I snapped this photo on a jog, weeks after my miscarriage when a sudden wave of guttural sadness washed over me. The loss of those two babies was the single deepest, darkest place of grief in my life. And yet it has become a place of empathy, ministry, grace and light in my life—because of the One whose nail-scarred hands hold them, hold me, and hold the grief.
At just 18 years of age, I watched one of my best friends take her final breath. It was the deepest, darkest place of grief I had known thus far. And it was a place of grief I did not fully process until a decade of chronic pain finally led me to the knowledge that our bodies are so holistically intertwined that our emotional pain becomes physical pain when stuffed away.
That very journey through chronic pain–which I am still on after 16 years–has been its own source of grief in my life. I mourn the loss of time it has caused me. I mourn the loss of all it has kept me from experiencing. And yet this very source of grief has been a source of meeting with Jesus and experiencing God in ways I never thought possible.
Throughout these three journeys of grief, God has walked with me. He has carried me when I was too weak to walk on my own. He has been with me in the pit. He has been with me on the mornings I could hardly get out of bed. He has been there with me when I wished I wasn’t there at all. He never left my side even when I had never felt more alone. I stand here today, grateful to be able to share some of the many lessons I have learned along the road of grief–on the path that no one wants to take, but that every single one of us will—at some point or another, in some form or another.
I pray these lessons bless you. And I pray the God of hope fills you with healing in your past, present and future places of grief.
10 lessons I learned from grief
- It’s okay to grieve. Jesus grieved. He wept. For the loss of life. Even though he knew it wasn’t the end of the story. (John 11:1-44, specifically John 11:35)
- It’s okay to question. To wrestle with God. I once heard it said, “God doesn’t mind when we beat on His chest; He only minds when we don’t.” God can handle our questions. And even when we can’t hear the answers, He always hears our cries and never leaves our side. (Genesis 32:22-32, Psalm 34:15, Psalm 145:18)
- There’s value in reading Scripture even when we don’t feel like it. I read the words of the Bible after my miscarriage with such a numb heart. But I wrote down the passages I “happened” to read. And what I didn’t realize was that as I was journaling my way through grief, I would one day look back and see just how clearly God was speaking to me through those very words. (Job 33:14, Romans 10:17, 2 Timothy 3:16-17)
- It’s okay to be angry. There’s a thing called “righteous anger” that Jesus had when He overturned those tables in the temple. It’s okay to feel angry about the devastating pain and heartbreaks of this world. They break God’s heart, too. I was angry with God when He brought Krissi home, and I was angry with God for bringing our babies home all too soon. And yet His Word reminds me of who He is—the Rescuer of brokenness, not the Creator of it. (Matthew 21:12, Psalm 18:2, 2 Samuel 22:3)
- We must have grace for others as we grieve. Not everyone will meet you where you are at. Not everyone will come alongside you in your grief like you might hope they would. We must have grace for those we know love us and want the best for us. They won’t do it perfectly. Some won’t have the capacity to. Some haven’t walked enough grief enough to know how. (Colossians 3:12, Colossians 4:6, Matthew 5:7)
- How to meet others in their grief: like they need; not like you would need in their situation. Ask questions. Ask how you can meet them. Ask what would be helpful. If they need someone to sit and cry with and you can’t do that, then you can show them love by giving them space. As Rachel Hollis said, “You do not get to narrate anyone else’s grief story.” (Galatians 6:2)
- Seek help if you need it. Talk with a therapist or counselor. 12 years after losing Krissi, I finally did. And just weeks after our miscarriage, I did. It was so helpful in my processing it all, in managing the anxiety it created within me. When we brings our hurt into the light, it loses its power. Satan would love nothing more than for us to try to hide it away, to stuff it down below the surface—where it can fester, grow and create even more hurt, pain and conflict in our lives. Jesus came that we might live as children of the light. He is the light that allows us to safely look our grief in the eyes, because we get to view our grief story in light of the full Story He is telling—one with the ultimate happy ending where death and heartbreak and grief and loss and heartbreak and pain don’t have the final say. (Isaiah 9:2, John 1:5, Revelation 21:4)
- It’s okay that the grief doesn’t go away. I still get choked up—or even break into sobs—unexpectedly when something stings my heart in regard to our miscarriage. I don’t believe I’ll ever not feel grief when I think about the loss of our babies. And occasionally I am still triggered by the loss of Krissi. But it’s okay. Because it means I love them all so much. The grief doesn’t go away, but it takes on a different form, a different shape as it’s molded by the hands of the God who holds my babies and my friend and all my grief together until I come face to face with Him. (Matthew 5:4, 1 Corinthians 13:7, 1 Thessalonians 4:13)
- There is a time to grieve, and there is a time to dance. While the wound is still bleeding, we aren’t ready for rehab. We first need the bleeding to stop. We need to grieve. We need to process. We need to feel it, to sit in it. And then we can seek the rehab. And in the rehab, there comes a time when we are able to dance. Not because our heart doesn’t still ache. Not because our eyes don’t still fill with tears when we think of our loss. But because our God brings beauty from ashes and ministry from trials. There is so much good and growth that comes from our grief–namely our ability to better come alongside those who grieve. Scripture tells us that God comforts us in our troubles so that we can comfort others in their troubles. What a gift. (Ecclesiastes 3:4, Isaiah 61:3, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
- Physical pain can be caused by emotional trauma. I remember first reading those words in the waiting room of a holistic doctor after spending nearly every day of the last nine years in pain: “emotional trauma.” I had no idea what that meant. I know now. And I now know that emotional pain most definitely can lead to physical pain when not dealt with and processed through. God created us as holistic beings, made in His image–the image of a triune God. Mind, body, and spirit cannot be separated. If you have unexplained physical pain, I pray God helps open your eyes to any places of stuffed away grief inside of you—that it may come into the light, that you may journey one step closer to walking in the life to the full that He longs for us to have. (Genesis 1:26, John 10:10, 1 Thessalonians 5:23)
Nobody chooses grief, but we can choose what we do with our grief. I’m so grateful God chose to enter His own place of grief in giving up His Son, that our grief wouldn’t end with grief. In the hands of this God who holds it all, our grief now has the potential to become a catalyst for healing, growth, friendship, ministry, and so many other beautiful things. Praise be to Him for that. Praise be to the Giver of life. And praise be to the One who walks these dark roads with us, daily, until we walk through Heaven’s gates and step into the fullness of His glorious light.
Praise Him that one day we will experience perfect healing and wholeness, and that one day we will get to see our loved ones again. As The Gray Havens sing, “I’m not really sure what that means, but I know it will be better than we’ve ever seen.”