In the Deep End {Of Grief}

This moment was beautifully captured by my cousin @ Holly Joy Photography. And many of these words were written by friends, acquaintances, and strangers who have experienced their own deep ends of grief. Thank you for comforting me in my troubles “with the comfort {you yourselves} have received from God.”

This moment was beautifully captured by my cousin @ Holly Joy Photography. And many of these words were written by friends, acquaintances, and strangers who have experienced their own deep ends of grief. Thank you for comforting me in my troubles “with the comfort {you yourselves} have received from God.”

I feel content with where I am at in my grief, but I think that is because you, as well as others who have been through this before, keep reminding me that it is okay to think and feel whatever I need to get through each day.

Those are words I wrote to a friend last week. 

Because this whole grief thing is deep.

Deep, like getting pushed into the deep end of a pool when you don’t know how to swim. Like thrashing around in the water not knowing which way is up. Like feeling afraid that some days you just might drown in it.

But it has been helpful to hear from others who have been there. Others who have experienced their own deep ends of grief.

Others who are willing to jump in right next to you. Willing to swim with you through it to the other side. To rub your back as you cough and spittle the mouthful you just took in. To wait as you struggle to catch your breath.

Others who are willing to shed their own tears when you finally break down and cry.

So I want to share a few things that have helped me in the deep end of my own grief since losing our daughter. I contradict myself by saying, “there are no rules” and then by listing a whole bunch of "rules" after. But I pray these words will be an encouraging reminder to anyone in the deep end of their grief, and to those swimming through it with them:

There are no rules. Besides avoiding excessive alcohol. Besides harming yourself or others. There are no rules for how to think or feel as you grieve. Everyone grieves differently.

I hope you let yourself cry, grieve, and wail however you need to. I hope you let yourself be angry when you need to be angry. I hope you give yourself permission to be sad and depressed when you need to. I hope you allow yourself to laugh when something funny happens. I hope you let yourself feel the whole range of your emotions both now and in the days, months, and years ahead. But most of all, I hope that through all the ups and downs to come in the future, I hope you know how deeply you are loved by me and so many people… and infinitely more by your Father. – Megan

Do what you need to do. Cry. Take a shower. Sleep. Stare out the window. Find a creative outlet. Run a marathon. Watch a marathon of The Office. This Fruit-Basket-Upset is yours to work through as best as you can.

My husband died in 2014, and although he lived 78 years my loss is huge…I cried for three months even though I was thankful my husband went to his eternal reward. God’s grace is sufficient. – Marilyn L.

You can't compare grief. The Comparison Game leaks itself into grief too. But the words “at least” don’t belong in a conversation about your pain.

My wish for you is that you feel fully the anguish that you are so unfairly facing in your own pregnancy. Do not belittle your pain by feeling unjustified and having to put others’ experiences ahead of your own. It is okay to be that person: the one in pain, the one in need. I lost my baby son before his first birthday. I spent so much time thinking that other moms had WAY more heartache than me. I just could not accept that my pain was real and valid and just as compelling as everyone else's. I was the mom who said, "Well, some moms never even get time with their babies," and "I have it a lot easier than some moms; at least it wasn't a trauma," and "At least he died at home." What was I thinking? Everything our family experienced was raw and devastating and just as noteworthy as anyone else. So please, nurture yourself and do not worry how you sound, no matter how low or depressed. – Gueneth

Don’t worry about what other people think. I stressed for many weeks after our daughter was delivered the fact that we chose to not have a memorial service or burial. Not because I regretted those decisions, but because I was worried what other people would think about those decisions. But we made choices we knew were best for us. And the people who know you and love you will remind you: “We just want you to do what you need to do to get through this horrible time!”

I love you so much. I am sorry for your loss. I hope God will give you another baby. Everybody is praying for you. XOXO to Uncle Collin, Aunt Kendra, and Jocelyn. – Felicity

Don’t be surprised when grief surprises you. Like most things in life, grief has no manual, schedule or stages. It shows up at your door and affects your life whenever and however the heck it wants. But the best description I have read on grief was this:

Based on my own and my patients’ experiences, I now like to say that the story of loss has three “chapters.” Chapter 1 has to do with attachment: the strength of the bond with the person who has been lost…I often tell them that the size of their grief corresponds to the depth of their love.

Chapter 2 is the death event itself. This is often the moment when the person experiencing the loss begins to question his sanity, particularly when the death is premature and traumatic. {My patient} had prided herself on her ability to stay in control in difficult times. The profound emotional chaos of her baby’s death made her feel crazy.

Chapter 3 is the long road that begins after the last casserole dish is picked up — when the outside world stops grieving with you. {My patient} wanted to reassure her family, friends and herself that she was on the fast track to closure. This was exhausting. What she really needed was to let herself sink into her sadness, accept it. – Patrick O’Malley, “Getting Grief Right”

Remember that people might say the wrong thing. And they might even say it at the wrong time. But I hope that while they might be graded “D” for content, they can still be given an “A” for effort. And I hope that as time passes, you will appreciate the intentions of those you know are genuinely trying to show you they care.

Remember, no one can tell you how to feel. There is no right or wrong. Just listen to your heart and take each hour or day or even minute as they come. Don't listen to anything negative or stupid. Many will say stupid things. Just send them my way. – Heidi

Mourning is hard to cope when it corresponds with someone else’s rejoicing. It’s okay to feel happy for what your friend is celebrating, but sad for what you are grieving at the same time. Their positive pregnancy test with your miscarriage. Their engagement with your break-up. Their new job with your rejection.

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. {Romans 12:15}

Let others help you. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can handle the beast of grief on your own. My first thought when we got home from the hospital was, “I cannot handle being a mom to Toddler right now.” So we asked our parents to watch her for a few days. My first thought when I heard our friends had meals scheduled to come to our house for a month and a half was, “That seems a little excessive.” But it was just what we needed on the days grief decided to show up unannounced.

The people who care for you want to help. Don’t be afraid to ask for something you know you need, or to accept something you didn’t know you needed.

I want you and Collin to have a chance to have a nice dinner out sometime in the next little while so you can enjoy each other’s company and continue to build the foundation of a strong marriage even when life feels like too much to handle. – Alyssa

Respect your fragility. I knew I couldn’t hide from the world, and that some parts of my grieving wouldn’t begin until I entered life on the outside. But there is no rush. I came out from under my rock slowly. I canceled plans with friends on the days I knew I was extra fragile and felt that staying home would be better for me. I responded to a few emails with a “Thank you so much, but I am too tired to reply right now” kind of response.

It’s a journey which brought you to a place of loss, and it will take a journey to bring you to healing. Take the path at your own pace as you figure out your new normal. – Jeanetta

I know that those weeks and months after {my baby} was born, I was functioning in such a haze, living but not really realizing it. I was in this funny in between place that I didn't understand. I was trying to figure out how to act in public. How to interact with other moms. I felt like an outsider. I couldn't even look at babies or bellies (still hard to do that). I wanted to be alone with {my daughter}, my mom, or {my husband.} It felt like an uphill battle every day, never knowing what was going to trigger the extreme emotions. I pray that if you feel any of these things, that you know you are not alone. Or whatever you are feeling or struggling with. Each day will present new challenges, so many unknowns, and a lot of ups and downs. And God will carry you through. – Melissa

Respect your triggers. With the loss of a child comes natural triggers: seeing pregnant bellies, a newborn baby, or a family the size yours was going to be. I was also warned that my due date would be hard, and it was. All I could think was what “should have been,” in a perfect world. On July 15, 2015, or somewhere close to that date, I should have been giving birth, caring for a newborn, and celebrating our family of four. But recognizing those triggers, distracting yourself from them, or respecting the fact that you might be extra fragile when you encounter them, is okay.

As Aliza’s due date approaches I wanted to let you know that you are being held in prayer. A day that was expected to be full of joy will likely be a day of mourning as you are again reminded of the sweet little one that you lost. I’m sorry for your grief and heartache during this season of your life. – Leah

Enjoy a refreshingly honest and genuine relationship with God that you might not have experienced before. Cry out to Him. Tell Him how much it hurts. And then, hand over the mess He wishes more would be honest enough to admit.

In my own journey, I'm fighting to let go of the sense that I need to be a good Christian. My desperate attempts to be a good Christian (of which their are many) usually end up with me feeling frustrated, misunderstood, exhausted, and down on myself. But maybe I'm not called to be a "good Christian." Maybe me living an authentically messy life is enough. Maybe God is okay with the messiness of my heart, my conflicting desires, and my inner doubts. I guess all that to say, I want to encourage you to authentically live your experience with all the ups and downs. Give yourself grace when you don't know the answers. Wrestle with your questions and doubts that naturally accompany pain. I think God can handle it, and dare I say He even welcomes it. – Megan

Remember. I heard from many other moms that their fear was that their child would be forgotten. With this thought, I was blessed by friends and family with beautiful jewelry engraved with Aliza’s name, or her initials, or the meaning of her name. I wear different pieces almost every day, because it’s a great way to remember.

When we lost our baby the hardest part for me was how forgotten our baby would be. No one will ever meet her, know her, or remember her. I have a remembrance necklace and it helps me to remember her and what a gift my baby was even though others don’t know, or how awkward it can be to talk about, it is always my reminder. I hope this allows you the same peace that Aliza is remembered, loved, and not forgotten. – Krista

I am not ready for things to be back to "normal.” I am not ready to find our "new normal.” I still want to be close to our boy and never forget the precious moments we had with him. I don't want the people around me to forget him. I want our son to be forever remembered, and God has been kind in so many ways to remind me that John won't be forgotten. – Brittney

It is important that you feel your pain and acknowledge it, for it is through feeling the pain that allows you to process your grief. Although grief is so intensely painful, it is not a process of forgetting, but a process of remembering. – Geanette

Take care of yourself. All of these "rules" simply put. Recognize that you will gain strength with time, but that the hole in your heart might never go away. Know that it’s okay to not feel "okay."

Keep your faith. Hold on to your courage. Take kind care of each other at this difficult time. – Marilyn S.

Dear Kendra, Praying for you, that you get strong enough to live with the hole in your heart. – Marcia

You will be okay. You will be more than okay. I know and believe that. But some days, it will feel the opposite. But I know that God is using Aliza to change your life forever, for the better, even if it feels like it is for the worse right now. I pray that you will not feel guilty when you have happy, joyful moments and days, and that you do not feel too frustrated and down from challenging, emotionally draining days. They are all necessary, and embracing them is more beneficial than fighting them.  – Melissa

To those in the deep end of their grief: I am so sorry for what you are going through.

And to those kind enough to jump in and swim with them through the deep end of their grief: thank you.

For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over through our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. {2 Corinthians 1:5}

Grace and Peace,
Kendra

P.S. What have you learned or experienced about grief that you would want others to know?