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Learning to stay afloat in the waves of grief

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They say that grief comes in waves.

And it’s true. The emotion comes and goes, comes and goes, comes and goes.

They also say that you should never turn your back on the ocean; waves can come strong – catching you off guard – and hit you harder than you were prepared for.

The waves of grief are no different. You might understand intellectually that they will keep coming, but some days they hit more forcefully, more fiercely than you ever imagined possible. And just when you thought you might be able to predict the next set, a rogue wave comes rushing in, undermining your balance and sweeping your feet out from under you.

I’m feeling it today – the tsunami of sadness all over again.

The angst of the last several days has receded (temporarily?) but in it’s place is a powerful ache.

Just days ago I told Ryan that I felt “mad at the world.” My emotional tolerance has been stripped back to the bare bones and every remotely unpleasant thought or word or deed was making me rage internally. Not at anyone or anything in particular – just this vague, unnamed angst leaving me tightly wound and poised to explode at any triviality in my line of fire.

Coping with the anger has been the hardest when I’m around my children. They act like toddlers and I fume beneath my skin – it’s too loud, too messy, too hard, too chaotic, too demanding, too physical, too emotional, too stressful, too thankless – while my nerves rattle and my flesh cry out. They need me too much. What can I possibly give them?

 

And then I agonize with guilt, knowing they’re just. being. normal. Two high-energy boys who love their mama and need her present and haven’t yet learned that the world doesn’t spin on their every whim and desire.

No doubt they also feel the emotional undercurrents, even if they aren’t able to articulate or understand.

So I bite my tongue and count to ten under my breath. I’m smoldering within, while trying to keep calm for the sake of these littles whom I love so dearly and don’t want to let down. The guilt melts me as I’m on the verge of collapse and don’t they deserve a mom who can hold it together just a little bit better? I think as I shake my head and mumble a prayer.

You see, I know truth. But sometimes truth doesn’t actually making the living it out any easier.

Yet today there is no anger. I’m glad for a break in the boiling, but in its place resides a deep, wide sadness and a longing to have her back in my womb where she fit so well – where things felt right.

(I wasn’t ready to let go. I’m not sure how to say goodbye.)

I scoop up the boys and load them into the car. Let’s change our scenery; let’s try to play.

When I see her I say hello – the woman who cut my hair last June (have I really not had a haircut in nearly a year?). I’ve never seen her son before, but now he plays with mine on the playground and it is clear they’re delighting in each other.

Do you have other children? I ask.

“Just my son,” she pauses—patting her belly—“and a baby on the way.”

I smile and she adds, “Due October 12th.”

My eyes well with tears as I think of her baby sharing a due-date with mine. (Mine, the one who was supposed to come. Wasn’t she supposed to come??)

But I keep smiling anyway and tell her congratulations, that’s wonderful, because of course, it is and I mean it.

It’s wonderful, and right, and beautiful, but the thought of it stops me in my tracks and I feel broken and empty all over again.

It’s all just so raw, so hard.

While driving home I cry and cry in silence behind my dark sunglasses, thankful that the boys can’t see my wet cheeks from the backseat. (I don’t want to hide from them, but I don’t want to burden them either. Protect them Lord.)

Why are you sad mommy?” Levi asks as he sees my shoulders shaking from behind. “Because you want the baby to come home?”

Yes, I gasped. Yes.

 

I just want the baby to come home. I miss her.

“Yeah,” he says, before going quiet again. (And sometimes the best thing for a woman treading the waters of grief is just for someone to say yeah and to validate how hard it really is.)

I know that tomorrow I’ll be okay. I might go back to feeling angry. I might feel tired. I might feel joy. I might feel nostalgia and gratitude for the prayers that were answered and the time that we had. I might cry about unfolded laundry or have the urge to rearrange the closet or watch too much tv or finish my taxes (I doubt it). I might decide to take the boys to get ice cream cones at a really inappropriate time (breakfast?) or dust off my guitar and sing “Silent Night” just one more time.

Or there might be no waves at all tomorrow. It might be flat and still on the horizon, a day to sail easily in calm seas.

I’ll try not to busy myself too much to mask the suffering or bury myself too much that I can’t see the Hope That Never Fails. I might do well or I might fail. (And there’s grace for both. Amen.)

Because I know – our girl is safe now. (Entirely.) She is loved. (Always.) She is whole. (Completely.) She’s made new. (Miraculously.)

And I’m glad for that, truly.

I only wish that my small gladness would ease the missing a little bit more.

It’s stormy here today. I try to adjust my sails and I attempt to work within the waves.

But it’s hard. It’s really hard.

When the storms of life come, adjust your sails.

[Beautiful print via UUPP.]

Friends, thank you for your tender emails and comments. It breaks my heart that there are so many mothers who share in this form of suffering. I wish I could draw near and hug you all and tell you (as I tell myself) “we’ll get through this”. I want to hear your story, validate your pain, honor your child, and cry with you over your empty picture frames and empty arms. But I can’t. So instead I ask Him to come, to draw near, to speak softly, to usher in grace that covers everything. The waves are relentless, but I have to believe they bring a form of life that would otherwise remain out of reach. I have to keep believing. I just have to. And you, friends? How have you experienced the waves of grief in your own life?


 

20 Comments

  • Reply Krystle 18 April 2013 at 2:22 am

    I just so wish I could be present for you and physically hug you.

    Keep feeling all your emotions, don’t try to pretend they aren’t there. Let them come and know that it will be like this for quite some time. The time in between your rough days and good days will lengthen. But it will take time. Don’t rush it and remember that it’s okay to be angry and mad and grateful and happy and sad all at the same time.

  • Reply casey 18 April 2013 at 11:27 pm

    You have such a beautiful way with words friend. I have endured a rather long season of grief and sorrow over the past few years myself and though the source is different I know the waves that you reference all too well and I know how they catch you off guard. I know how hard the waves can make it to accomplish even simple tasks and how the emotional roller coaster that ensues can seem to drown us at times. I like what your friend above said. Great wisdom. I have also clung tightly to the verse that states that Jesus was a man of many sorrows. Isaiah 53:3 Some people have not yet experienced a great sorrow in their life and it can make it hard for them to relate at times but, Jesus understands sorrow better than anyone. He walked in that all of his life and I find that comforting. I am a woman of many sorrows… Jesus understands so well what we are feeling. Much love to you friend! Thanks for being real and sharing with others even in your pain. You are being a light and ministering even in your loss. God bless you today!
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  • Reply Kristi 18 April 2013 at 11:47 pm

    Adriel, I continue to pray for you. You describe grief well as coming in waves. Like the waves of the ocean, for me sometimes they are gentle and almost comforting, for their presence reminds me of the precious child whose brief life changed my life for the better. And sometime they are fierce and surprising and knock me off my feet as they crash into me without warning. As time goes on, the gentler waves come more often than the fierce ones, and I am praying that you will know God’s peace in all of them. And…I understand about “marker babies” that share your due date. That stings in its own unique way. 🙁 ((hug))

  • Reply Sarah 18 April 2013 at 11:58 pm

    It’s hard. I know the feeling of having being pregnant with other women, only to have miscarried while their pregnancies go full-term. One woman I worked with (that was the hardest, seeing her grow every day while I was empty). I tried to see the bright side: I already had a beautiful & perfect child, I knew I could carry a baby to full-term. Many women experience miscarriage before having any children & they are left to wonder if they will ever have any. I learned to be thankful & grateful for what I DID have. That helped me when I was overcome with grief & pain & feeling like I failed. I also prayed a ton. I prayed that if it was in God’s plan I would be out of my 1st trimester before my other due date. I know that everything happens for a reason, but I just couldn’t make sense of it at the time. I’m not saying it’ll get easier, but I am saying that in time His plan will be revealed & you’ll experience some peace. Much love to you & Ryan. XO

  • Reply Alicia 19 April 2013 at 5:09 am

    Be gracious with yourself, and allow yourself time to grieve. I know it isn’t quite the same kind of grief, but after my sisters accident, I remember times of pouring over the Word of God looking for (and finding) comfort. And other times when I didn’t even feel I had the strength to open the thin cover of my Bible and I’d just lay on the floor weeping and trying to understand. Even in those moments, I could feel the loving presence of a loving Father that grieved with me. I know that He’s grieving with you too and I pray that you feel His presence surrounding you always.

  • Reply Liz Barber 20 April 2013 at 3:01 pm

    Beautifully written and expressed are your those deep emotions that come from your heart. Thank you for acknowledging all those emotions you are feeling. I know for so many who have gone through a loss like this it is important to know that these feelings are ok to feel and even at times difficult to describe but again Oh so real!
    I received an email the other day out of the blue from one of those baby sites that I thought I had unsubscribed from after I miscarried, it was again the reminder that my little one would have been born this week. Even though it’s been 7 months now it still brings a sense of loss to my heart to think of what should have been. I’m so grateful for the Lord in our lives who not only knows our hurts but Who also holds us close. Praying you feel Him close today and in all the days to come.
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  • Reply Meg R. 4 May 2013 at 3:23 pm

    I lost my 27 year old brother 4 years ago. I had a 1 year old son at the time and the grief was overwhelming as well as life being demanding. I sit here with tears in my eyes for you loss. I cannot imagine losing a baby and all the horror you must have felt and still feel. Grief is a tricky monster that rears up– give yourself grace. You will move through this sad time– there will be pure joy again. I know you probably know this, but it always helped me when I heard it again from someone who had also lost a loved one too soon. You and your family are in my prayers.

    • Reply Adriel 12 May 2013 at 9:18 pm

      thanks so much meg. x

  • Reply Kate 2 June 2013 at 12:13 pm

    Adriel,

    This post was sent to me about a month ago when I was experiencing my first miscarriage. For some reason I skipped over it in order to hear your back story, probably because I was right in the thick of the awful and needed to know someone else had been there too. I have just now read through these beautiful words and they are the balm I needed. Tonight I found out about a “marker baby” from the most sweetest and dearest of mamas. I rejoice with her, but tears stung immediately. I was ashamed that I could not keep them at bay, but being reminded of the waves helps in my processing tonight. Thank you for so eloquently describing where I am at and reminding me of the Sovereign Grace that is at each step.

    • Reply Adriel 15 July 2013 at 3:00 pm

      Hi Kate. I’m so, so sorry for your loss. It’s just. so. difficult.

      I wonder how you are now? Moving forward still I hope? Never moving on (we will never “forget”), but moving forward…

      Much love to you! xx
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  • Reply Grace like Scarlett | 28 June 2013 at 2:54 pm

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