Tuesday, July 22, 2014


It has been a while - there is much to say, not all of which I'm ready to say here.  I did want to take a few minutes though and talk about goodness.  It has been a difficult two years, two years ago we began the journey to grow our family and never could have foreseen the grief and trauma we would experience in going through multiple miscarriages.  This is not the story I would have written for my family - but I can say that it is still a love story, still a tale of passion, hope and goodness.

I remember very clearly feeling like I would never be able to look at these losses and call it "good", never be able to accept that this lot was God's goodness towards me.  Just recently I've found myself realizing that all along I've been wading through the goodness - whether it was pain that ripped me open, despair that felt crushing, hope that began to bloom, or joy that came in the morning - it was all goodness.

Right now, life is good.  But part of what makes it so good is that I can experience it as good, because I have walked down roads that did not feel good.  I think a massive blessing that has come from all the grief is that my heart has been turned towards gratefulness and recognizing the million tiny mercies that sustain us each day.  So, today I am grateful and life is good.  It isn't the goodness of the moment right now that motivates my gratefulness.  Even if darkness were  to surround me once again, I know that there would still be goodness. 

But, right now, while there is light and life feels good - I am grateful, I rejoice, I enjoy and drink deep the blessings of God.  And tomorrow - if the darkness returns - I will do the same because God's goodness will not be removed.

"Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is in the Lord.  For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit.  The heart is more deceitful than all else and desperately sick; who can understand it?  I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds."  Jeremiah 17: 7-10

I feel like I have lived this in a way that has unfolded my heart to become like the tree planted by the water.  Goodness doesn't always feel good, but the heart is deceitful and feelings can lead us to grow cold towards the difficult Goodness of God.  I'm grateful that in my pain, in my 'sickness' God guided my roots towards the water.  I didn't make things 'good' - it has been the glorious and merciful work of God through difficult times.  So, even when the heat comes, when the drought lingers, by His grace I will not be anxious or fearful because I know that there will still be fruit.  That is Goodness.

Friday, March 7, 2014


I am not okay.  As much as I try to be, appear to be, sometimes want to be - I am not.  I am still a person in pain, a broken vessel pouring out tears and shattered with grief.  I don't want to feel that kind of pain, it hurts - like hell.  I want to be a 'strong' person, someone that I imagine doesn't cry or fall apart after a bad day.  But, that kind of person also seems rather unfeeling and cold.

I have felt 'better', have spoken about my peace, my hope, my joy and it is true, but I fear that I may have deceived myself, at least in part.  Because the truth is, counting blessings, finding joy, being grateful is real and it matters, but so is the pain, the loss, the grief and it also matters.  Four months have not erased it, counting blessings does not take it away.

No one really wants to see it, there is no nice place to put it where it can be admired, and there is no cure that will fix the terrible wrong.  So, I carry on, I move forward, I live - and some days it is really good, really, truly good.  And some days, it is bad...grief so close to the surface I can't understand how everyone else can ignore it.

In spite of peace that is real, there exists sorrow that is also real.  As someone in the business of evaluating and caring for the mental health of others - I get it, we want others to feel better.  But, I would argue that 'better' doesn't mean the wound heals, there is not a scar, and that on occassion it doesn't rip open fresh with pain.

Ethan has been gone now for almost as long as he was with me - but just because I didn't hold him doesn't mean I mourn him less.  Maybe this IS 'better', that I have a bad day that feels bad and is called bad.  Tomorrow is another day and by God's grace, good or bad, He will be enough.  Maybe better is being brave enough to face the pain and feel it with each tear, rather than distract, escape, or disguise it.  Maybe better isn't always better...

Could it be that being real with our hearts, whether in joy or pain, even when it hurts, is better than being 'okay' all the time?  I don't have a desire to be just 'okay', I don't need for my life to be better, to feel better, but it seems too few are willing to tread onto that ground.  To sit in the pain, not to fix, cure, brighten, or explain, but just to let it be okay that everything is not okay.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Helping young children deal with grief

This post is primarily about children ages 3-6 - while many of the tips would work well with older children, this age range is the developmental level I am focusing on.

Dealing with my own grief through our losses has been one thing, helping my 4 year old navigate the tangled ball of emotion that is grief was something entirely different.  Even as a Master's level Psychologist trained in working with children, this process has been difficult and up until recently left me wondering if I made the right choices.  When we decided to tell H about the baby at 14 weeks, we never imagined that something terrible would happen again and in the wake of our grief I found myself wondering if I had made the wrong decision.

It has been recent that I have seen the fruit of this process in H's life and feel confident that the lasting impression he will have from this time in his life is a positive one.  So, how can parents, therapists, counselors help young children navigate this road of grief?  Well, each child is different and will respond differently to trauma, but here are some general things that have been helpful for us.

- Be as honest as you can with the child about the event.  Use language that is accurate but appropriate.  Don't use euphemisms, like "he's sleeping" or "he went to a better place" to describe death. Children at this age are extremely literal and these kinds of explanations will only make them more confused about what happened.

- If you talk about heaven, be careful about saying things like, "God needed another angel" or "God loved him so much he needed him in heaven."  These kinds of phrases may make young children feel scared of God or going to heaven or afraid that God may "take" them away too.

- Expect some period of regression in some area.  Whether it is behavior, toileting, sleeping, there is likely going to be some previously mastered skill that appears to regress.  Children may become more clingy, need more reassurance, or be more emotional.  For us, H had a lot more trouble going to sleep and expressed many more fears about things he hadn't previously been afraid of.  We are approaching four months later and things still aren't back to "normal" in this area, but we're working on embracing the new normal.

- If the loss is of a child they never met, like ours, it was more confusing for H to process the loss of someone he never knew.  In the days following he wanted to pretend there was a baby and even recently continues to play out death with toys and pretend I have a baby.  This is actually really normal for kids this age as they process things primarily through play.  The themes and words may be disturbing to you, but for the child this is their way of working out grief and trying to understand the permanence of death.

-  Giving the child a concrete way to honor a loved one or remember the loss helps them give expression to their feelings in a way that is appropriate for their age.  For us, we put together a mosaic stepping stone together and talked about how this would help us remember our baby because we were never going to see him on Earth again.

-  Leave it to kids to ask the hardest questions - and they will.  "Why did our baby have to die?", "Am I going to die?", "Why can't you have a baby in your tummy again?", and the list goes on.  There is no perfect answer to these questions, but it is important to address them and keep answering them to the best of your ability as they will likely be asked over and over again.  This is a normal process for kids and is kind of like their way of checking in with you.

-  Some kids want to talk about the loss immediately and frequently, other kids will hardly mention it and will not bring it up.  For H, he wanted to tell everyone important to him about it and in the weeks following would tell teachers, family, friends about what happened.  He asked a lot of questions of me and was immediately concerned that Mommy and Daddy felt better and weren't sad anymore.  I want him to feel like it is okay to talk about, so I let him talk about it whenever he wants to for as long as he wants, but I don't press it or ask him about it if he doesn't seem to want to talk about it.

-  That being said, don't hide your feelings.  It is okay for your kids to see you cry, to know that you are not okay.  It is important to use your own judgement with this, but children, even young children are very intuitive and will know that you are not okay.  H did not like to see me cry, but I assured him each time that I was going to feel happy again, but at that moment was still very sad.  Naming our feelings for our kids will help them recognize those feelings in themselves and give them words to use to communicate them later.

- When we gave the baby a name (we didn't know the sex at the time of the loss) and told H it was a boy, it seemed to help him personify the baby.  He wanted to know what he looked like and talks about him by name (or nickname... he says he wants to call him "Michelangelo").

- Talk with your child about your healing.  I have done this sporadically, but when I find myself feeling joyful, hopeful, or at peace - I tell him and acknowledge how God gives us good things and we have so many things to be grateful for.  This not only models habits that I want in my own heart, but assures our children that God really does bring healing.

I don't know that we have navigated this road perfectly and it has been painful to see my child grieve, but we have had conversations this week that have made my heart smile.  We talked about  fear and what it really means for Jesus to keep us safe.  We talked about how loving God and following Jesus doesn't mean bad things won't happen to us; how God can bring us joy even when bad things happen... And he gets it!  I'm not sure H would really be able to know and understand these things without walking this road with us and going through his own grief.  I hope this is helpful - I found myself kind of at a loss wondering how to navigate this with young children.

Sunday, February 9, 2014


I have never liked the idea that grief is a linear progression, it is often portrayed that way even in counseling classes.  It makes it seem as if the stages are progressive and have a definite beginning and ending.  That certainly has not been my experience of grief.  I saw this graphic representation of grief recently that I found helpful.

It feels more like this tangled knot where so many of these feelings are overlapping and some so close to the surface while others are buried deep inside.  I don't know that I will ever look back at this time in my life and call it "good".  But, I can say that were I am right now emotionally, spiritually, and mentally is a much more healthy place than where I was 1 year ago.  I owe that in large part to Jesus, but also to our sweet baby Ethan.  That is what we decided we would have named him and what we call him now when we talk about him.  I didn't like to think about him honestly, I had these images in my head of him unmoving on the ultrasound right before he left me that I can't erase and that kept me up at night for weeks following our loss.  It has been recent, that I have been able to think about him and talk about him as our gift from God to show us how to love greater than our fear, to be grateful for each moment because time is short, and to experience the steadying/anchor love of Christ through the most intense storms of life.

Ethan means solid, enduring, strong, firm.  I can't think of a better name for a child who taught me what it truly means to have Christ as an anchor to my soul.  We have completed all medical testing, seen all the necessary doctors and the answers remain that there is no answer.  No medical reason that explains our losses - everything appears to be perfectly normal.  There is no guarantee that this won't happen again, no preventative measures to be taken, no course of treatment to improve our odds.  Despite the 'positive' report from the doctors, I know that I can't put my hope in having a baby.  My hope has to be in the love of God towards my family, the justice that belongs to God alone, and the fullness of Christ He has promised to those that seek him.

See, life isn't fair - I see it everyday in the children who were born addicted to drugs and struggle in school, in the young mother of 3 boys who has terminal cancer and is told "there's nothing more we can do."  Everyone has their own story of grief and disappointment with life.  For most of us there are no answers to "why?" or "how long?".  In many ways, walking this road has brought me freedom - I don't have to be afraid.  Even as we look into an uncertain future, I don't have to fear what will be because I know from experience that no matter what happens, no matter how dark it feels, no matter how terrible the suffering - God will find me there and He will be good.  As many verses in scripture state, "The Lord is on my side; I will not fear, what can man do to me?" Psalm 118:6, "What then, shall we say to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?" Romans 8:31.  "Fear not, for I am with you,  do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you. Yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness."  Isaiah 41:10.

It is because of Ethan that I got to experience a love greater than my fear and even when my fear became reality, God didn't let go of me and continued to show me His mercy and transforming kindness.  How can I resent that?  How can I curse that?  I couldn't choose it - but I can embrace it and allow Ethan's brief life to continue to give life to me and be thankful for the ways it has made me a more compassionate friend, a more attentive mother, a more grateful spouse and a more graceful servant of Christ.  I never considered suffering loss to be a road to freedom, but maybe it is, maybe it is the way to be free from fear, free from all that is insignificant and meaningless, and free to truly live without regrets.

I now picture my sweet baby up in Heaven, keeping his siblings  and great grandparents company and reminding me to live each day fully, on purpose, and without fear.  Perhaps the greatest burdens are also our deepest blessings.

Monday, January 13, 2014


I've never been a big fan of the idea of 'submission'.  I think because it seemed like giving up or pretending to be someone that I am not.  It wasn't until I began to seriously consider marriage and study, pray, and contemplate biblical submission that I began to understand it differently.  When I began to understand it as an act of worship, and a submission to God's ultimate authority out of reverence for Christ - it quit feeling like I was 'surrendering' or 'stuffing aside' my true self.

This journey of struggling with the "Why's", the "How could You's?", the "What are you doing?" has been fruitful for me.  Not in the sense that I have any answers to these questions... I still have no idea, I probably never will.  But as I have wrestled and hurt and cried out to God, I've found that much to my surprise, I really do want to submit.

I didn't want this journey, but now it is my own and I don't want to waste it yelling at God, asking for answers that won't make the pain of my reality less, or trying to manipulate God into giving me my Plan B instead of His plan.  God's soverignty hasn't been a big stumbling block for me until right now.  But these questions whithout answers, these demands for justice - they come from a place of pain that wants there to be a beginning and an end, a map with a destination and an earthly/temporal explanation for this massive detour to my plans.

I know, given the choice, I couldn't choose the eternal value of this time with God and my own sanctification over the lives of my children.  But, God didn't make me choose like He did with Abraham.  So, I can fight and cling and demand from Him... or I can submit.  As I said, I've never been great at submission (just ask my husband), and it has been a work of God in my heart for many years to bring me to a place of not just asking God for what I wanted, but asking Him to align my wants with His will and accomplish His will. This kind of submission is not a passive, 'whatever you want' kind of attitude, but an active seeking out of God's will an opening my heart to whatever he may say or not say.

Sometimes, it remains shrouded in mystery and I must choose whether I will fight for my own way or submit to His - even when it isn't my dream.  So, I'm letting my dream die - not because it isn't what I want anymore - but because what I want even more is to see God's dream come to be in my life.  I am walking this road of suffering and pain and brokenness for a purpose.  It doesn't feel "good" - I don't know that it ever will, but I know the Creator who holds the foundations of the world in   His hands also holds me, holds my children and holds the future of my family... and He is always good.

So, I choose to submit to His plan, His timing, his dream for  my life and my future.  Just getting these words out makes me feel like "Surely, I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with his mother like a weaned child is my soul within me.  Psalm131:2" This is the way to peace, to contentment, and to fulfillment - it is to submit.

I read recently in One Thousand Gifts (a great book by the way) this passage,
 "There are moments that as sure as I bruise don't feel like good things have been given.  What of all the memories where Christ seems absent?  When the bridge shakes and heaves, when 'how will he not also?' reads more like 'he will not.'  Trauma's storm can mask the Christ and feelings can lie...But maybe this is true reality:  It is in the dark that God is passing by.  The bridge and our lives shake not because God has abandoned, but the exact opposite: God is passing by.  God is in the tremors.  Dark is the holiest ground, the glory passing by.  In the blackest, God is closest, at work, forging His perfect and right will.  Though it is black and we can't see and our world seems to be free-falling and we feel utterly alone, Christ is most present to us, I-beam supporting in earthquake.  Then He will remove His hand.  Then we will look back and see His back."

Thursday, January 2, 2014


I have a dear friend who was pregnant with a little girl at the same time I was pregnant with H.  Around the time I discovered that we had lost a baby but his twin had survived and I was still pregnant, this sweet friend discovered that their daughter was developing with a heart outside of her body and she would not survive the birth.  This friend continued to post on her blog as they walked through this terribly painful time of delivering their daughter early only to give her back to Jesus moments later.  Reading about their faith and their strength throughout this time was a tremendous encouragement to me.

Shortly after this loss, this friend and I began sending each other messages (she lives overeas) and it helped me so much to know that she knew what this pain, disappointment, and fear felt like.  She continues to be a tremendous encouragement to me as she embraces the pain of loosing a child and yet acknowledges the goodness of God and the fullness of joy that He can bring even in times of suffering.  She sent me a book recently.  Holding Onto Hope, which is a really incredible book for anyone struggling with grief and the difficult wrestling with "Why?" "How?" and "How Long?"

It has been a tremendously helpful book as the Author shares her own story of struggling with loosing children and aligns her own story with the story of Job.  I haven't even finished the book yet, and I can feel the bitterness, the anger, the demand for answers continue to give way to hope and peace.  I wanted to share some parts from the book that have been really meaningful.

"So many people are afraid to bring up my loss.  They don't want to upset me But my tears are the only way I have to release the deep sorrow I feel...In fact, those who shed their tears with me show me we are not alone. It often feels like we are carrying this enormous load of sorrow, when others shed their tears with me, it is as if they are taking a bucket full of sadness and carrying it for me.  It is perhaps, the most meaningful thing anyone can do for me."

"You see, we worship because God is worthy, not necessarily because we 'feel' like it.  In the midst of a crisis, if we only do what we feel like doing, we could remain stuck in a cycle of self-pity.  But when we worship, we get our eyes off of ourselves and our sorrow or problems.  We focus them on god, and this puts our difficulties into proper perspective."

"When trouble comes, we think, 'I don't deserve this!'  But wait.  What would your life be like if you did get what you really deserve?  Were it not for the grace of God, for his mercy, what would your life be like?  Think about that for a minute."

"The world tells us to run from suffering, to avoid it at all costs, to cry out to heaven to take it waway.  Few of us would choose to suffer.  Yet when we know that God has allowed suffering into our lives for a purpose, we can embrace it instead of running from it, and we can seek God in the midst of suffering.  Accepting suffering drives us deeper in our devotion."

"The truth is, there is no comfort to be found away from God; at least, there is no lasting, deep, satisfying comfort.  Revenge, ritual, retreat - they don't bring any lasting relief from the pain.  Only the truth of God's Word, the tenderness of his welcome, the touch of his healing presence bring the kind of comfort we crave.  Only his promises of purpose in this life and perfection in the life to come offer us any kind of real hope to hold on to."

"Trusting God when the miracle does not come, when the urgent prayer gets no answer, when there is only darkness - this is the kind of faith God values perhaps most of all.  This is the kind of faith that can be developed and displayed only in the midst of difficult circumstanes.  This is the kind of faith that cannot be shaken because it is the result of having been shaken."

I was telling Jeff yesterday as we reflected on 2013 and look towards 2014 that in spite of all of the pain and disappointment of this last year and all the uncertainty of the year ahead of us I can't help but feel hopeful.  Not because I hope that we will have a baby (although this is a deep desire), but because I believe that God desires for me to live a life that is full, joyful, abundant, and brings Him glory.  Those are promises from Him that I feel him working out in my life as I trust in Him even when the path is dark, it isn't a confidence that He will give me what I want, but rather a confidence in who He is and in His ultimate desire to glorify Himself through my life.  

On the hard days I will remind myself that "This is why we never give up.  Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.  for our present troubles are quite small and won't last very long.  Yet they produce for us an immeasurably great glory that will last forever!  So we don't look at the troubles we can see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen.  For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever.  2 Corinthians 4:16-18."