Grieving in Community

One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced in grieving after pregnancy losses, is the temptation to withdraw, to hide away, isolate myself, and cushion myself from some of the harder realities…

Realities like hanging out with friends who are pregnant, or who have recently had healthy babies.

Realities like social or work situations where people might want to ask you about your family plans.

Realities like having to make cheery small talk over play dates, at playgroups, or over the nursery drop off with parents I hardly know.

And realities like having to be honest about my brokenness with those I am closest to as well.

But the thing about grief is that you can’t just avoid or ignore or minimise it, and hope it goes away after a few days.

It won’t…

Besides, that simply wasn’t an option for us this time around, since I had already been blogging about our fertility journey over the past year or more.

And thank goodness, too.

Because perhaps one of the biggest surprise lessons for me in the midst of all this loss has been that healing is best found in community with others.

 

The power of ‘together’

We live in such an individualistic society, but the truth is that the burden of grief is much less heavy to carry when it’s shared.

Shared with your partner of course as you talk through your grief together, but also shared with some wider family and friends too.

And before you start thinking, ‘Oh well that’s easy for you to say, but I’m just a more private person’, let me assure you that I’m really not an expert at this at all. This lesson has been hard learned.

Because trust me, appearing weak, fragile, incapable, or emotionally undone is really not a very comfortable space for me at all. And nether are public displays of emotion either.

No, I much prefer to be seen as strong, capable, independent, together, and composed…

But the thing is that whenever I look at my Bible, I’m reminded that we were never really designed to ‘go it alone’. We were created to be in close relationship with God, and also to be inter-depend with others too.

In fact, right from the very beginning, back in Genesis 2 God says that “It is not good for man to be alone” and so he creates a female called Eve as a companion for him.

And it’s a theme that echoes again and again throughout so many different parts of the Bible too. For example, in Ecclesiastes 4:9 we’re reminded of the importance of companionship:

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labour. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.”

And in James 5:16, the role of making yourself open and vulnerable before others who you trust is highlighted as being key to healing and spiritual growth:

“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed.”

That you may be healed.

The truth is that there’s a far greater healing to be found in working out your brokenness in community with others than alone.

In fact, being open, honest and willing to make yourself vulnerable before God and before others is actually the precursor for healing.

Why? I don’t know for sure, but I am starting to develop a theory…

Maybe it’s because being vulnerable enough to share your brokenness with God and others allows them to come alongside you and to comfort you. And there is healing to be found in that.

And maybe it’s also because often that very act of openness also gives permission for others to be vulnerable too. And there is healing to be found in that too.

Brene Brown, research professor, author, and speaker who’s lecturer on the subject of vulnerability is one of the top five watched TED Talks of all time, simply puts it like this:

“Imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together”

 

Finding strength in weakness

I’m not saying that any of this is easy.

It’s actually incredibly hard to make yourself vulnerable or let your weakness and brokenness really show with others.

I mean, it’s hard to be okay with crying in front of good friends, when you want to be seen as resilient and together.

It’s hard to choose to exchange silent hugs instead of angry words with your partner when both of you are struggling to articulate your pain.

And it’s hard to be honest when people you love ask how you are doing, and you don’t know where to begin explaining how you actually feel.

But do you know what’s even harder than all of those things?

Carrying your grief alone.

Because my goodness, grief is a heavy load.

Trust me, after losing three pregnancies in under two years, grief is subject I know…

And it’s hard and lonely enough work to carry it, even when you do share and process it surrounded and supported by others.

But lately I just can’t get away from the fact that there’s strength in weakness, and beauty in brokenness too:

In 2 Corinthians 12:9, it says this:

“But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

And so right now, if I pray at all, most of my prayers sound something like this:

“God help me. Give me your strength. I don’t know how to deal with any of this. I don’t even know where to begin. But I trust that you are strongest, when I am at my most weak.

Part 2 of this blog is coming later in the week, including practical ideas for how this works in practice.

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