In the last three years, I’ve experienced several different instances of death concerning children.
The first was witnessing up close the third miscarriage of a friend in the States.
The second was my first miscarriage in the States.
The third was seeing Daviana’s experience with Tiana after moving here to China.
The fourth and fifth was witnessing from the outside the extreme grief of an acquaintance.
The sixth has been our own experience with our identical boy twins, Perez and Zerah, who died prematurely.
With the first experience, my husband and I wanted to be there for our friends who were grieving. They had been trying for so long, and this was their third miscarriage. I couldn’t easily relate to my friend’s scientific curiosity in the death of her child. We accidentally outstayed our welcome when we were there to grieve with them, but they graciously and gently asked us to leave so they could mourn alone.
With the second experience, I was only 8 weeks pregnant, and since I did not want to be pregnant, I felt guilty in being a bit relieved the life of this child was simply not meant to be. My body and my emotional state was taxed from having had my daughter in 2011, my son in 2012, and then expecting this child in 2013. This expectation was too much for me. The miscarriage felt like a mercy.
Feeling guilt was what made me grieve for a long time for the loss of this child. My friend from the first experience was able to comfort me that she had too felt this way at one point about one of her three miscarriages. And my feelings went back and forth. If we had been under different circumstances, I still would have to have born this child. His/her name is Zadok (just/righteous) or Azariah (Yahweh’s help). One day, I look forward to holding and loving this child, too.
I definitely learned the most about grief in the third experience. Standing on the sidelines of Davi’s grief and having the opportunity to write an article about her experience has helped me in my current situation. She taught me that people can grieve about many things, not just death. She also explained that a death can conjure up grief for others, especially friends and acquaintances, who might end up not knowing how to deal with grief from previous experiences that wasn’t dealt with in the first place.
What was hardest for her was losing friends because of their grief. She also told me people in general don’t know how to respond to the person most affected by a death, (the spouse, the parents or the siblings of the deceased). People can be afraid to ask how someone else is doing, afraid to say the wrong things, or afraid that the one mourning will break down and cry. She also told me about in some instances people would break down and cry, and the mourner would be the one comforting that acquaintance!
In the fourth and fifth time, I experienced what grief felt like to a stranger – the very awkward outside party. When I witnessed the pain of someone who I didn’t know well, I was at a loss about what to do or what to say. I felt grief for her. I hurt for her. But I didn’t know her well enough to feel comfortable in expressing my pain for her to her. I felt it was just best to pray for her.
And the sixth time has been the strangest, but most encouraging of deaths. All I can say is that I feel weird in having joy out of this grief, but I can’t help but be honest. That’s how I feel. Of course, I didn’t start with feeling joy.
A nightmare came true in finding out they had no heartbeats. I was in pain to know I would never hold them. I had been surprised to find out I was pregnant, but I eventually grew to having extreme joy and expectation in awaiting the arrival of twins! While I waited for others to come care for me on that first day at the hospital, I sat in the waiting room with uncontrollable streams running down my face. I hid my shame by looking out of the windows and avoided eye contact with curious strangers. While I sat there, I had daydreams about the dreams that had been smashed. I daydreamed about the hugs I would never have, the cries I would never hear, and the fingers I would never hold.
At first, I was straightforward with those who said things I didn’t like. “You’re young.” “You’re pretty, don’t cry.” “You already have two.” “You should follow this traditional Chinese regimen, or you’ll feel it 20 years later. There is scientific proof.” Really, these are awful things to say to someone who miscarried in the midst of the moment, and this only brings more grief and pain because the person saying them doesn’t understand what I’m going through. I explained to them that although I understood that they were trying to be helpful and make me feel better, what they said just hurt me. “Please don’t say this to someone else,” I gently told them all.
Then the visitors I had varied in their responses to their own grief. Some were very emotional; some reflected our attitudes of joy. We comforted many in their pain, too.
We cried the most on Monday; we recited scripture to one another, and we listened to worship songs. I cried many times that night and that next morning. Our changes in attitude of great grief toward great peace and hope came slowly over Tuesday and Wednesday. When I had the first dose of injections to induce my labor on Tuesday, I felt like that was saying goodbye to them. In a way I felt like I was giving up on hope but also accepting that they had died. We continued to pray and worship with our translator. We had many times of Bible study. We updated our friends and family, all around the world, and we felt their love and support. I got the chance to take pictures with my belly; I had only gotten one pregnancy picture, and I didn’t want that to be the only one. I knew I would regret that.
We continued to point our eyes toward Jesus, and to point other’s eyes toward Jesus, too. Labor on Thursday was hopeful because I was going to get to see the twins and see their genders. We would finally get to name them. Our prayers were answered in Bobby being there with me, and he was pivotal in helping me keep my mind off of the pain as I pushed and bore through the contractions. Finishing labor also meant being on the final stretch toward home.
During my time of trouble over this week, I was encouraged by these verses:
Psalm 16:11 “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
John 16:33 “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world.”
1 Corinthians 15:55 “‘Death is swallowed up in victoy.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’”
2 Corinthians 16-18 “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are unseen are eternal.”
Genesis 3:16a “To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children…”
These songs helped us grieve and worship throughout the week.
And writing this is cathartic. To some, this might be weird that I want to do something when everyone else suggests I rest, but I’ve been resting and waiting and processing since Monday. My body just needs to catch up with my heart and soul.
I want this post to express my love and understanding to my friends but also be a voice for women feeling the same as me in any of those six scenarios I wrote about above. The first half of Genesis 3:16 was so encouraging because I saw that we are all linked in grief through childrearing. There is pain in childrearing, not just in labor and delivery; that’s mentioned secondly in the verse, but not necessarily the primary mention of pain related to children. Childrearing brings grief to us through deaths, parenting struggles, heartache, and infertility, even if we are not the women directly experiencing the main mechanism of grief at the time. Even as bystanders we experience the grief of others.
The pattern in all of this is that everyone experiences and deals with grief differently. With how at peace we feel, we can only imagine others do not feel that same peace at this moment. Maybe they haven’t been able to process how they feel about our twins’ deaths. Maybe this conjures up feelings for them they have buried before. That’s all okay. Please grieve. Please feel like you can talk to us about your pain, (if you even want to do that).
Let’s do one another a favor and leave judgment behind, realize we’re going to process differently, and humbly ask one another, “How are you doing with this death? Do you want to talk about it?”
So, much love and grace to you, dear ones.