After six miscarriages and no children yet to raise, sorrow has begun to feel like home - not the despairing kind of sorrow that withdraws from life, but the kind that makes for joy. We first started to publicly discuss our grief of child loss after Faith's miscarriage in August 2019. We received some support from those we knew, although it become painfully evident that most people, no matter how well-meaning, simply don't know how to approach the grief of others - often because they don't know how to approach their own. The online community provided a great deal of sympathetic prayers and words of empathy, but on both fronts I have come to realize that there is a public crisis concerning our approach to grief. We treat grief like a disease or moral failure, as something that does not belong in our conscious minds.
Prosperity gospel/word of faith types associate grief with sin. Our children obviously died because we did not have enough faith to keep them alive. Yes, we had people say this both privately and publicly. Just recently, someone told me that I should remove "miscarriage father" from my twitter bio because it somehow empowers loss. Fortunately, we know better than to consider this heretical approach, but many do not. Many are convinced that positive thoughts and declarations will somehow manifest desired reality. If you want to know how well this works, just ask Michael Scott about his bankruptcy.
In other circles, both within and beyond Christian opinion, grief is often understood as a short-term necessary evil that is meant to fade with time. After we lost Faith, some well-meaning sympathizers said that we should get rid of, or at the very least hide away, our crib and everything else that we had prepared for her. We were told to delete all mentions of her from Facebook to avoid them returning as yearly reminders of our loss. I find this approach to be terribly inhumane as well as psychologically unhealthy. Our children died. What kind of parents would we be if we sought to eradicate all trace of their existence? Furthermore, whether discussing a grief like this or another, grief does not simply go away. If we force it out of our conscious minds, it remains somewhere in the unconscious and is likely to manifest itself in unsavory ways, such as bitterness, jealously, resentment, anger, relational isolation, etc. Most of you have either experienced this yourselves or know someone who has. If we do not embrace the reality of loss, it will inevitably embrace us.
Instead of rebuking or suppressing grief, I recommend a third approach: integrating grief into a life of meaning. Whether we are ever to raise children or not, the children that we lost will always be a part of our lives. Their stockings will be hung every Christmas. Their memory boxes will be kept visible. Yes, these things bring sorrow to the forefront, but they also bring to the forefront the good things that laid ground for sorrow, as well as the goodness of God that preserves us when the world shatters. For those with eyes to see, there is something constant and reliable, even through the greatest tumults of this life. The goodness that make all good things good remains constant, despite the spinning wheel of fortune. When we suffer loss, we discover what cannot be lost.
Since our initial losses, I have learned to encounter the world differently. I live with more purpose. I connect more deeply with things of depth. I approach stories differently. I approach people differently. I am both more sensitive and more resilient. I am more grounded because I am more aware of fragility. I know greater joy, not because I am rid of sorrow, but because I have roots deeply fixed in sorrow.
“For if joyful is the fountain that rises in the sun, its springs are in the wells of sorrow unfathomable at the foundations of the Earth.” - Tolkien, The Silmarillion
This world is one of suffering. If you make it out of the womb, which I have come to learn is a great feat in itself, you will encounter betrayal, loss, sickness, and ultimately death. If we attempt to avoid grief for the achievement of ethereal bliss, we will inevitably find ourselves in embittered defeat, surrounded by shattered dreams. However, if we are able to embrace the bitterness of this life, we will be pleasantly surprised by the sweet things that we find. We will not be consumed by the darkness, but rather we will be filled with joyous gratitude at the beams of paradise that pierce the veil and illumine the path forward.
Aesop teaches us well that "Gratitude is the sign of noble souls." Let your grief fuel your gratitude. Let life in the darkness make your eyes more attuned to the light. Do not be surprised by bitterness, but delight in the sweet. Let the ignoble inspire nobility. Integrate your sorrow into a life of meaning. Find salvation through cruciform faith.
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