When a friend of mine experienced stillbirth a few months after my first miscarriage, it forced me to look into the eyes of my own jealousy.
Yes, I just said that.
I was devastated to hear her news. It triggered my own deep feelings of loss while also sending my empathy into overdrive. I did my best to support her (long distance) through emails and responding to her and her family members who immediately turned to me for suggestions for grief support. But then I watched (via social media) her post professional photos taken with their baby, hold a memorial service at their church and write of her freezer filled with enough meals to last them weeks. It was beautiful to see how her people rallied, but it also magnified my own lack and amplified all the things I imagined would have helped me grieve my own loss.
We didn’t have any photos.
We didn’t have a grave to visit.
We didn’t have a fridge full of food or a mailbox full of cards.
Seeing all that she had in her grief exposed how I felt about what I didn’t have. In short, I was jealous.
I wouldn’t have wished my pain on my friend in a thousand years, and I’m so glad she was cared for the way she was. My jealousy had very little to do with her; it had everything to do with my own broken heart.
My jealousy was the fruit of something deeper. It revealed my desire to find comfort in people rather than God. It exposed my sense of entitlement – to be treated the way I thought I would treat others had the tables been turned. It revealed that even though I knew what was best for my heart, I didn’t always live it.
While I worked through the issues in my own heart, I had to take some tangible steps to make it easier for me: I hid her photos from my Facebook newsfeed, and whenever I began to find myself comparing my pain to her pain or my community’s response to her community’s response, I began to confess my jealousy to the Lord and use it as a reminder to pray for her heart. I don’t want to sound trite here, like you can “fix” your heart with a few simple steps. This process wasn’t easy for me, but it was life-giving. By allowing that specific trigger to become a reminder to lift my gaze to Jesus, I was able to not only support my friend in prayer but make room for God to heal my own heart.
The Brutal Truth
Grief exposes everything. It exposes our insecurities, our bias, our misdirected beliefs, our weaknesses, our sense of entitlement, our assumptions, our jealousy, our pride. Don’t berate yourself for the ugly stuff it uncovers. The human heart is complex. You can’t heal yourself by applying a spiritual antidote or by white-knuckling your way out of the pain by the power of your will. This is the stuff of spiritual transformation, a partnership between the human and the divine. When these things are exposed in our lives, it presents us with an opportunity: Will we allow our weakness, sin and beliefs to define our lives, our faith and our relationships? Or will we recognize the chance to go deep and deal with the root of what’s been exposed?
Some of you are still spinning from the blow of your miscarriage, and right now you simply need permission to make room for the sadness. Don’t minimize or try to “overcome” your grief.
But others will know exactly what I’m talking about – you are ready for the soul work. There comes a time when the dust settles and we’re faced with what grief has exposed in our hearts…
Continue reading how I deal with issues of comparison and jealousy after loss at Focus on the Family.
Featured image by Yoann Boyer on Unsplash