I have always loved Christmas, however the first Christmas after losing our first baby was incredibly difficult. We lost Trudy in July 2013, and by December I was a wreck. I was in a very dark place, but I wasn’t dealing with it. My heart hurt deep, but I didn’t feel like I could show anyone. I felt like I had to have it all together, but inside I was anything but together.
I did my best to hide the emotions by cleaning our house like a mad woman. I scrubbed every square inch of our house multiple times, trying desperately to make everything “okay”. I remember one afternoon in particular, I decided our heating system needed to be cleaned. So, I took all of our heat registers and soaked them in soapy water. Then I started to scrub the duct work found below the register. I realized I had a problem when I was trying to scrub the duct work and my arm could only reach so far. Then the tears came. Large inconsolable ugly tears. I remember telling Dan that nothing ever went like I wanted.
Friends, the idea that I wanted to hand scrub my duct work is crazy, but the tears that came weren’t. It wasn’t about the duct work, it was the fact that I was angry, and sad and hurt that we had lost a baby… I just refused to face it.
Around that time, I started to see a counselor who helped me begin to grieve. She helped me learn that it is okay to feel that deep pain. She helped me learn that when tragedy hits, it is normal and healthy to not be okay for awhile.
Each Christmas since 2013 has been a little better, and I haven’t tried to scrub our duct work since that terrible afternoon. However, it always seems the act of putting up the Christmas tree and all the decorations has continued to be a real struggle.
I admit, when we found out we were pregnant earlier this year, I dreamed big dreams about Thanksgiving, but never once thought about Christmas. After we lost Lil Bit, I feel like I prepared for Thanksgiving without him, but for some reason, Christmas was totally unexpected. I do feel like I have been honest about my grief this time around and I do feel like I have worked through this loss in a healthier way than when we lost our first baby. However the amount of grief that has hit me since Lil Bit’s due date has surprised me. In some ways, I feel like I am reliving the loss all over again.
I have procrastinated putting up any Christmas decorations this year. I told everyone that it was too warm and didn’t feel like Christmas which was somewhat true. I also told everyone that we had been traveling too much, and didn’t have time to put the tree up, which was also somewhat true. However, the truth is thinking of Christmas with two babies in heaven hurts. Something about putting the Christmas tree up, with only Dan and I in the house has felt impossible.
I have really struggled with the idea of being sad around Christmas. This holiday is meant to celebrate Jesus, but instead I find myself wanting to push fast forward and skip the day entirely. The idea that I want to skip a holiday that is meant to celebrate the birth of Jesus, makes me feel incredibly ungrateful for all He has done in my life. Grief is hard.
On Saturday, I decided to start digging into our Christmas decorations. I had no plans for what I was going to put up, I just knew I needed to do something. I know that Christmas isn’t about the decorations, but I felt like I needed to push through and not let sadness overtake my heart. Thankfully, a few years ago Dan and I found three small Christmas trees at a yard sale. This year, the tallest small tree felt appropriate.
As I hung lights on the tree, Dan went to the back of the house for something, and the tears started to fall. I told God this wasn’t fair. I told Him that I didn’t understand why we had to go another year without a baby. I asked how long I would have to wait to see His promises unfold in our lives. And you know what I heard in response…. nothing. No words of encouragement. No promise of peace. Nothing. At least nothing I wanted to hear.
Since putting up the tree, the very sight of is has made me mad. Sunday afternoon, I was sitting back in the bedroom yelling at God again. I said something like…”God, I put up these decorations for you… and you can’t even bother to answer me when I talk?” As I sat in the bedroom, with tears running down my face do you know what I felt the Lord whisper…. nothing. Again, at least nothing I wanted to hear.
As I was drafting this post, I stopped to help Dan fold some laundry. I told him that what I really wanted to post was that I just am over it. The past few weeks have been stressful, the grief is too much and I am just going to skip Christmas. Dan lacked the words of encouragement I am so used to him saying, which annoyed me. I wanted him to hold me together like he is such a pro at doing.
So I came back to this half drafted blog, completely frustrated. I was ready to just delete everything and just forget posting anything. However, I opened up the Bible, and read Psalm 34:18…
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
That scripture didn’t magically take away all my heartache. It didn’t make me less sad. In fact, it actually made me a bit more mad. If God was close to the brokenhearted, why hadn’t He said anything when I was asking all my questions before?
However, after stewing on the verse for awhile, it hit me. The Lord was speaking to me all day, I just didn’t want to hear what He had to say. He was saying “I’m close”.
Psalms 56:8 says this in the passion translation:
“You’ve kept track of all my wandering and my weeping. You’ve stored my many tears in your bottle – not one will be lost. You care about me every time I’ve cried. For it is all recorded in your book of remembrance.”
I mistakenly took the Lord’s silence as Him having nothing to say, but really, I think the Lord was just listening. He was keeping track of each one of my tears and when I was done crying out, he said “I know it hurts your heart. I haven’t forgotten. I’m close.”
Today, I was thinking about this post and how to finish it, and the Lord brought Isaiah 43:2 to my mind. The scripture says this:
“When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.”
This Christmas, if your heart is hurting, I encourage you to slow down and remember that the Lord is close. God desires all of you. Not just the good parts, but the sad and hurt parts too. When we bring those hurts to God, He moves in closer. When we tell the Lord that we are confused, disappointed and hurt by the way our’s lives are going, it gives him room to comfort us. When we tell God “I hurt”, He responds “I will carry you”. Isaiah 43:2 is a promise that nothing will consume us. Nothing will burn us. The Lord is constantly there, passing through with us. There is hope even in the hurting.