I am not Saint Helena!

The journey out of grief is a sticky one.

Grief takes time. There’s no quick fix. No shortcut. No getting around it. 

If I can pass on any pearls of wisdom in dealing with the tricky stuff of life it’s to reach out, reach out, reach out. I unashamedly lean in hard to the faith of my friends and family in this time, using their words, their hope, their trust in my Saviour to drag me through, one day at a time. When one’s mouth is dry and one’s heart is in a state of cardiac arrest, we need the determination of others to pump life back into our veins when we’ve simply reached the end of ourselves. And I knew myself to be wrecked by an overdose of pain.

For days and days and days I feel like an aeroplane in a holding pattern. Round and round and round in circles with the loss, disappointment and hopelessness. Round and round in circles with the questions.

How to believe in a limitless, all-powerful God now…?

How to open my Bible…?

How to make sense of my heavenly Daddy allowing this double portion of despair…?

How to believe we will ever, ever move into a time of joy and having a family of our own…?

How to sing a song of worship in this place…?

I allow myself to be the victim I feel I am. I let myself indulge in the sadness of our situation. I give myself permission to believe that our circumstances are worse than anyone else’s.

I am grateful for the messages of comfort, the verses, the silly cartoons, the cards and flowers from those who care. I try to utter the words of faith that I shouted in the centre of the storm, but I don’t believe them now. Such a weak and fickle faith after all?!

I am blind to the foundations I thought I was building my life and hope upon. My renewed mind has trauma-induced amnesia and I can’t remember one wise word or one golden nugget of God’s faithfulness.

St Helena

I am sent a photo of a stained glass window of St Helena – the mother of Constantine the First and the woman who is believed to have discovered the cross on which Jesus was crucified. I stare at the photo of this amazing, faith-filled adventurer and I weep. I see her leaning her head against the cross, her arm wrapped around it in peaceful contemplation, and recognise that I too am holding onto the cross of Jesus for all I am worth. But I am not behaving like a saint! I am anguished and distraught. I am clinging to Jesus with every ounce of strength, my face pressed into his chest, screaming agony and fear. I am a shadow of myself. A self-defined victim of circumstance. Yet I know that I have no other option than to hold on for dear life to my God. I can’t walk away now as much as I might want to. Where would I go? What would bring me comfort instead?

My marriage reels from the turmoil of this intense pain and begins to flounder. We are classic examples of Man and Woman in our grief. As I see-saw between the inability to simply start the day and an urgent craving for busyness, my husband retreats further and further into his cave and we lose sight of each other. We can see it happening, as we harbour our resentments and our reluctance to find the extra energy to put the other first, but there are too many diary commitments, too many excuses, to create the time and space for a solution. I am grateful for our unsuspecting foresight in planning a break away which forces us into a place of pause and the walls soon come tumbling down.

We had been warned that infertility puts strain on a marriage, but I had ignorantly assumed that the IVF treatment would bring the pressure and not the unexpected detour down Miscarriage Mile.

And yet God is on a mission of restoration, and slowly, slowly we begin to lift our heads. We hear two sermons in a row at our church exploring the pain of pregnancy loss. Never in my 35 years of attending church have I heard a single talk on miscarriage and suddenly here are two! We are astounded and grateful as we unlock doors to prayer, community and fresh healing. I unwrap my birthday presents and see how my friends have invested in my heart through books and a new journal to aid my spiritual growth.

We may not have the answers. We may wonder at the strange wilderness of the last four years and counting. We may still struggle with every new pregnancy announcement and each newborn photo that is sent our way. But we do have a God who has promised to climb into the slimy mess of sadness with us and who continues to weave His goodness into the tapestry of our lives, as He sews the deep tears of our wounded hearts back together.

The battle is to stay soft and open-hearted. The desire is to remain surrendered. The deep, character-defining belief is that this is not the end of the story.

Grief takes time but joy will come in the mourning.

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