Dealing with Grief this Holiday Season

Please don’t tell me to keep my chin up. I can’t right now. I won’t.

I folded a load of his laundry today. A few brightly colored stacks of race cars and superheroes. It hurt so bad I could barely breathe. What are you supposed to do with a holiday season when there is no comfort or joy? Where do joy and sorrow meet?

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Don’t tell me it’s all going to be okay, because it’s not. The “system” has failed my son and there’s nothing I can do. How am I to be thankful on thanksgiving? I can’t handle it, it’s too much.

Husband says behind concerned eyes: “How can I help you?”

Remind me to breathe…

I can be thankful for that. I have air in my lungs so I guess this isn’t actually killing me even though it feels like it. And that’s when it hits me.

Grief doesn’t cancel out thankfulness. It is leading me to it.

Grief reminds me of the gift of my son. It is not wrong to constantly bring up the names of the children who are now only in my heart. Missing them reminds me of what a pleasure it was to be their Mama, if even for a short time. Just this fact alone makes me unable to understand how Mamas who have miscarriages even survive afterwards. I have pictures, smells, smiles, and memories of my children who are not mine anymore. These Mamas have never had the gift of those things. I held my baby girl and my toddler boy for a time and it was wonderful, and I will cling to those memories for as long as I live. And I will grieve for the memories that will not continue to be made.

Didn’t the ultimate gift given to us bring along with it a grief of the most intense kind? God’s Son came to us as a babe wrapped in human flesh, a house of grief, in a sinful world to die a miserable grief-filled, back-turning kind of death in order to bring us new life?

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Grief is not a faithless exercise. Don’t tell me to keep my chin up. Don’t tell me to put away my brokenness and simply trust God. Don’t tell me to take this family stuff into my own hands and “make my own babies who will never leave.” It is because of the life of grief and brokenness I live that I can trust in my God.

Grief is not a faithless exercise. It is an experience of the faithful.

Today I want to tell you about my faithful sister Kathy. Her story isn’t a classic beauty from ashes story. There isn’t a happy ending yet. But my sweet sister has a secret. Well it’s really not a secret to the faithful who have experienced tragedy. It is a promise. A paradoxical promise.

“I used to think that joy was separate from sorrow. Kinda like an “either / or”. Either joy or sorrow. To be found together is a paradox. But the longer I live, the more I believe God often works in the paradox. Before 2015, I thought I had an idea of what sorrow was. I knew what it was to lose loved ones and friends. I also thought I knew what it meant to be joyful. I was halfway through my first pregnancy and it was going really well. My husband and I were very excited. We had high hopes for the future. After an incredibly hard but — Praise God — successful labor, my son was born. I held him for a split second, but something was very wrong. Jack couldn’t breathe. Within minutes of birth, he was at the NICU. We learned that Jack was born with CDH (Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia). This is when there’s a hole in the diaphragm, the intestines develop in the chest rather than the abdomen, which then cause pressure on the lungs and heart. Jack went through 3 surgeries in his first 14 days. But as he recovered from his final one, the repair surgery, his stats plummeted. For hours, the doctors, nurses, and surgeons did everything they could to save him but it didn’t work. We held him as he passed from our arms to Jesus’.

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The sorrow that crushes you after losing your baby is unlike anything I’ve ever known. It’s so deep, raw, painful, overwhelming, and life-changing. No longer could I have joy without pain… “This moment would be different if God let us keep Jack.” “If Jack were still here, I’d probably be doing (fill in the blank).” I wondered if I would feel anything other than sorrow again. Some people say “time heals all wounds.” I disagree. Time + Jesus heal all wounds. Does that sound cliche? It shouldn’t if you know what I’m talking about. Jesus is the Man of Sorrows. He knows grief. He understands my own grief. But because of Jesus’ death and resurrection I know that sin and death are not the end. Jesus is the firstborn among many brothers, and his resurrection assures me that my son will rise one day too. So when I think of the cross I think of the depths of sorrow somehow meeting even deeper joy by the grace of God.”

See that is the paradoxical promise that when faced with the depths of sorrow there can still be joy. A deep, mature, non-circumstantial joy that only comes by the grace of God.

“In the same way I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born,” says the LORD.” Isaiah 66:9

If you like the beautiful images from today’s post go on over to Kathy’s website to purchase your own hand made piece. More importantly for every print sold a Bible is sent to a Christian in a restrictive nation. Kathy says:

“My art began as a way for me to process through my grief. Watercolor, hand lettering, and drawing have helped solidify in my mind the truths I read in the Bible. It’s a tangible way for me to work out my faith in Jesus.
All of life is full of trials, so arm yourself with Scripture in your home, and more importantly in your heart.”


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