After I lost Lily and I started back to every day life, I realized that my head was full of so many questions. I wanted to know if it was okay to have these questions, does everyone have these questions? How do I answer them? Will answering them even make a difference? I felt like I just needed to know what to do. I needed a lifeline I could call when my head wouldn't stop spinning from the unknown and the pain. I just wanted to sit down and talk with someone who had been through what I had been through. I didn't really have anyone that had been through my exact situation, and you may not either. My attempt for this post is to be a resource to anyone who has felt immense pain and grief through loss. My process has been ongoing for the last 5 years and I don't think I'll really get to an end point, I think I will just continue to get more and more healing until I see my sweet girl again in Heaven.
I will continue to write about my process but I feel like there were a few questions that caused dilemmas for me very soon after we lost Lily.
"How many kids do you have?" This question. This question would catch me so off guard and cause me so much anxiety. The months after losing Lily, I was obviously very raw and vulnerable. My emotions were all over the place. I felt like if I didn't answer truthfully (3 kids, but only 2 living) that I was somehow dishonoring Lily, and that brought on immense guilt. But if I did answer truthfully, I could very well start sobbing hysterically to a complete stranger that was completely unprepared to handle my emotions. If you have lost a child, maybe you've had this same question. It was a question I asked for months...when finally had a sweet friend tell me "Allie, you answer that question however you want to in the moment. If you feel like you can say 3, then say 3, you don't necessarily have to tell your story to a complete stranger. If you feel like you cant, then you do not need to feel any guilt about that." I know this is so incredibly simple, but this brought me so much freedom. I didn't have to have a the same answer for the question, it could change. And I still do that to this day.
"When is it okay to have another baby?" The night we lost Lily in the hospital room, Jake asked me if we would have another baby. I think he wanted to know if my fear of this happening again would keep me from trying for another child. I answered that of course we would. I know that this is a process for some to get to, but for me I knew that we would, I knew God would bless us with more (and he sure did, we had 3 more after Lily). But, this was my concern... I only knew Lily inside of me. I felt her move and kick beginning at 14 weeks. If you've carried a baby in your belly, you KNOW that precious baby, even though you've never met. As crazy as it may sound, when I would think about being pregnant again, I would imagine Lily inside of me. I wanted to make sure that whenever we did get pregnant that I had enough healing to distinguish between the two pregnancies. I didn't want to replace her, Lily was her own person. I wanted to love this whole new person for who they were, not to fill a void that was in my heart. As I write it out, I'm not even sure if that makes sense, but that was a real struggle of mine. And of course I can't answer that for anyone else but all I know is that for me, I needed to reconcile in my head that it would be a brand new human growing inside of me. Not another Lily, not a baby to replace her, not a do over from tragedy, but only the beautiful experience of creating a new life.
"Is it okay to be happy?" I am beyond thankful I had two little girls to come home to after Lily, I know my healing process would have been so different if it were not for their beautiful faces that got me up every morning. But let me tell you, weeks after her death, I found myself shutting down laughter, smiling, or any sort of fun. I felt like I couldn't be happy because I was supposed to be sad. And YES it is so incredibly sad, BUT, it's okay to be happy. Guilt would rush in again. Let me just say, the guilt is not from God. The guilt is from the enemy that just wanted to keep me in a pit of sadness and never get out. Let me say it again, it is OKAY to be happy. You will need it. You will need laughter and smiles to heal your broken heart. And you are not forgetting your child by partaking in the those emotions. You also don't have to force yourself into it. Just listen to your emotions and know that you are entitled to feel every emotion under the sun, and I'm most certain you will feel them all, from anger to joy. Don't rush them away, allow them in. Remember its a process and give yourself so much grace.
Find time to journal, process your feelings one emotion at a time. When you can't even muster up the energy to write or pray, listen to music. Take time to yourself, but don't isolate. Allow your people in to your brokenness. Sit and listen to The Father. Give yourself time to heal, this will not be a speedy process. You must open up, do not stay inside your head because that can be such a dangerous place. Know that you will not grieve the same as everyone else, and that is 100% okay. And please know, you are not alone in this.
The book that I recommend to every single person that reaches out to me when they or someone they know has lost a child is Holding Onto Hope by Nancy Guthrie. It's the only book that didn't make me angry. This book was a game changer for me. If you struggling with grief, I highly recommend it.
Listening to worship was pretty much all I could do for weeks. I didn't have the energy for much else. Maybe a journal entry here or there or a simple devotion. But worship was the place I could bring my heart to Jesus and give whatever I felt in the moment to Him. I knew that if I did nothing, I would be in a dangerous place. And everyone is so different and will have their own process, I share mine in hopes it can encourage just one.
Here are some scriptures that brought me so much comfort in early stages...
"I will fight for you, you need only be still" Exodus 14:14
"but the Lord was my support, he brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me" Psalm 18:18-19
"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" Revelation 21:4
"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit" Psalm 34:18
"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds" Psalm147:3
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose" Romans 8:28
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you." Isaiah 42:40
"Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me." Isaiah 49:15-16
There are so many more verses that could be listed (just google it, you'll find what you need), but these were the ones, that as I read, they leapt off the page and spoke straight to my heart. I may not have always felt them to be true in the moment but I can see after five years have passed that these scriptures I clung to as air for my lungs, have come to be. He is fighting for me. He is healing my wounds, He has never forgotten me, and He is somehow working it all together for my good. And His word will never ever return void.