Miriam was born and died just 17 days ago. That's not very long. Even when compared to her much too short life. Cards and notes of sympathy and support have continued to come in and mean so much to us. We read each and every one. Whether written on paper on in a Facebook message or email. I look forward to the mail coming every day. But not for the reason I first thought I did. I originally thought I would find hope from the messages. Maybe someone could convince me that eventually everything would be "ok" and that it wouldn't always feel so heartbreaking and sad. But, it turns out that cards written focused on hope and "God's plan" seem confusing, unsettling, and out of place. They make my heart feel uncomfortable and feel unsafe to read. I read them twice to see if I'm missing something, but the truth is that those messages hurt. Even when I thought they would be what I wanted to hear, those messages make me feel ignored. Like my pain doesn't matter. Like Miriam's life doesn't matter.
Ecclesiastes says there is a time to weep, and a time to laugh. A time to mourn and a time to dance. But, those times aren't supposed to happen simultaneously. We are in a period of grieving. Ok, so to be honest, when we are with our kids we do dance and laugh. It's impossible not to do those things when we are being strong for our kids. But, when it's just me and Dave? Just weeping. Just grieving. Just asking, "Why God? Why would you give us such joy just to end in death?" Just questions. And anger. I understand that people want to offer us hope. To encourage us to be strong. And to tell us of "God's plan" for our lives. Because they want to make us feel better. But it doesn't work that way.
We don't need cheerleaders. It's not time to brush ourselves off and solider on. The temptation to do that is actually pretty strong as we are infertility veterans who are more accustomed to bad news and being tough and celebratory around pregnant women and babies even when it hurts. It's tempting to go back to that mentality of being a fighter. Of stuffing our sad emotions and hurts down so deep that we don't acknowledge them anymore. And to be honest, that sometimes feels like it might just be the easier road out of this mess of grief.
But right now we need to grieve. Our hearts, and souls and bodies need to be able to fall apart and weep. We need people to sit with us in our pain and acknowledge how deep it goes. What I didn't expect were the loud tears that flowed after reading the card sent from the staff at our fertility clinic. I don't know whether it was a nurse or an office worker, but she wrote, "I just can't imagine the pain you're going through" I don't even know her, but she sat with me. She acknowledged the sadness and grief.
Another friend wrote that she wished she could wear sackcloth and ashes and be a wailing woman with and for us. That image brought comfort to my soul. A visualization of others weeping with us. One friend wrote (electronically!) that what we went through was "unfathomly tragic and that she was so shocked and heartbroken" for us. Those words gave me permission to take a deep breath of both sadness and hope. She was in the ashes without even being with us in person. She didn't tell us to hope or trust or be positive. She just grieved and acknowledged the pain and that gave me more hope and a sense of community than so much else.
These voices are not the only ones that have been a balm to our souls when we have hit our lowest, but they are the ones that come to mind in this moment. It gives my soul such support and compassion to hear of others feeling sad for us. And grieving with us. I'm remembering how I felt this way about infertility too. Those who acknowledged my pain and the unfairness of it became safe places to release and cry.
Where do we go from here? We can't stay in the grieving place forever. And we won't. There will always be great sadness about the missing member of our family. No one and nothing can ever take her place. She should still be here with us and she's not. My heart can't even comprehend the loss we have endured even writing it out now seems like a fresh wound.
But, I'm told those wounds will eventually turn to scars and that God will bind up our broken hearts and carry us out of this season of mourning. But, that comes with time. Not overnight. We will not wake up one morning and realize that we have found some hope to replace the loss of Miriam. From the stirring of God and God alone our hearts will begin to mend and He will plant a seed of hope in our hearts. And in time, I pray that hope will take root where wasteland is currently widespread. But, not today. And not tomorrow. I've been told that two years is a realistic amount of time to begin to feel normal again. That's not soon.
Until then it's time to embrace the grief. Even as Christians we need permission to grieve. To weep and mourn and know that God is there weeping with us in the darkness. I'm more convinced than ever that He sits with us in our despair and doesn't expect us to hope or trust or be positive when our hearts are breaking. Part of how I know for sure are those mourners He has sent to cry with us. The Body of Christ in human form. Emmanuel. God with us.