This week’s Walking With You topic is on taking those first steps back into life. Here are the questions Kelly poses:
Share about your first steps back into life. What helped you survive in the world outside as you took those first tender steps? Are there still tender areas for you today, living in a world that doesn’t embrace or understand the loss of a baby/child? How do you cope with those struggles? What advice would you offer those new to this walk to encourage and bring hope? How has this changed for you from the beginning? If you are in early grief, what do you fear/struggle with as you try to navigate a new normal….life without your baby?
A week after Naomi died we buried her tiny body in the same cemetery that my grandmother had buried her still born daughter, my aunt, many years ago. That afternoon we had a beautiful celebration service. I remember saying to one of my dear friends who flew in from California to be with us that it felt like I was planning my wedding with all the details to be figured out and the weight of the importance of the day, but without the pure joy of it all. instead trying to plan it all in the face of the worst pain i’d ever felt in my life. Naomi’s service was an incredible time of worship and celebration and we felt so loved even though our hearts were so broken. So many people had been on the crazy journey of those previous three months, praying for us and for Naomi, and we were so thankful to be able to speak with and grieve with those who loved us through Naomi’s life and death.
The day after Naomi’s service we had a birthday party for our three year old…his birthday was coming the next week and with all the family in town it seemed like the right thing to do. I still can’t believe I planned a funeral and a birthday party back to back, but the reality was that most of the planning was done by others, especially my husband, and in the end it was fitting to be able to celebrate two of my children in their own special and needed ways with all of our immediate family present.
My company gave me two weeks of leave following Naomi’s death and so I was able to spend the next week getting back to life in our own home. We’d been gone for eight weeks and our older children had been carted too and fro over that time as well. As I struggled to figure out how to keep putting one foot in front of the other during those first days and weeks my biggest motivator, the things that got me out of bed each morning were those two boys…full of energy, full of life. They needed me and I am SO grateful for the gift of their lives. While in some ways I struggled (and still do) with finding the energy to grieve while parenting those two kiddos and especially at first with even wanting to go on being a mother when I couldn’t be Naomi’s mother, I knew especially in those first weeks that I couldn’t give up because they needed me.
I returned to work, getting through one day at a time. During Naomi’s life we were given two small stones each with a cross etched into them. One stone I left with Naomi in her room and the other stone I carried around in my pocket, a constant reminder of Who my Anchor was. After Naomi left us, Adrin and I each carried one of the stones. I would put my hand in my pocket multiple times a day to remind myself that the One who went to death on the cross for me was with me, living this agony and carrying me through each moment.
At Naomi’s service a group of my friends from church gave me a necklace with “Naomi Ruth 04.25.12” engraved on a silver disk. Two tiny footprints were engraved on the back. I have worn that necklace almost daily for the past seven months, a statement to all that I have a daughter. The love and thoughtfulness in the gift of that necklace from some of my girlfriends means so very much to me. My Naomi necklace is just one of many gifts, cards, and gestures of love that have helped me and our family through these last months.
It makes me so sad to know of so many baby loss moms who have endured their grief with very little support. I am grateful from the bottom of my heart for the incredible outpouring of love and support and prayers that we have received. From meals brought by church friends for weeks after Naomi died to numerous gift cards, free baby sitting, funds to enable us to go on the Respite Retreat, phone calls, emails, and cards as the months have gone on checking in, letting us know they are praying for us, These tangible expressions of love have been a lifeline for me. I am humbled by it even as I suck it all in, needing to know we are not forgotten, needing to know that others want to carry our pain however they can, though they can’t comprehend it.
I think another key for me in being able to step back into life, and really to keep stepping back into life because sometimes its a daily choice to keep stepping into living, has been reading and connecting with others who have also walked this path of grief. So so sadly there are many many mothers out there who have lost children. From the early days I found comfort in ready blogs, books, stories of others who had passed this way before. Those brave women, many of whom have chosen to speak up when those around them wished they’d stay silent, have taught me so much about love, about where true comfort comes from, about learning to navigate the choppy, unpredictable waters of grief. Some day I hope to do a post about some of the resources that have helped me. Who knows, perhaps someone might read this little blog and find some encouragement on their own journey. For now, I’ll link again to Nancy Guthrie. Her One Year Book of Hope has been instrumental from the very first days for me in finding hope in the midst of grief. I am right now slowly reading through Nancy’s book Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow and it is equally profound. The online magazine Still Standing has also been helpful as it presents a wide variety of issues surrounding child loss as well as miscarriage and infertility from a variety of perspectives. And more recently, of course, Kelly at Sufficient Grace Ministries has been speaking deeply to me through her words of wisdom and compassion.
I think today one of the things I struggle with the most in regards to living in the world without my baby in my arms is the feeling of being the one who has the sad story. Even though I have some wonderfully supportive friends I still sometimes dread having to “be normal” and keep myself together each day. I have many friends who have babies or are expecting and this is probably the most tender spot for me these days. I want to want to be happy for them. But I struggle to join in their happiness as I am so sad not to be a part of that with Naomi. And I feel guilty oftentimes for that. The story I tell myself is that I’m the mom whose baby died, not the one with the story of a sick baby who got better, but whose baby actually died. God answered our prayers in a way we didn’t like much at all. And I think, who wants to hear that story? Its been seven months and I still need to talk about her, about how much I miss her, about how my life is not what I planned or wanted, how hard this is to grieve a child while still parenting two others (while at the same time being so grateful to have two others to parent), how my youngest son still sometimes talks about going to the hospital to see Naomi because he mostly knows she is in heaven but doesn’t understand what that means fully.
If I had to give advice to someone just starting off on this journey (and what I need to keep telling myself today) it would be to find people you can talk to. If you can’t at first, keep trying, whether its online, via phone, or in real life. This journey is so much harder, when you keep it all inside and don’t allow yourself to feel, and say the things you are experiencing. The other thing would be if you feel like you can’t pray or seek God right now, that’s ok. Instead, perhaps, put yourself in places where God can find you. I feel like oftentimes my faith and trust in God is so very weak. Yet I’ve seen Him honor the smallest bit of faith, the tiniest opening and crying out to Him by showing Himself and His truth to me over and over through the words in the Bible, through songs and especially some of the old hymns, and through the words of godly people in my life.
I think that is it for tonight. This has been a marathon post and if you’re still reading, thank you! You deserve a medal. 🙂