sharing your stories and remembering your children
By: Rebekah Slonim
“I don’t believe that grief passes away. It has its time and place forever. More time is added to it; it becomes a story within a story. But grief and griever alike endure.” —Wendell Berry
I think about my two pregnancy losses every single day—the miscarriage three days after Christmas in my first year of marriage, the ectopic pregnancy on a beautiful fall day in my second year of marriage. Time, many supportive conversations with friends and family members, and a living baby have eased the pain and ache. The miscarriages no longer actively hurt me.
But the grief remains. After my first miscarriage, I struggled mightily with the idea of “moving on.” The perception I found lurking in my own mind and in some comments that people made to me was that, in order to grieve in a healthy manner, I had to “move on.” “Moving on” seemed to suggest “moving away”—to bury and ignore my horrible sense of emptiness, both physical and emotional.
Eventually I opted for the phrase “moving forward.” I came across the above Wendell Berry quotation and began to envision my grief as a chapter in the book of my life. I would not always be in the chapter of crying in the shower, sleeping in late to avoid the yearning, cringing at every pregnant woman in the grocery store, trying to change the topic if anyone was talking about baby-rearing.
Still, that chapter would always be part of the book. It was essential to the story. It would never be removed.
Grief shapes my life.
As a teenager, I remember rebelling against the idea in L. M. Montgomery’s “Rilla of Ingleside” that there would be “a little patient ache . . . in [Rilla’s] heart until she died” after her brother Walter was killed in battle in World War I. Yet now I live with a similar patient ache, most of the time submerged and not really a part of all the thoughts flitting through my mind about sleep training and dishes and my work as a copyeditor.
Still, that grief shapes my life. It’s always in the background, and it comes to the surface every now and then. A sense of loss attends me when I mark down my son’s family tree in his baby book, feeling like he is not really the first or only child, but knowing that in practice he is. The patient ache returns when I remember, acutely, how painful it is to see a dark expanse on a ultrasound screen rather than a tiny body with a tinier, pulsating heart. And every single time someone asks me how many children I have, or if I have children, I wince just a little. Barbara Crooker writes, “How many children do you have? / Two, we answer, thinking three, / Or three, we answer, thinking four; / They are always with us.” And so I answer one, thinking three.
Grief reflects a true sense of the way the world is.
To live with a sense of loss is not improper. We shouldn’t try to scrub it away. We live in a world full of loss. To have a particular loss imprinted upon us enables us to understand ourselves, other people, and the world around us better.
While in my grief I initially closed in upon myself, I also found that—gradually—the world began to open up to me in a new way. Before my miscarriages, I had never had a great loss—the kind of loss that turns your life upside-down, makes you confront your dreams and expectations, and makes you wonder what happiness and contentment will look like. But great losses are a near-universal human experience. Now when a friend or acquaintance talks about any type of loss, I lean in and listen carefully.
My pregnancy losses have opened a door into a different kind of experience. I live life differently because of them. And I am grateful to have been molded and transformed by two tiny unborn babies with brief but meaningful lives.
Grief gives me gratitude and perspective.
As Michelle DuBarry explains, “Grief is exactly as painful as you think it will be, but with time you will learn to love your sadness because of the tiny shoots of joy and gratitude that sprout around it, like new growth on scorched earth.” I do love my sadness. I love how it gently instructs me. It causes me to notice when another woman seems uncomfortable with talking about babies. It helps me to delight more in everyday pleasures. And it is the necessary backdrop to what my son’s life and birth mean to me.
The cliché that grief is the price of love is true. I hold onto my grief as a reminder—a sign and symbol of my love. It’s the only way I can love the babies that I lost.
My grief is of course not the whole story of my life. It cannot be—that would be wrong and misguided. There are other chapters in my life, other stories being told and yet to be told. Yet I do not wait or wish for it to go away. It has its time and place. I remember it and return to it and learn from it and hold it close.
Rebekah Slonim, a 2016 graduate of Hillsdale College, is a freelance copyeditor, proofreader, and indexer. She lives in West Lafayette, Indiana, with her husband and son.
 Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow (Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint, 2000), 148.
 L. M. Montgomery, Rilla of Ingleside (New York: Bantam Books, 1992), 189.
 Barbara Crooker, “The Lost Children,” Verse-Virtual.com, 2016, https://www.verse-virtual.com/barbara-crooker-2016-march.html.
 Michelle DuBarry, “When Sturdy Love Is What You Need,” The New York Times, October 19, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/19/style/modern-love-when-sturdy-love-is-what-you-need.html.
By: Stephani Francl
I've had a couple of bad days in the last week. Days spent mostly in tears or teetering on the edge of tears, fighting to maintain enough normalcy to keep my kids from asking too many questions; nights praying for sleep to come in it's forgetful relief.
Today was a good day. I have lots of good days - days where life is normal, and I get to just live. But in this season, some days are really...
In the first sentence, I called them "bad days," but I don't think that's quite the right word. The word "bad" can mean lots of things - of poor quality, not to be desired, putrid, not appropriate, unwelcome, naughty, etc. I don't mean I've had bad days in any of those ways.
I'm not sure what a more appropriate word would be. Sorrowful? Heavy? Necessary? Hard. I'll just go with hard.
From today, a "good" day, I can look back on the hard days and know that they are necessary; I can even be grateful that I've walked them. Imagine losing something of value but never acknowledging the loss. Imagine someone empties your bank account, hacks into your IRA, snatches your life savings, and steals your inheritance, and your response is merely to shrug your shoulders and say, "Que sera, sera." ("What will be, will be.")
No one would actually do that. You'd call the police, you'd hunt down the thief, you'd hire lawyers and private investigators if necessary to get back what was rightfully yours. And let's be real, by the time you get all those people involved to help bring justice to your case, you've spent a TON of time dealing with merely the logistics of the situation, let alone the emotional upheaval.
I look at the hard days kind of like that. Grief requires an investment of time; it must be dealt with; it must be faced. Those who don't stare it down are somehow not facing the reality of what they've lost.
Now, that's not to say that we all deal with grief the same way - far from it!
Some need solitude, some need lots of people; some read books, some escape to the outdoors; some carry on with normal life, some need a major change. There is no right way to grieve, though we can often recognize wrong ones when we see them lived out in others.
So, some days are hard, but they can be good too.
...which I suppose means I need to revisit my labeling of normal days as "good days." Calling them "good days" implies that the days spent doing the work of grief aren't good. And while I suppose in some ways that's fair to say, I would counter that the days I spent deeply grieving this week were good days, too. Necessary, healing, part of the process, and validating my loss.
So I guess I have normal days and hard days, and not good days and bad days.
One of grief's biggest schemes is to make me feel isolated. Feeling alone in what I'm facing is just miserable. I mean, it's true. I don't know anyone else who has lost one twin in-utero at 15 weeks. I have friends who have friends who have gone through something sort of similar at 11 or 20 weeks, but not exactly what I'm facing. And let's be real - I don't want friends of friends to understand me - I want my friends who I already have to understand exactly where I'm at.
But they don't, and they can't, and I pray that they never will.
Oh God, that no one would ever face this.
It's true. My situation is unique in my circle, but so is yours. I don't live your life. I don't carry your burdens. You can tell me about the skeletons in your closet, and you may even let me peek in once or twice, but they live forever in your closet. And I have my own hidden away in mine.
The lie grief tries to convince me of is that I'm the only one who has ever experienced this, the only one who has ever felt this way, the only one who has ever faced my future. And I could easily agree and say to grief, "Yes. It's all true - I am alone. No one understands. Poor me." And perhaps I'd be right.
But the reality is, if loss hadn't happened, if Thomas (my son, a twin, lost at 15 weeks gestation) was still here, if Chet (my older brother, who died at age 17) had never died, if a few of those skeletons didn't haunt me from my closet, the same would still be true. I would still be the only one who has ever experienced exactly this life, the only one who has ever felt exactly this way, the only one who has ever faced my future.
We are all unique, living unique circumstances, facing unique challenges. I can always find someone facing what I think is an easier or harder road than I am. In seasons like this for me, it's helpful to look to the harder roads for perspective. The story behind the song "It is Well with My Soul" comes to mind. Or Corrie Ten Boom (I reference her a lot, but it's because The Hiding Place is in my recently read pile). Or the main guy in Unbroken. Talk about hard roads. Holy cow.
Their stories don't negate my own struggles nor minimize my loss. But they do help me to be grateful for the countless blessings I have and provide me perspective to have hope for the future. Because out of crushing circumstances, heartbreak, pain, torture, starvation, and so much more, God brought about beauty in their stories.
We still sing "It is Well with My Soul" nearly 150 years after it was written, because the truth therein is so profound. The author of those words would much rather have had his children live, than to have me singing the hymn he wrote today. But, because his children did die, he wrote from the abyss of grief, and those words have carried a legacy of truth to Christians for over a hundred years.
Corrie Ten Boom's story challenges me every time I think of it. To forgive her Nazi captors? To (spoiler) build a place for their restoration and healing after the war? That is un.be.lievable. And the main guy from Unbroken - a book, and two movies made of his life that was so difficult. I would have died on the life raft a couple of weeks in, but his will to live, and his forgiveness of his torturer...
I don't understand why bad things happen. I really don't understand why bad things happen to good people, though many books have been written, sermons have been given, and wise people have tried to answer that question. I don't get it.
But what I do get is that beauty can come even from hurt. On the hard days I faced grief. Normal days are the days of grace in the midst of the hard. And hope springs new every morning.