Part of this was written yesterday, the 27th, and I decided not to update the dates to make it seem like it was written today.
I remember dates and details and milestones like crazy. I love this (I rarely forget birthdays and anniversaries; I will be that girlfriend and wife who remembers absurd things like the first time we held hands and where we were when he said I love you and the mom who details every first and then every important second and third and fiftieth after that) and I hate it (growing up, I always knew the day I last saw my birth father and when I fought with a friend and what I was wearing when I found out bad news). I celebrate life by defining these moments on the calendar, and as this time of year comes, I can’t help but let my mind be drawn to July 2012.
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At 3:00 a.m. last Tuesday morning I woke up, the skin of my belly burning. I was so disoriented and nothing made sense. Why did I feel so hot and why did my belly ache so much when the fans were burning? Why was I in bed in a bed that wasn’t my own? Why were there no people with me when I was just with a good friend, telling her that I was six months pregnant?
Where was my baby?
Reality came back to me quickly, but in broken, chunky pieces after I placed my hand on my stomach. No, not pregnant. No belly full of baby. House sitting. Not my bed. Alone. Waking up. All a dream.
It was just a dream, Krista. But, like almost all of my dreams, even the ones that seem to make little sense logically, this one was so real and so vivid that I could feel the baby-that-wasn’t-there kicking. The joy I felt as I told my friend she was going to be an auntie was real and palpable – racing hearts and nervous excitement filling my body. And then I woke up.
Alone in a bed with empty skin and empty arms and a heart that burned with the feeling of something missing.
Does it surprise you that I closed my eyes and tried to pick up where I left off?
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The last year has been an amazing journey. Some day, I will sit down and write it out in more detail. I will give words to the path that God has taken me on, the healing and the hurt and the breaking down and building up – the parts in between the start and the end (if it ever really ends). But tonight, I’m sitting here, reflecting on the last 365 days as a whole and what it’s meant, and I can’t help but remember this exact day last year.
It was the first and only time in my life I have felt anguish, the burning, bitter bite of screams that you hold back and sobs you choke into whimpers. All I could do that day was curl up in bed under the covers in my dark bedroom, ignoring the blue July sky outside. I could not fathom being joyful when I wanted to rip my body apart and hit someone until they felt as horrible as I did.
I know now that God was using that as a breaking point. Two days before, I had cried hard and ugly for the first time. I said the words out loud, words that I’d never uttered and rarely thought in an attempt to make it less real:
The fear and the shame I felt at saying those words, and the sadness and grief that filled me as my friend prayed. The heartache that consumed me for the remainder of that year and only began to leave very recently. I have felt in the last 12 months more than I have felt in my first 29 years combined. Every consequence for my bad decisions, every problem I thought I’d solved but really made worse – it all came crawling out of me until I felt like I was gasping for air, choked by the thick and heavy weight of sin that had taken me over.
In some ways during those days, I wished I could have taken all of the words back and lived in a land of pretending it never happened.
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This week has been hard. I have cried so many times – when a friend texted me a picture of an ultrasound, when I thought about the baby shower I attended today (a day that should have been filled with a celebration of my own child), during the baby shower as a newborn baby cried in the background, when I woke up with the aching sensation in my belly and my arms so light and empty. But if I’ve learned anything, it is that I get to grieve. It is normal and healthy to grieve. I have gone before God and asked for forgiveness and in His grace, He allowed me the right to grieve my loss as real as any other woman who has last a child.
I recently finished a Bible study for women who have had abortions and it was an incredible class with an amazing group of women. We focused on the act of abortion, what the Bible says about human life, the consequences of our sin, and lots and lots of time was spent on the cross and forgiveness and Jesus’ sacrifice. After we finished our last meeting, I was ready and prepared to be done with the feelings of sadness and loss. I gave it all to God and I said, “Boom. I. Am. Done.”
Or so I thought.
This week has reminded me that isn’t true and that you can’t put a time frame on grief. At every teary moment, I’ve thought, “Why the heck I am crying? It’s done! It’s finished! I’m done! Why can’t I get it together?”
Every time. I’m so sick of being sad about it, and then in the midst of my frustration of just wanting to get a hold of myself, I realized something that I cannot get out of my head:
There is a distinct different between being consumed by sin and self-pity and simply grieving a loss.
In my mind, I have linked my emotions with the sin I had allowed to control my life with simply feeling sad and admitting I did, indeed, lose something. I told myself, once I began to grieve on that July night last year, that once I dealt with the root, the emotions would go away.
I was right and I was wrong.
The horrible emotions of shame and anguish and bitterness have gone. I really did leave those behind that night and when I took the Bible study I wrote about earlier. But the feelings of loss and bereavement and sorrow? Those are here, fading gently. I can’t box them up and ship them off. I can’t expect myself to wake up and be fine. I wouldn’t expect a mom who’s lost a child another way to be done with her grief in a set amount of time.
I’ve really had to think about this a lot the last few days and it’s made me realize that God is always bigger than my emotions and my feelings. First of all, in too many moments to mention during the last week, I have had to ask Him to get me through the day, the hour, the moment. Literally the moment, when the tears are right there and I felt like I could not control them. Even when feeling the pain of loss, I’ve had to tell myself that I must turn to the One higher than me and stronger than me instead of being capsized by the pain in my heart.
And second, I’ve had to check myself this week – am I allowing myself to feel condemned and shamed by something God has already forgiven me for? I don’t want to be the kind of person whose life revolves around a critical moment of sin, a person whose life takes on meaning only because of something that she needs to let go of. Keeping myself near to God has made me check this part of me and I know that no, I’m not feeling shame and condemnation.
Just a little sad that this is a moment in time where I am missing the sweaty, happy head of a girl who just celebrated her birthday. And tonight, where I am (close to God and removed from Satan’s lies that I’ll never be good enough because I was bad enough one time), I know that I am okay.
When I think about the cool of Tuesday morning, of shutting my eyes and letting myself drift back to sleep under the fans, I know that I longed for my girl. I know that there will be things in the future that remind me of her and my desire to know her, and a part of me will always long for her. This year, though, is easier than last year, and I know next year will be easier than this year – and the years ahead will continue to come, filled with new things to grieve and more joy that I know to celebrate. I am so thankful to God to know that I know our separation isn’t eternal, just earthly, and in it all, the grief will not be forever, or for long.
For now, she is a ruby kept just above my heart.