have a choice to make. We can forgive them because a) God tells us to b) they really meant well c) they have absolutely no idea what this feels like and couldn't possibly understand OR we can slip deeper into the pit of isolation that losing a child creates.

3) God can pick you up out of the pit.

There have been countless times where I have felt like I could not possibly go on, times when I have cried so hard that I thought I would stop breathing. There have been moments when I have felt desperately alone, like I had been abandoned by the One who promised He would love and protect me and my child.

I have felt hot tears fall with a heaviness that did not exist before Noah died, enough tears to fill a swimming pool by now I'm sure. I have crumpled on the bathroom floor, by his door, and at his grave. I have cried out to God to give him back. More than anything I have prayed for God to just "please help me." It's the simplest of all prayers but it carries great power because it comes from the most intimate places of my soul. God hears my cries of desperation. He and I both know that He is the only one who could possibly help and He does. Every single time.

I know I have many more unbearable days in my future. I know that they come on suddenly, often without warning. I know they run the risk of ruining me... but they won't. God promises he will never leave me or forsake me. Not now. Not ever. I have learned that I can never fall so deep into despair that the Lord's hand can not reach to lift me up. His hand will always find mine.

He has picked me up off the floor. He has pulled me out of bed. He has wrapped his arms around me and held my hand time and time again. He dries my tears and steadies my breath. He calms my heart and fills my soul with His love and with His hope. He whispers in my ear that our child is deeply loved and perfectly safe in His arms.

Time will not heal my wounds, but God will. 

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