I was at the event to speak about homeschooling bravely. My focus was one part application, two parts the courage it takes to become solely and fully responsible for a child’s education – the times of doubt and overwhelm, the not knowing and comparison games every homeschooling mom battles in her head and heart at times, that sort of thing.
And I mentioned one sentence, I’m not even sure how it came about exactly, but it was one small reference in my entire dialogue, about losing a daughter mid-pregnancy. It came out almost mindlessly; an ancillary point, a tiny drop of my story that just slipped right out into the open.
As soon as I finished, a quiet women made her way to me. I hadn’t even noticed her while I was speaking, but she was the first person to find me when the event concluded. It was that one sentence that she had latched on to. That one sentence was her entire reality right then.
She was a mother to a handful of children, a mix of littles and bigs, and the entire family was excited to be welcoming another child. Half way through the pregnancy, unexpectedly, there was no heartbeat. She had no complications, no prior history, no warning for this road they were now walking down as a family.
That was 3 weeks before I met her at this meeting. The grief was thick and all-consuming. She hadn’t left the house much. She didn’t want to come to this event really, but felt she needed to dip her toes into life again. I spoke the one sentence she needed to hear. I knew.
We shared stories and realities, gut-wrenching hurts you don’t talk about with strangers you just met a few minutes ago, let alone friends. And she asked me a question – how do you walk your children through grief when you are barely able to walk yourself?
I had no understanding of this compounding grief, no help or experience to offer her in this place. My son was barely a year old when we lost our daughter. It’s quite easy to hide tears and pain from a one year old. Older kids are entirely different.
I listened and told her how sorry I was. I walked away thankful to be able to meet her in that moment. And even more thankful we didn’t have older kids when we had to walk that road.
Monday marked 11 years since we said goodbye to our little girl. On one hand, memories of the crushing news at that doctor’s appointment, the ambulance ride, the seeming devastation of hope, of what I begged God for, play at the edges of my mind like it was yesterday. It’s all so very vivid still.
And yet, I don’t go there much anymore.
Time has brought healing. I have so very much to be thankful for, a house bustling with life. And I have fully owned the right to choose when I look back and when I look ahead. Mostly I choose to look ahead. At times, even foolishly blocking out that hard year of my life.
Until this year.
We visited the cemetery as we always do. My kids are familiar with this tradition, familiar with flowers in cemetery vases. It’s something we have done for as long as they can remember.
But this time it was different. The questions came at breakfast the next day.
Do you think Alison had blue eyes or brown, mama?
What color do you think her hair would have been?
Wouldn’t it have been fun to have her here with us at breakfast, mom?
and then more quietly…
Mom, why would God create a baby only to have her die right away? It doesn’t seem very nice.
Questions they have never much asked all bubbled to the surface at the same time. Caught off guard, all the words welled up, tangled in one huge lump in my throat. I naively thought I could keep this grief, this wondering, these questions, to myself.
For eleven years these have been my questions. Solely mine. I have chosen when they come, how they come, when I want to talk and when I don’t. Most people don’t ask, so I get to explore them quietly, privately. And I rather like that.
But this here was something new. People I love, little people with the purest intentions, entering a space I have been able to guard so carefully, enter into only when I’m good and ready. These were siblings who were beginning to realize their own loss and ask the questions I’ve been wrestling for years.
Does it make you kind of sad, mom?
I willed my heart to steady itself, to let them in and meet them in their need while I felt the vulnerability of my own exposed scars.
The tears came fresh in the bathroom a bit later as I felt a new sense of helplessness. This grief that I had packaged up in a nice and tidy box was opened again with new realization. Someday I will need to tell them more. Someday they will read the words I’ve written. I will tell them the parts I haven’t.
And I remembered that grieving mom I met at the homeschool meeting. This is what she was talking about. This is the question she was asking me.
How do you answer questions you don’t fully have answers to?
How do you fix hurts that hurt you too?
How do you remedy fear, remedy pain, that is far bigger than band-aids?
How do you teach your children to have faith when your own faith is tested?
I’m not sure I have all of the answers. It’s hard. Once again I find myself half a step ahead of these kids I’m mothering – leading them as I learn. But oftentimes, this is our place of greatest teaching, when we are showing as much as we are telling. When we are learning bravely, trusting boldly, right beside them.
I’m choosing to trust God with my hardest hurts, my greatest questions and he has used these eleven years to slowly and quietly provide answers, to comfort my heart. That quiet trusting becomes a quiet showing as our children have a front row seat to how we respond to all the things that shake us.
This isn’t a new level of grief, a new level of hurt I’m walking into. This is actually an opportunity to further introduce my kids to the very grace that has healed my heart.
Do you see it? This is a gift.
This is the key to navigating hard and desperate places with our children, painful places that penetrates our hearts every bit as much as theirs. We don’t need to have all of the neat and tidy answers. We simply hold their hands, we grab them their shoulders, and we gently point them toward the very same Savior that is healing our hearts as well. Trusting this God we serve is big enough to heal all of our hearts at the very same time. Because He most certainly is.
Something you must know about *
When we experience loss or grief, it so often catches us by surprise. No one expects to lose a child 21 weeks into a pregnancy. No one expects to lose a dad or mom at a young age. These things hit us out of nowhere and we feel utterly helpless as to how to deal with them, let alone how to help our children process their hurt.
Last week I received a book in the mail that just melted me – Emily Lost Someone She Loved by Kathleen Fucci. Attached to the sweetest illustrations, is the story of Emily a happy and delightful little girl who loves to sing. But one day she loses someone she loves.
In words that can come only from experience Kathleen Fucci, uses this picture book to address the heart and the hard of loss, without minimizing it. She gives hope in a quiet humility offering artful words that do not trivializes grief but shines the sweetest light of Grace upon it.
Friends, I receive requests for book reviews quite often, most of which I decline, but the concept of this one gripped me. I know the need for this book in a real way and it is truly more lovely than I could have imagined.
I’m so thankful there are people brave enough to write such words, to walk into hard and lonely places and offer hope when we need it, our children need it, most.
For some of us, that need might come by surprise, 11 years later than we expected.
But wherever you might find yourself on this journey, I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It will be a beautiful resource for your family as well as any others who find themselves walking through grief with their children.
You can find a copy of the book here.
And you can visit the Kathleen Fucci Ministries website for helpful grief resources and free downloadable Scripture coloring pages.
*This post was sponsored by Kathleen Fucci Ministries and contains affiliate links, although all thoughts and opinions expressed are always my own. For more information on how sponsored posts or affiliate links work, you can read our disclosure policy here.