As I debated on sharing my story now, I kept coming back to that feeling eleven years ago that I needed someone, anyone, even a stranger to know what I was going through. Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing my journey through pregnancy and loss because I believe that there are women out there who need the same thing today.Read More
The other day Kingston asked me what the difference was between gas and deisel fuel. "Um..." I said, stalling, "I think it's all about how the engine uses the fuel... but we can Google it when we get home.". What I was really thinking was that my dad would have known the answer to that question. A year and half after his death I still have to remind myself that he isn't there for me to call.
Last year was the year of "firsts" in my journey of grief. I dreaded Father's Day for months and spent the week weepy and feeling hollow. Finally, the day I had been anxious about arrived and I was strangely OK. I missed my dad and thought of the many things I loved about him, but I also enjoyed making the day special for Nate and his dad. It was one of the first times that I felt like I was able to understand the mix of sorrow and joy that often goes hand in hand with losing loved ones.
This year has been different. I still miss my dad, I still get weepy from time to time and I still can't bring myself to delete his contact info in my phone. But healing has occurred. When I think of him (which is often) I am able to smile and find joy and peace in the things I loved and miss about him. Like the way he could fix anything, and had a story to tell about everything. The way he said my name and the fluctuation in his voice when he said "This is your dad..." on the phone. He sounded like the Eeyore character from Winnie the Pooh. When I smell someone who has the unique scent of cigarette smoke and aftershave I breathe in deeply and think of him (and cough /get weird looks from strangers).
As I marvel at God's goodness to heal my heart and turn such sorrow into joy and hope, I think about so many of my friends who have lost parents this year. I'm not sure if more of my friends are experiencing the death of their parents because we are aging, or if I'm just more aware of it. Either way, I wanted to share some things that have helped me, in hopes they will make your journey easier too.
- Cry. Let it out. If I try to stuff my feelings in then I end up a gasping, hysterical mess (often in public) and I would much rather have this moment in private.
- Talk to other people who knew your dad. Share memories, look at pictures, don't shy away from these things even though they are hard. It brings healing to remember the sweetness of time shared, even if there is a mix of sadness that comes with those sentiments.
- Look for the ways God has provided other father figures in your life. I realize this may not be true for everyone, but I have an amazing father-in-law. He has loved me as his own even before I married Nate and I could not be more thankful for him. One of the biggest blessings of living with Nate's parents last summer was spending time with him when I needed a dad the most. Maybe this is true for you, or perhaps there is someone else who has invested in you or taken care of you like a dad. Spend some time reflecting on them and make sure you tell them how much they mean to you.
- While I don't relate to Nate as my dad, he is an AMAZING one to our kiddos. Focusing on him and finding ways to honor him throughout the day made it easier to be without my dad. It brought about a greater appreciation for so much of what my dad did for me as a kid. When I see the way Nate loves our kids when he is tired or has had a crazy day at work it makes me appreciate the times my dad did the same.
- Know that day by day, you will wake up and the sadness will be less. The weight in your chest will not be so heavy and you will smile and laugh again. You will feel God's presence and be able to praise Him for His goodness. These were all things that took time for me, and I didn't really realize they were missing from my life until they came back. I trusted God in those dark months, I prayed, I had faith, I read His Word and I have no doubt that God was with me all those days. But it was months before I FELT the light of hope again. It will come. God is faithful and gives us a hope that does not disappoint.
My prayer for you (and for myself) is that we would find joy this Father's Day, not only in the memories of our dad's, but in the love and healing of God the Father. Blessings!
*originally posted June 2016
Three years ago we were headed to Atlanta for a conference and a much needed getaway. Nate was leading a breakout session, we were catching up with friends and were excited to have a breath of fresh air infused into our work with students. I was five months into grieving the loss of my dad and had finally escaped some of the numbness and fog of the early months of grief. I was also traveling with a sweet little secret - I was eleven weeks pregnant.
Pregnancy is a tricky thing for me. I’ve been pregnant seven times and lost six babies (one of the kids had a twin that miscarried), so while two pink lines signal joy and excitement, there is also a fair amount of fear partnered with those feelings. Feelings of uncertainty and anxiety about not only the life of the baby, but also about the possibility of impending heartbreak. I have walked that road enough times to know that hope and healing happen, but sometimes you have to crawl and claw your way through to experience it.
In the early hours of the next morning I had some light bleeding, so we gathered our things and went to the nearest emergency room. It’s a strange thing to hold onto hope that life still exists when the signs of your body and past experience lend so easily to despair. I cried my way into an exam room where an ultrasound confirmed that there was no heartbeat. I left with a prescription for the physical pain and was told to contact my doctor when I arrived home. I wanted the earth to swallow me up, or a magic time machine to transport me to ahead into the future so I could bypass the coming weeks and months. I told my friend Meagan that, more than any other time in my life, I wanted to get drunk. I’ve never been drunk, but anything that would numb my brokeness sounded good in that moment.
Instead, I chose a King Sized Twix bar, a coke and a Fitness magazine and headed up to my hotel room. The irony of this purchase is not lost on me, and I’ve had a good laugh about it since. I let sugar be my drug and I buried myself in articles about flat abs and the lastest cardio moves, because I didn’t want to risk reading a magazine where I would see pictures and articles about pregnancy. I would love to say that it was my moral compass that kept me from getting plastered, or the fact that I was a pastor’s wife at a pastor’s convention, but it wasn’t. It was the hope that they were wrong. That they had missed the little blinking light on the ultrasound that signaled a heartbeat and that life was still present and growing inside of me. I had heard of this happening, and I refused to give up completely until I was certain there was no more baby.
They weren’t wrong. The next week consisted of doctor appointments, returning maternity clothes without the tags and begging them to take me off their mailing list (note: they didn’t take the clothes back and I still got mail for months), and learning what our new normal was. A new normal that didn’t involve planning and dreaming and adding another baby to our family. A new normal where your brain counts the weeks and knows how pregnant you would have been, or when you would be delivering a baby. I had done this five times before, but partnered with the grief of losing my dad, it was like the first time all over again.
Three years later and we are headed back to the same city, the same conference, with the same friends. There is something significant about returning to the physical place of heartbreak once you are restored and that has been ever present in my heart and mind the last few weeks. I have been thinking a lot about the early days after each of my losses, and how I combed the internet for stories like mine. Stories about women who lost babies and what that meant for them and how they overcame it. So I’m here on the internet, telling my story today, and in the weeks to come. I’m praying that it brings hope and life to a heart that was broken like mine, and that those who need it would find solidarity in knowing they aren’t alone in their loss. Hugs to you if you are grieving and hurting today. I promise - there is hope ahead of you.