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.