A Funny Thing Called Grief

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong/freedigitalphotos.net

Grief is a funny thing. It has a way of sneaking up on you when you least expect it and bowls you over with its crushing weight. It remembers too much and with more details than you can bear to swallow. It fades away too slowly even though days, months and years have passed.

Grief taps me on the shoulder each time my eyes glance upon a cranberry colored dress hanging in the closet; it reminds me of happier times during my last pregnancy. Grief grips my heart when I see a black and white ultrasound picture saved on my desktop, which shows the image of two babies in my womb. Grief knocked the breath out of my lungs today when I remembered this was the month, five years ago, when we lost one of our twins.

During these five years, there have been periods of sorrow, anger and guilt. I have gone through all the what-ifs and why’s. I have racked my brain wondering if there was anything I could have done differently. There have been attempts to fix things and then the stark realization that some things just can’t be fixed.

Grief has been present every step of the way. It is a constant companion, one I have never welcomed, but which has become like an old friend. Over time, I have come to understand its purpose better. It does not stay around to haunt me, but to remind me of a previous time and place, of something beautiful and pure. It exists solely because of love.

Because of love, I had been overjoyed to see two little hearts pulsing on the ultrasound monitor when we had only expected to see one. I had dreamed big dreams for both of our babies, my heart expanding with joy once the initial shock wore off. I couldn’t wait to meet and hold them.

Because of love, I researched and bookmarked countless websites about twin pregnancies. I focused on eating for three and getting enough rest. I worried when I found out about the statistics for Vanishing Twin Syndrome, but I also hoped for the best.

Because of love, I went to the following prenatal appointment with a pounding heart. I scanned the monitor for signs of life as feelings of desperation grew in me with each passing second. I wept in my car for an hour after the doctor confirmed my worst fears.

Because of love, I grieved. For not being able to protect my child and prevent the miscarriage. For all the what-could-have-beens. For the day we will need to tell C about her other half.

Over time, grief and normality become intertwined in the day to day course of life. I suppose that’s when they say you have entered the fifth and last stage of grief: acceptance. This has to be my least favorite stage; it is not nearly as idyllic as denial or as empowering as bargaining. Acceptance means looking reality in the eyes and not turning away from its honest stare. To surrender what your heart has been holding onto with every ounce of passion and despair. Not because I love any less, but because love tells me it’s time to start living again.

I miss our baby, someone I have never met, but who is as real to me as the little girl with my oval shaped face and my husband’s spunky personality whom we joyfully welcomed into our family four years ago. Her presence at times reminds me of what we have lost, but more importantly, she constantly reminds me of all that we have been so blessed to have gained.

That is where I am this day, five years later. A little less sad, a little less wistful and a lot more thankful. Surprisingly, I find myself in a better place, one that is tinged with subtle hues of grief, but also coated with vibrant shades of love.

Listen to the beautiful words of this song, “Heaven is the Face“, by Steven Curtis Chapman.

Please share your own experiences with grief. I would be honored and encouraged to hear your story. 

I Can Only Imagine

There’s a saying that goes, “In every life a little rain must fall”.  Fortunately I’ve had a pretty clear weather forecast throughout my life (I think God knows I can’t handle much!), so I’ve been used to having things go “my way”.  It was quite unexpected therefore when I faced my first downpour three years ago.

It was three years ago this month that I walked into my doctor’s appointment anxious, excited and hopeful… and walked out in disbelief and sorrow.  I remember everything about that day – what I was wearing, how hot and sunny it was, how sad the doctor looked when she told me she could only find one baby on the ultrasound instead of two… and how I had to break the news over the phone to hubby who was at work.

This was one storm we weren’t expecting or prepared for.  But there we were in the midst of it, soaking wet and cold.  And during that very same week of the appointment, hubby had also been close to losing his job.  When it rains, it really does pour!

It’s true that time does heal…though it was hard to grieve while taking care of a toddler, but sometimes those distractions are what keep you moving forward when you wish the world would stop.  And a burden shared among friends and family becomes lighter than trying to take it all on yourself (though I did try to hide in my turtle shell at times).  I don’t regret that we told people early on that we had been expecting twins.  It would have been harder if we hadn’t; we would have had to pretend everything was okay after the miscarriage (and I’m not a very good poker player).  I valued all the hugs, flowers and cards we got and the well-intentioned comments we received.  It was comforting for us to know that so many people were praying for us, even people we had never met.

These days I try to hold on to the good that came from the bad – I’m so thankful we have one ultrasound picture of C and her twin.

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Recently, C has been saying she wants, “liang ge mei mei” (translation = two little sister, which is how she refers to herself).  Not sure where she got this idea from, it may have been because she recently met her identical twin cousins for the first time.  Or maybe she knows more than we think?  Whatever the case is, when I heard her say that, I wished with all my heart that we had “two C’s”, too.  But for now, when I hear her call, “Mama, look!” and see her spin and dance around, I can imagine another little one in a place with all sunshine (and no rain!) dancing happily with Jesus.

Here’s a beautiful song about heaven from Mercy Me – “I Can Only Imagine“.

What storms have you weathered in your life?