Can you grieve a little life you never got to hold? Sarah Philpott, author of Loved Baby, says miscarriage can trigger surprising grief for women and we often carry the grief privately. I know you’ll love Sarah and her words as much as I do as she debunks a myth about grief in miscarriage.
After both of my miscarriages I felt confused.
- Was it okay to be so sad over the loss of a baby I’d never met?
- Was it okay to grieve?
- Was I going crazy? Or was this anxiety I felt something real?
- Was it okay for a Christian to be sad over the loss of a child in the womb?
It turns out I wasn’t alone in my thoughts. For the past three years I’ve researched the topic of pregnancy loss—miscarriage, stillbirth, and ectopic loss. I’ve talked to hundreds of sweet, grieving mamas and I have even talked to men. I compiled all of this into Loved Baby: 31 Devotions Helping You Grieve and Cherish Your Child After Pregnancy Loss. It turns out that the feelings of anger, jealousy, anxiety, depression, and all the other common grief reactions occur after the loss of a child.
If you are reading this and you have experienced loss please accept my sincerest condolences. Have questions like mine swirled in your mind, too?
I want to debunk one of the grief myths of pregnancy loss. The myth that we should “just get over it.” Or we should accept the simple and hurtful platitude of “you can always try again” or “it was God’s will.” Those statements hurt, don’t they? They fail to take into account that we lost a specific child and that for some of us, “trying again” isn’t a possibility.
But I want you to know that even though the words of man can be hurtful, the words of God are life affirming. You see sweet dear, you are allowed to be sad. You are allowed to be angry. God recognizes this unmet desire for a child as a reason worthy of our full-range of emotions.
How do I know this? I want you to meet Hannah. You see, Hanna cried. She wept. Month after month. Year after year. Salty tears spilled. She couldn’t eat. Her heart grieved. The life-giving part of her body—her womb—was closed.
Elkanah, her husband, didn’t understand her suffering. Why are you crying, Hannah? Elkanah would ask. Why aren’t you eating? Why be downhearted just because you have no children? You have me—isn’t that better than having ten sons? (1 Samuel 1:8 NLT).
A mother. That is what Hannah wanted to be. Although her husband doted on her and loved her, his culture dictated he marry another so he could have a family. Hannah was unable to provide children, so he took an additional wife.
Then, as if her barrenness were not punishment enough, as if seeing her husband’s new wife give birth to numerous precious babies were not anguish enough, the new wife purposefully provoked Hannah. So Peninnah would taunt Hannah and make fun of her because the Lord had kept her from having children (1 Samuel 1:6 NLT).
Bless Hannah’s soul. How much more pain could she endure? She was beyond tormented. First Samuel 1:10 says, Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord (NLT). Hannah was humiliated, felt shame, was jealous, lost her appetite, had a husband who didn’t understand, was full of bitterness, and cried uncontrollably. Does this sound familiar? It depicts my life after my losses, and I imagine it is a pretty close depiction of yours too.
You see, hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life (Proverbs 13:12). Hannah had a sick heart; her longing for a baby to cradle in her arms had not been fulfilled.
Your heart is sick right now, isn’t it?
Hannah’s story is like so many of ours—she is our biblical soul mate. Although our stories are distinctly different, those of us who have had miscarriages, late-term loss, or battled infertility can understand the longing of Hannah. Our hearts have ached, our lives have changed, and we find others don’t quite understand the torment.
Sweet Hannah, who lived more than nine hundred years before Christ, could probably sit with us and cry over a cup of tea as we recount our stories. I imagine we would have much in common with this female biblical great who at one time was full of great anguish and sorrow.
I can’t tell you how I wept upon discovering this account in the Bible. Seeing how much space was devoted to chronicling Hannah’s sadness over not being able to provide a child for herself and her husband offered relief. It was the cold drink of water I needed.
It made me feel less alone.
The verses showed me God recognizes this unmet longing for a child in our arms as a reason worthy of tears and anguish. Hannah’s despair is featured in the Bible. To me, this authenticates our sadness and gives us the ultimate permission to cry out to God and express our fullest emotions.
Hannah moaned, howled, ugly-cried to God. Have you done this yet? Squalled those tears and screamed those horrid cries?
Did you know it is okay to direct these emotions at God? Crying in sorrow is a way of communicating and talking to him when our souls are seared with pain.
God has a specific story for each and every one of our lives. And while we are living out this particular chapter of our story, it is okay to be sad and to cry. It’s also normal to cry out to God in bitterness. But we must call on our Father. We must pray. We must seek him.
Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:12–13, NIV)
Hannah’s story progressed to the birth of a son, whom she named Samuel, because I asked the Lord for him (1 Samuel 1:20, NIV).
Sweet mama, I don’t how your story or mine will progress, but I do know our heavenly Father hears our cries. The grief you feel right now is a universal experience. Grief over the desire for motherhood transcends time and is so important that it is featured in the Bible. We shouldn’t be ashamed of our emotions of anger, jealousy, and sadness. Instead we should cry out to the Lord and express our inner turmoil.
This is a type of intimate, personal relationship that we were designed to have with God. Don’t try to hide your emotions. Instead pour out your heart. He can handle it.
Because he knows that grieving over the loss of mothering this specific child is a reason worthy of grief. He knows your tears are not a myth.
Sarah Philpott, PhD, lives on a cattle farm in Tennessee. She is the mother of three young children and wife to one hard workin’ farmer (who has been her sweetheart since high school). Sarah is an award-winning writer who contributes to the Huffington Post, TODAY show parenting blogger, Her View from Home, BonBon Break, Bethany Christian Services, and Pregnant Chicken. Sarah founded the Loved Baby support group and #HonorAllMoms Mother’s Day movement. Visit Sarah at allamericanmom.net and check out her Loved Baby book trailer: https://youtu.be/LrJ-UV-O1Og
P.S. You can text LOVED to 54900 and enter your email to get a preview of Loved Baby.