BOOKS

 This week I got these books in the mail, and I’m so excited.

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I read An Exact Replica of a Figment of my Imagination in two sittings. I couldn’t put it down. I loved it. I think I might just read it again. Books have been such a lifeline for me since losing Lucy. There is a drastic difference in my emotional wellbeing when I am not reading a good book. My Mom once heard someone say, “Ten years from now you will be exactly the same person except for the people you meet and the books you read.” Of course, that’s assuming your baby doesn’t die, which changes you into a completely different person. But there’s truth in that thought. Reading can truly alter your way of thinking and change who you are.

When you go through something traumatic your world is turned upside-down and it can be easy to lose sight of the truth. These books have anchored me while I grieve. They have reminded me that I’m not alone. Other people have also suffered huge losses, and they have survived. Here are the books that have helped me the most since losing my daughter:

The Bible

A Grace Disguised by Jerry Sittser

I Will Carry You by Angie Smith

An Exact Replica of a Figment of my Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken

A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis

Holding on to Hope by Nancy Guthrie

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

Keep a Quiet Heart by Elisabeth Elliot

A Path Through Suffering by Elisabeth Elliot

Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot

       Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander, M.D. (This one was a little weird, but it was interesting to hear his account of heaven.)

The God of All Comfort by Dee Brestin

I’ll Hold You in Heaven Remembrance Book by Debbie Heydrick

Also, for those of you who have living children, I think it’s good to read encouraging books on parenting. Many days it’s all I can do to meet my children’s physical needs, but they have so many other important needs that must be met. I feel energized to focus on loving my children better when I’m reading helpful books. Here are the two I’m reading now:

How to Really Love Your Child by D. Ross Campbell, M.D.

You Can’t Make Me- But I Can Be Persuaded by Cynthia Ulrich Tobias                       (Such a great book for anyone with a strong-willed child)

For those of you who have lost a baby or suffered any huge loss, which books have been helpful for you?

Lucy’s Present

When I lost Lucy I knew the grief would overtake my world and would feel unbearable. It did. One surprising aspect of the grief has been the intense pain caused by pregnant bellies and baby girls. They remind me of what I don’t have. Even pictures of my OWN pregnant belly are impossible to look at. It bothers me that they bother me so much. I realized one day that it wasn’t so much about what I don’t have, but what Lucy doesn’t have. It’s a jealousy for her life. Those other babies get to have life, but Lucy’s was snatched away.

Imagine you take your child to a birthday party. At the birthday party they announce that all the kids will be getting presents, not just the birthday boy. They start handing out presents and everyone gets one except your child. How would you feel? You wouldn’t be mad that kids got presents, just mad that everyone got one except your child. You would probably want that present for your child more than he or she even wanted the present. Now, imagine that the present was life. If every child got to live and yours didn’t. This is how I feel around pregnant people and baby girls.

Of course, it is a good thing to be jealous for your child’s life, to want to protect him and do what’s best for him. That’s how God made us. My mother-bear feelings are real and strong, but my thinking is flawed. When I really stop to think about it, I see that Lucy did get life. She got eternal life in the sweetest home ever and she will know her family one day when we arrive in heaven, one by one. She never has to taste fear, or shame or death. She never has to feel lonely or embarrassed or not good enough. She won’t even experience simple things that make us uncomfortable, like being cold or hungry or irritable. She gets an even BETTER present than all the other kids at the birthday party. I know deep down that Lucy got a better deal than Liam and Asher and all of the babies who lived. When we first found out that Lucy might be in danger we went to the elders at our church and had them pray over me and Lucy. They prayed that she would be kept safe and would live. One of the elders said, “I feel like I should share this with you. I think God is saying that everything will be alright with the baby.” He was right. Everything is alright with the baby. She did get life and she is safe and content in heaven.

This past Easter was so hard for me. I had heard before that people who have lost loved ones feel the most sorrow around holidays. I wasn’t expecting to feel that way on Easter, but I did. I made Easter baskets the night before and afterwards I wept and wept because I realized I would never make an Easter basket for Lucy.

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When we dyed Easter eggs it felt strange to have Liam eggs and Asher eggs and no Lucy eggs. I felt kind of guilty, like we were leaving her out. I made some Lucy eggs and put them next to her big brothers’ eggs.

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Is Lucy really missing out on Easter? What about all the sweet babies that have been lost. Do they miss out on all the holidays we celebrate here on Earth? I think it’s the exact opposite. Imagine what the Easter celebration in heaven looks like! Oh, how exciting it must be to actually celebrate the resurrection WITH Jesus. I’m sure the party our babies have in heaven doesn’t even compare to plastic eggs and Easter bunnies. And imagine the birthday party they have for Jesus every Christmas! I think even a “normal” day in heaven is far more bright and exciting than any earthly holiday we celebrate.

If only we could change our earthly perspective and see the whole truth. I wish we could see our babies that we have lost because if we could see how they are living we would never weep for them again. It’s not the ones in heaven who are suffering, it’s the ones on earth that have a hard path of suffering ahead of them. I think when we cry for our lost babies, God is looking at us, shaking his head with love on his face and he is saying, “Oh sweet children of mine, you are weeping for the wrong ones.”

Luke 18:15-16  Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.”

Revelation 21:4  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

The Worst Thing to Say to Someone Who is Grieving

I remember being on the other side of grief, looking in from the outside and secretly thanking God it wasn’t me. I remember not knowing what to say, feeling awkward, not wanting to cause more hurt. I always wondered what the best thing to say was. Now I’m here, on the other side of grief. Grief has joined me in my life and will walk with me, hand in hand, from this point on until the day I die. I know I will feel joy again one day, but I will always grieve the loss of my daughter. It’s strange now to be the person everyone is glad they are not. I hate it more than anything, but I am thankful for the things I have learned, the compassion that is now so ready for the person who is hurting.

I also now know what I would like people to say to me in my darkest time of pain. I just want them to say something. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be something. (Ok, to the person who said, “At least you won’t have to be pregnant during the summer!” Maybe I would have preferred if you had said nothing.) But it means a lot when they at least try. The worst thing to say to someone who is grieving is nothing. To say nothing is to pretend like it didn’t happen, this thing that stopped my world and changed it forever. This thing that has broken me, the hardest thing I have ever had to walk through. I want people to acknowledge my pain. I want people to acknowledge my sweet daughter. To not say anything is to act like Lucy never was, but she WAS. She was growing so wonderfully in me. She was kicking me everyday. She was going to be chubby with fat baby legs and jowly cheeks. She was going to be Liam and Asher’s baby sister to protect for a lifetime. She was going to have a first kiss, to be her Daddy’s girl, to go to college, to pick out a wedding dress, to name a baby of her own. But everything is lost and I want people to acknowledge that. I always wonder, if it had been my husband that died, would people acknowledge it more? Would they say, “I’m so sorry. How are you doing?” What if it had been Liam or Asher? Would they acknowledge it then? Is it because it’s was a “miscarriage” or “stillbirth” that it seems so hush hush? Sometimes I am baffled when I see a person for the first time since I lost her and they say nothing. Do they not remember that I was round and pregnant the last time they saw me? Did they forget that my daughter died?

And then I remember how I felt on the other side of grief. I didn’t know what to say, even when my heart ached for that person. I looked in their eyes and I said nothing because words couldn’t capture the grief or the healing that I wanted to give them. I remember that time and my racing heart slows and I understand how that feels. I know this is a personal opinion, and maybe there are a lot of people out there who would prefer that others say nothing. For me, a good thing to say to anyone who has suffered a huge loss is, “I’m so sorry about _____________ or about your loss. How are you doing?” I think a surprising amount of people actually want to talk about their suffering, they just want you to ask. I am so thankful for my many amazing friends and family, the ones who have cried with me, sent me cards, brought me food, given gifts, prayed for me again and again and even the ones who have said nothing. You have truly kept me afloat during this time of grief and you have taught me so much. I know your hearts, and I love them deeply, whether you have said the perfect thing or nothing.

Job 4:4 Your words have upheld him who was stumbling, and you have made firm the feeble knees.

Proverbs 16:24 Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

Letting Lucy Go

I remember the day I gave my daughter back to God. It wasn’t the day she died. It was February 2nd, the day we learned that she was anemic and needed a blood transfusion. I knew how sick she was, she didn’t kick anymore. I had a dark, nagging feeling that Lucy would die. I wanted to hold on to her for dear life. I wanted to protect her and I so desperately wanted to keep her. I think the natural instinct a mother has to protect her child is the strongest in human nature. I couldn’t imagine my baby dying inside of me, my womb becoming a coffin. I begged God to let me keep her. I screamed, “I want her. I want her. I want her.” Over and over again I asked God to save her, to let me be her Mommy here on earth. I threw a tantrum, down on my knees crying out to God to save her. It would be so easy for him to save her. He listened until I exhausted myself and then he said, “Let me have her. I will take care of her.” Could I give her up to him if that was what he wanted? Why would he let her die? I didn’t understand, but I trusted him. I thought of God letting go of his only son to die a violent death. I thought of Abraham with his miracle baby that he waited 100 years for. He was willing to give him back to God, even willing to slaughter him himself. If they could do it, I could do it. What was the purpose of my life, after all? It is to glorify God and enjoy him. The purpose of my life  is not to keep my daughter or to get what I want. I released my death grip that I (thought I) had on my daughter. I told him “Ok, you can have her. If it means that you will be glorified through her death, then you can have her.” I felt peace because it wasn’t in my hands, it was in his. I knew he would take her, and he did a week later.

Even though I am a blubbering mess here on Earth, I know Lucy is ok in heaven. She is well cared for, she is loved by her creator. I don’t worry about her. Soon after I returned home from the hospital I was so heartbroken for my girl, missing her and worrying about her. I was sobbing for my baby, praying for God to help me. I felt like God said, “I have her with me now. She’s right here. She’s fine. I’ve got her.” It was so good to realize that I can mourn my loss and feel empty for myself, but not for Lucy. She is happy and safe and my protective mother-heart can rest easy.

When my Mom was in the waiting room and I was in labor, waiting for Lucy to come, she asked God to show her a verse for Lucy. He showed her this:

Isaiah 66:12,13     And you shall be nursed, you shall be carried on the hip and bounced on the knees. As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you.