I tried, and I think I did well, to be careful not to place too much expectation on my vacation to fix anything. I knew it would be good for your daddy and I, for our stress levels and for our marriage, but I knew that I would be coming right back to the same things I’ve been enduring for weeks.
And it’s true. While I had moments on vacation where I deeply felt my loss and wished I was there with my whole family–you included, Rowan–I still had moments of peace and healing. But then I returned home after eight days to the house that holds all my horrible memories of losing you, and it all came back. Nothing changed. I’m still grieving, still not pregnant, as far as I know. The world marches on around me, moving on with life, and I’m still feeling everything just as deeply as before.
But it simply emphasizes to me the inability of anything on this planet to help me. Not people, not changes of place, not distraction, and possibly not even a new pregnancy. Don’t get me wrong–I have had wonderful people speak incredible encouragement into my life in a way that I never expected, and which has changed me forever. As I have said before, this has allowed me to discover how loved I am; far more than I ever thought. I continue to be encouraged by cards arriving in the mail even in recent weeks, by hugs, by prayers, and by people checking on me. But in the end, even people are not enough. They grow weary of treating me differently. They vanish altogether because they don’t want to share my darkness (understandably, I suppose), or they don’t want to talk to me about it as if miscarriage is contagious or something. C.S. Lewis spoke of the same thing in A Grief Observed: married couples didn’t like to talk to him after Joy died, because it reminded them that the same thing may happen to one of them.
(If you’re reading this and you haven’t lost a baby, yes, it may well happen to you. The odds are certainly in favor of it. But don’t let it frighten you. I wish I had known how likely it was so I could have been more prepared. And if you have lost, don’t forget how very much you are not alone.)
People are incapable of curing grief. They are wonderful for providing support; support without which I would not have made it through nearly as well as I did. But they will always be a temporary relief. Humans are selfish, and return to their own lives and their own happiness. I would do the same in their shoes. It’s just human nature. As one friend put it, when I felt I should be doing better than I was, and perhaps even comparing myself to how other, stronger women might be feeling in my shoes, “You’re being too hard on yourself. Remember that you have the right to grieve however you want. Screw what people expect you to do [who] have never lost a child, and you have.” And darned if that isn’t some of the best advice I’ve gotten.
I made the mistake, since I didn’t wish I talk to God, of looking to people to help me more than perhaps I should have. I turned to online message boards for miscarriage mamas, and while they provided me with some practical information on life post-miscarriage, both the physical and emotional, they had nothing else to offer my pain. I turned to people for advice and encouragement. And while many did not let me down, and one might argue for the importance of opening up to people, I was still dodging the truth: that nothing in this world helps for more than an hour or two. I tried not to expect people to check in on me every day or let me know I wasn’t alone all the time. I gave a lot of grace that I would have wanted if I was in their shoes. But I still felt alone. And still do. Some friends have had a greater capacity for compassion than others, and I cannot begin to express how much I appreciate them, but they are also human.
The truth is, though, that whether someone has suffered similarly or not, or suffered far worse than I, even, no one can truly understand the heart-wrenching, hair-tearing anguish of loss in the moments one feels it. Those who have also suffered still feel their own pain, but time has healed the wound a little. Even I, one day, will not properly understand the pain of someone else in their moment of present anguish. I would argue that even now, though I still feel my grief deeply, still mourn every day, would not quite feel as deeply the pain of someone else were they to lose a child today. People are not enough. We are all incapable of being enough.
And so I was prepared, on vacation, to come back home afterward to my depression and grief. Places and separation and distraction are not enough. Time, perhaps, is enough, but it moves too slowly and cannot be a present comfort.
The only thing that can ease the pain and grant hope and peace is God. I know this, and I have always known this. But how does one turn, for comfort, to the one who caused or allowed the affliction? How does one pray for relief to the one who didn’t answer the prayer that would have kept the grief away to begin with? How does one find the same comfort and peace one had in childhood, when one’s childhood God looks very different now than he used to? To loosely paraphrase Lewis, it’s not so much that I feel that God has abandoned me, it’s that I now have to question his love of me, and the view I have had of him all these years.
In A Grief Observed, Lewis says, “You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted in it?”
I have been a Christian for 23 years, and a whole-hearted follower of Him for 18 years. I have read the Bible 13 and a half times through, and attended church regularly for all of those years. I studied his nature and character in undergrad and graduate school from seasoned Bible and theology scholars. Has my perception of God been wrong all this time? Has he been merely a fabrication of my first-world, comfortable mind? People responded to my grief just as I would have thought they’d do. Time, distance, distraction and change do those little temporary favors to me as I would expect. But I did not respond to God in my grief as I would have thought, nor he to me.
Lewis, as I have written before, felt the same of God. That God was gone, had abandoned him, and, as he felt at least at one point, may never have been there. This is how I have felt for 8 weeks (I should have been 19 weeks pregnant now; should have known your gender, Rowan). But my revelations of God from A Grief Observed and from my vacation will have to wait for another letter, as this one is getting a little long. But suffice it to say that I have begun to speak with Him again, to wrestle with my ideas of him, and to feel Him as He seeks to repair me, little by little, however much anger I still hold against Him.
Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven, Part Eight, Part Nine, Part Ten, Part Eleven, Part Twelve, Part Thirteen, Part Fourteen, Part Fifteen, Part Sixteen, Part Seventeen