Space but not power

Grief continues to be a journey, a journey I’m probably less patient with than most of those watching me go through it.

I have been thinking a lot about grief in the sense of giving it space, but not giving it power.

Recently several friends from church have had babies. Every Sunday morning there are so many of these itty bitty new born babies all around. I have to admit the maternal part of me wants to hold all of them. For the last two years, I haven’t held new born babies. It’s not been out of a lack of desire. In fact, it’s the opposite. Everything in my being wants to hold, cuddle, and care for a little baby. My body and mind got ready for 40 weeks to do just that, but I didn’t. I couldn’t. But that desire never changed. It’s why I would lay on the grave, or sleep with his blanket. I so desperately desire to love, care, and be close to my son who was so far away. And two years later the desire remains almost as strong.

What kept me from holding the babies the past two years is that I gave grief power. Mainly it came in the form of fear: fear that holding a baby would trigger my memories of Enoch, fear that it would be too sad, fear that the baby I was holding would die, and fear that I would make Tim and friends sad by seeing me hold a little baby. There are a lot these thoughts and honestly they continue to role around in my head.

But several weeks ago on a Sunday morning I decided I didn’t want grief to have power. I didn’t want it to keep me from holding babies or engaging my friends who were pregnant. So I didn’t let it. I turned around to the little baby sitting behind me in church and held him this whole time! He was cute and sweet, and it was healing. Healing for me, and also his mom, who happens to call me mom. She was so excited I held him, that she posted on FB how “Grandma” was holding the little guy.

I didn’t give grief power.

But there still has to be space for grief. I didn’t know the next week would be hard with different kinds of loss (not death), but it felt like grief and triggered memories of Enoch so intensely. The exact following Sunday, Easter, was too much for me to bear. Between my week of the grief trigger, all the cute plaid shirts on the kids running around church, and the countless Easter photos, I hit a grief wall I haven’t hit since his birthday in December.

It resulted in an unsuspecting friend getting a decent dose of crying as she was in my path coming back from the restroom during church. It caused us to leave Easter dinner a little earlier than we normally would have. And the rest of the day ended with me in my bed and the phone off. I gave grief space, and I had to. I had to give myself some time to process my grief and miss Enoch.

Grief needs space, but it doesn’t need power. And this is me trying to figure out the two.

Here is my Easter picture with the little baby, his mom, and his sisters that I held the week before.

Loving a grieving friend

It is not uncommon, unfortunately, that I get a message from someone reaching out because a loved one has just lost a baby.  I got one a couple weeks ago and they asked what they can do to love and support their friend.  I wrote a fairly lengthy message back with some insights that I gained from being on the receiving end after a tragedy.  I thought I would edit them a bit and post them here for others who may be wondering this same question.

Let me start by saying obviously everyone is different so these insights on how to navigate it may differ some from person to person.

  • Let the hard be the hard.  I had super strong faith, I sincerely trusted God and still do. But hard days are still hard and the sorrow is deep. So don’t be afraid to just say “this is terrible.” My dearest friend would say this to me, although with stronger language, and it was oddly helpful.  There is a desire to make it better, to say things  that are encouraging and make it hurt less, but the realitity is it hurts a lot! It doesn’t  mean we don’t love and trust God, but we were also created to have our children with us. So it is hard and it’s ok to just say that and let it be, especially in the beginning.  There will be time and space to be positive and encouraging and send them verses and words of encouragement.  But in the initial shock, just let the hard be the hard.
  • Asking “what can I do” is hard for someone in shock and grief to answer.  The fact is that here really isn’t anything anyone can do.  Plus in that state it’s hard to think on your own what needs done or what you would like. The best was when someone would say “I’m bringing you coffee tomorrow afternoon, if you want to chat we can, if not, that’s ok too.”  If someone just took initiative and suggested something it was easier to know if it would be helpful or tweak the plan rather than to try and think about something on my own.  Be willing to make an offer and don’t be hurt if they don’t need or want it.  Sometimes our temptation is to do something, because WE need to do something, anything.  Make sure what you’re doing is genuinely what’s best for the person in grief.
  • Never ask “do you feel better now.”  Food, distraction, comfort will help get through the impossible minutes.  But, nothing will make the person feel better, so don’t go into the situation with that expectation.
  • Be ok to sit in silence. My most comforting friends are the ones who will just sit and say nothing and let me be sad or stare. There’s so much emotional and mental energy going toward grief.  So to remove the need for conversation the whole time sometimes is nice. I remember asking a friend once, will you just sit RIGHT beside me and watch a movie. I just wanted someone near, but I couldn’t process what was in my mind.  It’s ok to ask occasional questions, but let the person in grief determine the amount of conversation, because even talking can feel overwhelming at times.
  • It’s ok to bring up.  The person who is in grief is thinking about it all the time even weeks and months after the initial lost.  Sometimes we don’t want to “remind people,” but my mind would think “my baby died” every day, hundreds of times, literally.  It’s all my mind wanted to think about.  So bringing it up, asking how they are doing won’t be offensive.  There may be moments that they don’t want to talk about it, or the timing is bad, but be willing to engage the conversation.  I promise it won’t make him/her sadder, they will be grateful that you are saying the words that they are thinking about.  Plus they don’t want to be the downer in the room who talks about the person who died.  I remember thinking, “don’t be the lady who always talks about her dead baby.”
  • Remember the loved one lost.  For myself because Enoch was born with no heartbeat they didn’t even give him a birth certificate.  According to the world he didn’t exist.  But to me, he meant SO much!  The life of my son was significant and my fear is that people will forget.  So I’m always grateful when people tell me they remember him.  I am guessing that’s how most people feel about their lost loved ones too.

These are a few of my initial thoughts, I’m sure there are more.  Over all my encouragements is to walk toward them, love them well, and be willing to sit in the sad and hard.

**I wanted to add this tip from another friend, Courtney, who unfortunately also has walked this road.  “Yes. To all of this. I would add: keep showing up for the person, even when they don’t respond to you. KEEP PURSUING. They might not have the energy to respond the first 20 times, but they NEED you. Don’t take silence as a sign of rejection, but simply as “I just can’t muster the strength to respond right now”


A gift for my two year old

A few months ago I went shopping for my friends birthday gift.  I was with another friend, and as we roamed the aisles of Target, I couldn’t find the right gift.  My friend held up countless items: a journal, pens, mugs, etc.  All were fine gifts, but they weren’t right.  Finally she said, you are particular with gifts aren’t you?  She wasn’t annoyed, but we aren’t close enough friends that she would know my particulars.  And when it comes to giving gifts, I want it to be exactly what that person likes.  If they love dark chocolate with almonds, then buying them dark chocolate with cashews isn’t right.  Some would say, “close enough,” but that’s now how my mind works.

Fast forward three months later to December 8th.  Enoch is turning two, but obviously isn’t with us to celebrate.  I told Tim I wanted to go and get him a birthday gift to take to the grave.  This seemed like a simple task, but apply what happened above inside Toys R Us.  I want the perfect gift, but I didn’t know what the perfect gift was.  Yes, I know it was going on his grave.  Yes, I know most two year olds aren’t that picky.  But I am his mom and I don’t know what he likes.  And that fact became so painfully obvious within minutes of walking into the store.   We roamed the aisles overwhelmed by the choices and tears kept welling up as I realized I didn’t know.   Would he have liked paw patrol or some particular characters?  Would he like trucks or balls?  Would he like tractors because Tim does, or Jeeps because I do?  I couldn’t do it.  It suddenly became so overwhelming and sad that I told Tim we need to just pick something and go.

I know what toys my friends kids like.  I could pick out so many for each of them, but I can’t for my own son.  And it never dawned on me until I went shopping for his birthday.  These are the things that come up so unexpectedly that makes greif such a hard journey.


Everything is a gift…

I’ve been using the phrase “everything is a gift” a lot since Enoch has passed away.  Recently a friend asked me to explain more about it, to dialog how I got to this point.  I told him several stories that lead me to the point of seeing life in this light, and that really this view came way before I even knew that Enoch existed.  As we were  having this conversation he challenged me because I had made a comment about comparing myself to others.  He was right in asking for clarification.  The reality is that Everything is a Gift when I compare myself to God, not to others. We will always find someone who has it has it better and be frustrated by what we don’t have.  Let’s face the realities this is why I don’t look at FB during Christmas time and back to school… I don’t need to compare myself to all of those families.  But when I compare myself to God, to what I deserve next to Him, it really is nothing.

I had been talking about this idea so often right before Enoch was born, for at least a year.  In fact I wrote this exactly 3 months before hand.

I really wholeheartedly believe EVERYTHING IS A GIFT. I haven’t adopted this now that “everything in my life is good” or because I finally got pregnant. It’s something that has become more and more evident over time. That we have come into this world with nothing, that we don’t “deserve” anything. You see I’ve walked a lot of days on this earth angry or sad because something didn’t go the way I thought it should… in timing, in outcome, etc. The problem is I have spent a lot of those days feeling like “I deserve” something and people have encouraged this thought process saying things like, “you deserve a vacation”, “you deserve a new car”, “you deserve to be a mom” etc. I understand the sentiment, but the truth is I don’t deserve anything. I entered this world because God allowed me to, he owes me nothing. In fact, really I deserve damnation, but instead he blesses me, with life, breath, Tim, First Glance, food, etc. More and more I realize how good these gifts are, and I realize they really are GIFTS. If for some reason some of these things are taken from me, I have no doubt I will mourn the loss of them. I also know that it was a gift in the first place. I work hard to keep my hands open to understand that God really is in control.

Then the Sunday before Enoch was born we were at church, and we heard this sermon.  I remember after the sermon being all amped up, saying to our community that we sat with, “Did you hear that?  It’s what I’ve been saying for months!  We don’t deserve anything, everything is a gift!”  As I looked around at our community I realized this sermon impacted them too, although for different reasons.  One guy cried the majority of it; another friend was so wrecked that she couldn’t talk about it and left for the afternoon to process it; and it was during this sermon that Tim felt God revealed that our son may die for God’s glory.

After my conversation with my friend, I felt like I needed to listen to this sermon again.  I hadn’t since that day when I sat in the pew along with my community.  I continue to be encouraged by it.  And I continue to believe “Everything is a Gift,” not because it’s my catch phrase, but because I geninuely understand anything God chooses to give me is a gift.

The Laborers in the Vineyard from The Chapel on Vimeo.


18 months

This little person, my son, has had such a huge impact on my life and has a hold of my heart.  Every month I take time to remember him and grieve him.  This past 8th was no different.  It was odd to me how in many ways this month felt really surreal, like my brain couldn’t comprehend all that had happened.  That I really did have a son.  He really did die.   I found myself sleeping with and holding his hat for several days leading up to the 8th.  I wanted his hat in particular because it had blood on it.  It made it all real, it allowed me to feel like I was closer to HIM.   I needed something real.  I needed something tangible.

The 8th always is tricky as it feels so obvious to me that he is missing and yet the rest of the world goes on.  I don’t mind that they do, I’m not hurt by it.  Although there’s always that twinge of wondering if one day he will be forgotten.  And then there’s my sweet friend Julie.  Every single month on the 8th she goes to his grave, takes a picture and sends it to me and tells me she loves me.  She hasn’t forgotten.  He has not been forgotten.  And it makes my heart full every. single. time.


Joy and sorrow on repeat

Grief is an interesting world. While in this world I find myself constantly in this state of joy and sorrow, continuing over and over again. Last weekend was no different.

On Saturday I hosted a birthday party for a sweet six year old who has asked for a bonfire party at my house for the last four years. I love it. I love him. I love that this year I bought him a bike, since his mom is my bike partner I felt like he should learn to love it as much as us. I know there will be a day he doesn’t want a bonfire at my house, but I will keep holding onto them for as long as he allows me. At the same time as I watched all my friends and all their kids pile around this bonfire, the thought is not lost on me that it isn’t my son. I will never buy Enoch a bike, teach him to love the sport, host a party for him, etc. It is the joy and the sorrow. I love every minute I get with Xavier. I am thrilled he still wants a party at my house, but I equally am sad that I will not be doing the same for my son.IMG_2417.JPG

The next day I helped Brea host a funeral. Brea has functioned as our daughter for 9 years. I’ve talked about her several times. I have talked about the joy of being able to parent her. With that joy comes the sorrow that her mom did not have custody of her. And all of it came crashing to a head when her mom died quickly and unexpectedly the Thursday before Mother’s Day. It is tricky, for Brea and her sisters. It is tricky for someone like me who has had the opportunity to love and care for Brea because her mom was unable to. So I continued my mom role in helping host many parts of the funeral. Again I’m so grateful for the opportunity to love and care for Brea but never wanting to like this.

And so the weekend was a repeat cycle of joy and sorrow as I hosted a birthday party and a funeral all in less than 24 hours.


My Second Mother’s Day

Mother’s day is tricky.  It’s tricky for me, as the loss of Enoch continues to be at the forefront of my mind.  All week I have been wearing my “E” necklace with his birth stone my friends gave to me when he was born.  I have been wearing it as a reminder that I am Enoch’s mom.  That meeting him, holding & cuddling his little body really was such a gift!  I still deeply long to continue to do so, but for now am so very grateful for those 11 hours with him (and the 40 weeks leading up).


This is how I spent the brunt of that night… holding his little body close to mine.

On this day I am equally so very grateful for the opportunities God has given me to mom others in my life!  God has allowed me to mother in little ways where I get to love, care and nurture those around me.  It’s those moments when making “family dinner” for those who live with us and function as our family, when Andrew comes over and asks if I’ll make him Lasagna, or when I take Alicia all the supplies she needs when she’s sick and needs cared for.  Over the years I’ve had the opportunity in greater ways such as when Joe and Brea each lived with us.  Tim & I  functioned as “mom and dad” while they were in our home and they have been a huge parts of our lives ever since.  And fairly regularly I get to mom the teenagers who walk through the doors of First Glance.  Some call me mom and others don’t, but I get to give them all a hug and drill them about the boy they have been dating.

I often think about a conversation with my own mom years ago when she said, “Everyone just wants their mom.”  I know that to be true.  I know that as I have had the opportunity to love and mom others, I understand I cannot replace their mom and don’t pretend I can.  And they don’t want me to.  I simply am so very grateful for a God who redeems and allows for some of these relationships in my life.  It really is such a gift!!!  As I reflect on this day, it continues to challenge me to use my desire to nurture and mom those who do desire a little momming.

Mother’s day is tricky… for those who have lost a child and others who have lost or have a broken relationship with their mom.  There’s not many “happily ever afters” when it comes to this day, not many that I know of anyhow.  But today I’m choosing to embrace the joy of the day: grateful for my own mom, grateful for the people God has allowed me to mom over the years, and so very thankful for those moments with my little baby boy.