I was overwhelmed. I can remember those feelings every year – trying to be strong and to navigate everything while feeling so emotionally and physically weak. And this year is no different. Except that, despite all of my could be’s and should be’s from the past week, I am reminded, kindly, gently, by a Father who has never been anything but loving and trustworthy and good to me, that He is.
When Brigid died, I was challenged by the book of Job. I had people telling me it was okay to be angry at God – that He could take it. And I knew this was true. But I had a lifelong relationship with God and Jesus. I knew that trials and suffering were part of life and that they weren’t to blame for them. I knew that trials strengthened our faith. And I remembered that when, at the end of the book, Job even dared to question, “Why?” God sat him down and told him of all His vast knowledge and power. Sometimes, even sarcastically – “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!” (Job 38:4) I knew what that meant. Sarcasm is my second language.
A particularly trying day with my kids on Sunday left me thinking a lot about those things. The two hours spent getting everyone dressed and out the door for, and then sitting through, church leave me feeling steamrolled, and maybe it was because of the girls’ upcoming birthday, but on that particular day, I spent a lot of time wondering if I could have managed if my twins were with us. And if they were, would we still have our sweet youngest daughter? If things are difficult and I feel overwhelmed with four, am I glad that I don’t have two more? Did God know I couldn’t handle it?
Whatever it takes to save them, we said, it will be worth it. We will do it.
But Fiona’s heart was no longer beating the day after the surgery, and suddenly our world came crashing down around us.
We’d wanted four children, but not like this. Not five minus one.
I remembered that He refines us by fire, and that when a refiner is working with precious metals, making them pure and perfecting them, he holds them in the fire just until he can see his own reflection and all the impurities are burned away – not for a moment longer. And then, he takes them out. But he doesn’t just leave them. He molds them into something special.
Some of the other losses we grieve after our child dies have to do with the relationships we had before their death.
People that we imagined would be there supporting us in our darkest hour were nowhere to be found. No phone calls asking how we were or how they could help. Nothing.
There are so many facets to our losses that it is no wonder that our grief can spiral back and catch us off guard sometimes, rearing its ugly head and reducing us to tears at different times throughout the year. Years.
I need to think. I need to process it and heal from it. And the reality is, there just isn’t time for thinking right now. There’s groceries, and diapers, and “Mommy, Mommy Mommy,” and laundry, and juice, and meal planning, and organizing, and diapers, and nursing, and bedtime, and dishes, and cleaning (and did I mention diapers?), but there’s not a lot of thinking.
There were several times that I was afraid to speak up or to sound pushy. I let the medical staff do what it felt was best, but I was Brigid’s only voice. I could have advocated for her better. There are so many things that I can think of that, if they’d been handled differently, might have resulted in her still being here. Or they might not have. I will never know.
Any parent who has lost a child knows how painful this seemingly benign question can be.
To most people doing the asking it’s just a way to make small talk. Just getting to know you a little bit more. They have no idea about the internalized chain reaction of thoughts and decisions they set off by asking this.