Though grief has changed it shape, it still remains. Things are calmer now. Years have passed…
The memory of losing our first son, well into the second trimester of my pregnancy, continues to this day as guarded treasure stored deep within, in a place that contains no other memory as precious as this. It is wrapped carefully within a treasure chest that is opened from time to time to recall, and only
I didn’t understand.
Perhaps, if you were of the fatalistic kind, you would have said I had set myself up. From the earliest memories I have, I had wanted to be a mum. I studied and worked only to time-fill until it was the ‘right’ time. I sought positions in post-natal care and children’s wards to gain the experience and knowledge I needed to be ‘qualified’. I collected baby clothes and nursery items in preparation…
You can imagine my fall.
I lay in the darkness of the night after coming home from the emergency centre, and began the process of contemplating my state. My dream gone, my womb empty, my little boy lost. Nothing could’ve prepared me for the grief experienced, and the rollercoaster emotions that were to follow in the days, months and years ahead. I had lost a little boy, I had lost a dream, and we were unable to conceive another.
I recall that at first there was numbness. The loss had not yet taken root. The reality had not sunk in. I remember the Doctor commenting how calm I was and asking the question after having completed his examination, if this baby was planned – wanted – or not?! Callous or ignorant of grief, I don’t know, but his professional observation and insinuation was grossly incorrect.
Following the numbness came excruciating heart pain, of such intensity that I did not know how to express my grief having never before experienced its ferocity. Heart pain became the constant. Tears were replaced by anger for a time and then would come flooding back again, unharnessed. I bargained, I pleaded, I made promises to God above. I sought His favour in the hope that He would have mercy on me. I was confused – the answers to the question, why? were left hanging in the air.
But into that first night following my loss, came unexpected words spoken. Words of the kind that are not heard with ears, yet nevertheless the clarity and source were never doubted. They were heard by my heart and mind. Spoken directly to my soul.
You are greatly loved by God.
I did not hear an expression of sympathy, “I’m so sorry this has happened”. Neither did I hear words of hope, “Do not fear. Your home will be full of boys one day”. I heard only, “you are greatly loved…”
It would be years before I would understand the comfort and the love expressed by the Speaker of these words. I had too many lies to hear the real sweetness of them, but none-the-less they remained ‘heard’ – and challenged often – all throughout my years of loss and longing.
I thought God had forsaken me. That His love had failed to be all that I thought it should be and do. I had condemning thoughts of the nature that accused me of doing something wrong that had caused the failure of my baby boy reaching full term. I thought I was cursed for “
And all the while I was angry, fighting and accusing God, through my confusion and hurt, through grief and heartache, God was drawing me into a deeper understanding and experience of His love for me. It certainly wasn’t overnight, the many lies had to be confronted and disbanded. Though I had an upbringing where I was told that God was a loving God, and that He cared for me, the heartache I felt and the confusion that followed, challenged and often opposed all I had been taught.
I had to learn through pain that losing a child and being ‘barren’ didn’t mean I had sinned and was being punished – God’s love is not vindictive, nor does it condemn. The thoughts that constantly harrassed me that I was cursed because I couldn’t conceive were false – God’s love does not curse. When I thought that a child was the only thing that would fill the empty gap, and that it was the treasure I longed for, I began the journey of learning that only God’s perfect love can deeply satisfy and fill the needs of this heart. The confusion I felt month after month, and the up and down emotions, all screamed to me that He didn’t care, that He wasn’t there when I needed Him most, needed to be replaced with truth, even in the toughest moments of accusing thoughts and ambused feelings. Because though I had heard the verses, “I will have compassion on You”, “I love you”, and “I will never leave You”, they were words
The gap between the love that I had read about God and my love experienced in this world had been too great. The two could not mesh because the first was a perfect love offered, but the other was a broken love experienced, and experience is a great teacher, though not always true or wise. The gaps in my understanding of God meant that the lies I had about Him were felt inside as greater than the truth I had been told about, and knew of Him, so I could not mesh who He really was with the things I felt. I believed and lived out of the lies because they spoke louder than the truth in my reality.
Over the years as God invited me into a deeper experience of His Love, He began tearing down the lies, rebuilding new beliefs, and giving me the eyes to see that His truth had to be believed over my lies and feelings.
It needed to be a whole new understanding.
This understanding needed to be different to what I had before that was confused, and ambiguous and constantly shifting depending on my circumstances. The intellectual understanding and experience of love I had, was not enough to keep my heart and mind secure when this grief hit. My eyes had been clouded by broken ideas of love, but the desire God had for me was that I have clarity – that my perspective and understanding and depth of insight, be free from uncertainty and doubt. I can really only say that it was and continues to be just the beginning…
Concerning God’s unfathomable and great love, Saint Paul says,
“And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is” (Ephesians 3:18, NLT).
“I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. (Philippians 1:9, NLT).
I love the dictionary definition that describes the words, “to understand”, as, “to be familiar with”.In this context, the word “familiar” is to be so comfortable and closely intimate with God – to know that when I see His love expressed I can say, “Oh yeah, that’s God” as if it were just the usual thing to be seen. “Familiar” removes all ambiguity and doubt. To understand His love is to have the familiarity and complete assurance that He is a faithful God who is as He says He is. When He says, “I will never leave You”, He will never, ever leave me. He will not walk away. He will not quit on me. He will not abandon me. He is there. Period. The same is true of all the aspects of His love. When He says His love never fails, it never ever does. Period. When He declares He is for us not against us, then that is exactly true of Him. Period.
Today though my treasured past, is past, and the grief has calmed, the journey has been walked, I am left with this deeper understanding, and with a deeper experience, that I am greatly loved by God. I do not want to experience loss and grief again, I would not ask for it, but I do treasure the intimate understanding that this experience led me to. I would not go back to the shaky, confused place I was before, because the understanding I have now is more precious to me. The safety and surety of God, His presence with me always, His unfailing love, His precious promises made, are all treasures that I value. And I am in the place of
Continued in next week’s blog…