I was curled up against the wall, crying myself to sleep.
Lord, what is wrong with me? Why do I feel afraid of everything, including my husband?
During the day I would feel fine, but when night arrived, the empty gnawing feeling would start clawing at me until I was forcing myself to take deep breaths to ward off panic attacks. Sleep? Of course not. Instead, I stared into the darkness and groaned out my agony into the night. My husband would reach for me and I would pull away. He’d whisper prayers over me but I still withdrew into myself.
Some nights I wouldn’t be able to lay there but would instead escape upstairs, kneeling by my kitchen chair, begging God to help me overcome whatever this craziness was.
I would answer my husband’s questions with my standard response, “I don’t know what’s wrong. It’s probably hormones.” It seemed like the only answer to why I could be fine during the day and miserable at night.
We were driving when my husband asked our son a question. I thought the child was going to burst a blood vessel, he grew so tense. “What is the world is the matter?” I asked him, completely flabbergasted.
“I’m angry!” he responded.
“What are you angry about?” I was really curious. How could a simple question cause such an emotional response? But no matter how hard he thought, he couldn’t come up with what was making him angry. We asked more questions, prayed, and finally inspiration hit me.
I grabbed my phone and googled the definition to the word “grief”.
“Let’s talk about what’s going on when you think you’re angry,” I said. “Do you feel intense mental suffering? Like your mind is spinning and spinning with so many thoughts that it hurts?”
“Yes. My whole head hurts.” He responded.
“Do you feel distress?”
“Intense stress. Like your whole body gets tense.”
“Yes, that’s why I shake sometimes.”
“Sharp sorrow? Like you’re so sad it almost hurts in your belly?”
“What about painful regret? Like feeling so bad about stuff that it feels nasty inside.”
“I feel lots of regret and it’s really awful.”
I smiled sadly over my shoulder at him. “All those feelings? They’re not anger, buddy. They are something called grief.”
His eyes grew wide and I touched his knee. “Son, anger is something that you need to learn to control. Grief is something that we can help with. God gave you family so we could comfort you in your grief—but you’re acting out anger instead of accepting comfort. We need to start naming grief when you’re feeling grief and anger when you’re feeling anger.”
There was a lot more going on, of course. There’s guilt for poor choices (thank the Lord for Calvary!) and fear and loss—but identifying grief changed everything. Maybe not for him, yet, but for us as his parents. A child who is grieving is completely different from a child who is angry because they don’t like something.
And that night, as I got ready for bed, truth hit me.
I’ve been grieving.
Instead of masquerading as anger, as with my son, my grief has been masquerading as fear. My body had been reacting to everything like it was afraid—withdrawing, hiding, crying—but what was really happening was that I was grieving.
So when my husband came in to bed, I forced myself to turn into him instead of away. When he asked what was wrong, I forced myself to hold still instead of withdrawing, to think instead of assuming. And the words that finally wracked through my body left me sobbing against his chest.
The reality is that I am probably never going to get a baby.
I was trying to be strong, you see. Because I know the truth. I know God has given me so, so much. My beautiful older children. All the littles that I’ve helped raise. All the babies that have come to my house for days and weeks and months.
God has been good.
But He’s also said, “No.”
And because I do trust Him, I was telling myself there wasn’t room for grief.
It’s not true, of course. I can grieve and still trust. I can grieve and still believe that God is good. I can grieve and still be thankful and strong and loved.
I’ve been saying for years that we need to allow ourselves to grieve when it comes to infertility and loss. Still, even I forget at times that accepting and trusting God’s plan doesn’t mean that I’m exempt from grief.
Grief is going to come back around, probably for the rest of my life, and I’m going to need to walk through the steps of dealing with it.
For me, there are three main steps to moving out from under the crushing weight of grief.
1. Name the grief.
There is power in naming things. Ann Voskamp writes, “When you don’t have the name for something you’re haunted by shadows…” and I’ve found that to be true. If you find yourself answering questions with, “I don’t know. I just don’t know.” It’s time to be asking God to reveal what’s actually going on.
There can’t be freedom, light, until truth is revealed. So ask and be willing to receive.
For me, right now, this means saying, I’m not really afraid. I’m grieving the loss of raising a child from infancy. I’m grieving the babies that never came home. I’ve grieving the adoptions that never happened. I’m grieving the loss of all the years we didn’t have our older adopted children and some other person was raising them. I’ve grieving the miscarried babies. I’m grieving Annie.
2. Admit the grief to God.
God desires relationship with His people. That’s the whole story of the Bible. It’s true that He’s omniscience, knowing all, but He understands there is something that happens in our hearts when we share what’s inside us with someone else. He created us that way.
Part of maturity in Christ is accepting there are some questions that won’t be answered now, but also recognizing there is relationship to be found in the asking.
For me, right now, this means praying, Lord, is there some reason You feel that I shouldn’t have a baby? Is there something lacking in me, something broken, something that makes me unworthy? Father, I feel shattered and lost in these questions. I know You love me, that You’re love has never been (and never will be!) qualified by gifts, but I am mourning and looking for reasons You have denied me. Forgive me for wanting to require Your love to be proven by You giving me a baby—and teach me to simply accept with joy what You do have for me. Meet me in this grief, God. Show Your hand in my life. Remind me of who You are. In whatever way You desire.
3. Admit the grief to someone close to you and accept their comfort.
If someone was listing the people in my family and their needs, they’d get to me and say, “Tasha? She’ll be okay.” I’m always okay. Usually.
The truth is that most of the time I really am okay. I can handle high levels of stress. I can handle angry outbursts from other people. I can handle death and loss and hardship. I’ve done it all and I’m totally okay.
Except when I’m not.
You know what else is true? Our strengths can quickly become pride-filled bondage if we’re not careful.
It’s my responsibility to tell those closest to me when I’m struggling. And grief? Grief is a struggle for everyone. No one is immune to it. So if I’m grieving, I need to learn to be talking.
I hate talking through hard things. After them? Oh, sure. I can tell you all about it. But right in the middle—I clam up. My mind literally stops working and I basically have to pull words from my throat, painful syllable by painful syllable.
For me, right now, this means actually talking to my husband…and possibly my mom, my sister-in-law when she stops to see me, the women at my Bible Study group, or whoever I’m in relationship with that God puts me in contact with right then. It means I have to be real, right now, through the grief.
And it means accepting the comfort they offer me. Turning toward them instead of away.
Because, like I told my son, God gives us family (be it biological or spiritual) to help us through our grief—to comfort us and love on us and speak truth into us—but we have to call grief by its name, acknowledge it to God and to others, so we can feel and experience the comfort that is available.
If you are grieving (or feeling fearful or angry and you don’t know why!) I pray that you are able to follow these steps—to move out from under the heaviness of grief into the beauty of comfort.
And most of all, I pray that you feel the comfort of the God-Who-Knows as you navigate grief.