Thursday, January 17, 2013

One Thousand Gifts and Making Friends with Grief

one thousand gifts study 

It's strange to me how easily I forget the ways of grief and all that comes with it.  

I've been living in and with grief for over a year now.  January 20 was Eve's due date last year, and this year will mark fourteen months without her.  

Fourteen months.  You'd think I'd have learned by now.  But somehow grief still manages to surprise me with its unpredictability.

Because really, I thought I was doing okay.  Okay with the grief, and okay with the anxiety that has invaded my life as a result of it.  As my therapist noted, it's hard to trust again when that thing that you never thought could ever happen to you does.

one thousand gifts study
I still find it hard to believe that we had a daughter, and that she died.  Even with the support of my amazing friends and community, even with airing all the pain and hope and questions and anger on this blog, it feels like such an invisible thing, stillbirth.  You're left holding nothing but the pain and (if you're lucky) photos that no one but you wants to look at.

And just when you think you're making headway against the pain, it resurfaces in a whole new way.

Like today.  This morning, the women's Bible study group that I'm a member of embarked on Ann Voskamp's new video study on gratitude, One Thousand Gifts. I was looking forward to it.  Ann writes lyrically and with deep wisdom.  I had no expectation of grief attending the study with me.

I guess it's always with me, isn't it, because Eve's absence always is, too.  And I was in the midst of reading Ann's book by the same name and counting my gratitudes when Eve died, so I guess I should have seen it coming by the association.

one thousand gifts study 

But I didn't.  And as I sat there with Jacob squirming sweetly in my arms, listening to Ann talk about watching her baby sister being run over by a truck as a child, about how Jesus gave thanks for the very thing which broke him, about anxiety and closed fists and how thanksgiving can change everything . . . all the ugliness of grief that I thought was healing so cleanly burst open.

The anger, the asking why, why my daughter out of all the daughters in the world -- all of it was right there, as close as it was in the weeks after she died.  And here I thought I was leaving some of the rawness behind.

The words that filtered around me exposed, excruciatingly, what is still festering within me.  

 And so I sat with it, among friends, choking down the tears.  Because what else can we do, when grief rises yet again?

But I do wonder -- how long?  How long will grief keep blindsiding me?

one thousand gifts study

Because this morning's study?  It wasn't the first time that grief sneaked up on me.  It feels like it's been happening almost daily for the past few weeks.  The memories come flooding in, the tears go pouring down, and every time I am shocked that I'm still crying.

I thought I was better.

So I am forced to realize yet again that there is no "better" for this kind of pain, this kind of loss.  Eve will never not be gone.  I will never not miss her.  It will never not hurt.

In the video, Ann mentioned Jesus giving thanks the night before he died.  Is this what Jesus was getting himself into when he went to the cross?  Does it hurt him still, to have lost what he gave there?  To have felt only the cold back of God at the time when he needed Love most of all?  

How do you give thanks for death?  

I am not grateful that Eve is dead. There is no silver lining to that fact.  Death is wrong, an abomination.  God never meant for it.  We were not made to die. The first man and the first woman chose death, and every one of us since would, too, because we are given to grasping beyond what is up for the taking.



I am grateful for the new friends I now have because of Eve, friends near and far that are precious to me.  I am grateful for the loved ones who came to the hospital and waited with me for her birth, who prayed when I thought there was nothing left to pray for.  I am grateful for the ways I have grown because I have known loss.  I am grateful for the writing of these words.  I am grateful for our son, who would not exist if his sister had not come into the world when she did.  I am grateful to God, for the way He carries me, even when I feel that I've fallen too far too many times.  

And I suppose in a backhanded sort of way I can be grateful for the pain, because it is a mark of love -- of my love for the daughter that I will never know in this life.  I just wish that I could remember what a constant, slippery beast grief is.  I wish it would stop surprising me.  

I think that I must embrace this forever-broken place in me, to make friends with it, instead of expecting its replacement with a healing that will never come. 

But how?  How to you befriend what you wish would pass? 

Ann Voskamp would say that gratitude is the key.  But I've counted my thousand and more gifts, and it still is hard.  Too hard, sometimes.  

It will be interesting, at the very least, to see what else this study will unearth from the raw and hidden depths of my heart . . .

"Sometimes God allows what he hates to accomplish what he loves."

~ Joni Eareckson Tada


  1. Oh, Beth, I wish it could be so different, for you, for me, for all the mamas who miss their children. And recently I learned the same lesson as you: It will never not hurt. It's a hard truth. xoxo

  2. Oh how I can understand. Today especially my grief is drowning me once again by a wave that blindsided me. 2 1/2 yrs into it. I am still trying to wrap my head around Ann's wisdom. I believe the truths yet it's still hard.

  3. My goodness Beth... You have dealt with so much pain, I am so very sorry for your deep loss. I know that there are no words that will help you heal... I wish there were because if so I would pour them out for you right now. I wish I could reach through this screen and give you the biggest hug right now... To maybe be able to give you that same hug that I received almost 16 years ago when a lady I didn't know came into my bedroom (brought by a mutual friend) and before speaking she simply gave me the best most loving hug of my entire life.

  4. "How do you give thanks for death?" you don't. you give thanks for the life of Eve, the life she had in your womb, and the fact that she is more alive now then you are. Hugs sweet friend. This time of year is hard for me too as Alexander's birthday approaches. I have to remind myself over and over that my son is not dead. He lives and I will see him again one day.

  5. My mommyloss friends and I refer to what you are dealing with as The Pit. You are doing okay and then one day - wham! You are in The Pit, where the grief is fresh, raw and overwhelming. Some visit more often than others. It will be six years in March since I lost my Alex, and Pit days still pop up. So far out now, I can deal with them better, plus recognize them as a way of knowing that I will never ever forget or stop loving my son.

  6. Thank you for your raw honesty and your openness to experiencing what arises, even as it's painful and hard and not at all what you wanted.

    Sending you love. *huge hugs*

  7. hi, i following the "aloha friday blog hop" and i would love for you to visit my blog and follow if you like it.

    new follower bev

  8. Reading the comment re The Pit, I called it The Well, I led in bed at night and likened it to being down a dark wet well, unable to get a grip on the damp slime covered walls. You manage to clamber up by your nails a few bricks at a time and then your strength would give out and back down you go. It is so comforting to read Beths words, it continually amazes me that this grief although so lonely is also so good to share. Thank you Beth and freinds from little old me in the snowy UK. Sally X .

  9. Hey Beth. Your words are so true! You think grief is gone and then, as if from nowhere, it pops back up! It's going on nine years since my Kayleas death and grief still hits me! I'd love to tell you it goes away but it doesn't! What does happen is you learn to live with it in your life! And, against all odds, it will get easier! Much love to you, sweetie! Also, if you're interested, I blog about my experience with stillbirth and my life during & after if you want to check it out!

  10. Beth, this is so beautifully written and exactly how I feel. This will never not hurt and I will always miss Jonah an Harper...and even who I was before death crept in so quietly yet so suddenly.. I find myself wondering how I can make friends with this grief because I know it is here to stay. But how do you do that? How do you make friends with the one thing you despise? How do you make friends with the very thing that tore your whole life apart?
    Thank you for your words, they are always what I need to read, when I read them.

  11. "it feels like such an invisible thing, stillbirth.  You're left holding nothing but the pain and (if you're lucky) photos that no one but you wants to look at"

    This is exactly what stillbirth feels like "invisible" I have been really struggling right here in this space of grief.

    Your words like always speak unto my spirit. Thank you for "airing" your grief .

  12. Beth Your are such an amazing writer. You express beautifully what so many of us feel. Praying for you that this study would be healing and the load of grief would lighten.

  13. oh Beth, while I have not known this loss, I hear it here friend and feel it deep within me. What good questions you ask...keep asking them.I think that the day we stop railing against the reality of life is the day that we don't acknowledge that life is all these things and more. there is hope, there is joy, there is blessing...but there is also the heart wrenching moments that tear us open raw...and we bleed our hearts out again and wish those moments were not ours. Dear friend, thank you for being so utterly vulnerable and honest. I am so glad that you have found others who share a similar brokenness in their lives. I am not thankful for your brokenness only in that you have shared sisterhood, when there are those who choose to walk this path alone in so much darkness without guides along the way. This will stick with me as i ponder what you have asked and what you have learned.


"I am glad you are here with me."
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King