A Year Of Grieving: Our journey & what's been helpful in healing.
September 7, 2022 marks one year since Kanaan was born still. After a year of grieving, here we are. We are still grieving, still processing, and still changing. I wanted to write an article that would be helpful for those grieving and to those who are around others grieving. This is to encourage and also help others learn how they can support those around them. We are all in process and we all need grace for ourselves and others.
A year into our grief journey of loosing our son Kanaan Asher, it does not feel like it has been a year. It has went by way to fast and this day has come quickly. Each loss is different and each person needs different ways of processing their losses as well as support in different ways.
As you go through the stages of grief you may revisit them multiple times. Give yourself grace. You lost someone you deeply loved and you CAN'T just "get over that". It's more about how do you grow around your grief and still live life? You find what is helpful, you get support, you process, and you might even have to tell others what you need or don't need.
To the person reaching out to someone they are close to that's grieving:
Don’t let fears about saying or doing the wrong thing stop you from reaching out.
Let your grieving loved one know that you’re there to listen.
Understand that everyone grieves differently and for different lengths of time.
Offer to help in practical ways or simply ask if they need anything.
Maintain your support after the funeral and check in on them.
Real & Raw
This year has brought many emotions, uncomfortable situations, reminders, heartache, pain, peace, comfort, joy, and most of all, hope all intertwined. I could probably write a book about our journey up to this point, but for the sake of this blog, I will try to make it short.
My biggest support has been prayer and worship. Many times just listening to a worship song was all I could do. God's sweet presence and peace would surpass all understanding. . y way that God brings in our lives in the future! This is simply sharing the thoughts and feelings that many parents like us can feel. . . We both so deeply wanted to have some spaces that didn't al have that constantly in front of us, but it seemed the only safe place we had was our home. It felt like salt in an open wound, constantly. People getting pregnant so easily and not even planning it in a sacred space was also hard to see. I couldn't understand why that could happen, because to be able to have a child and carry a child is an absolute miracle. A miracle I will never take for granted. Every single baby, no matter how they got here, is a miracle and always will be, their life matters! Sadly, 65 American babies are born still every single day. All deeply loved & missed. All of these families deserve support.rt.t.e. They can understand to a degree that others simply cannot. It's not anyone's fault, it's just reality. Since going through two different types of pregnancy losses (2 early miscarriages, and 1- 35week stillbirth), I can say the grieving process has been so different for us. I never thought anything could feel more painful than loosing Kanaan. I miss my other kiddos dearly and always will. I got to have a long, special bond with Kanaan and had so many plans for him, to loose him seemed so unfair. I found myself in situations I just couldn't be around, had to not be apart of, or sometimes had to fight through. That is when I needed God to come in and be with me on the deepest level I have ever experienced. I needed him to be my peace when everything around me seemed chaotic, emotional, and hard. Being around babies as well as young toddlers has been so difficult because I would have had a child that would have been learning and doing the same things as them. To see the joy in people with their newborn baby or young child hurt so much. I was happy for them of course, but I couldn't understand why I was in the situation I was in. I was supposed to be a mom busy with my baby, staying at home, holding my baby, stopping my world for them, sleepless nights, dirty diapers, smiles and laughs. My world stopped and I couldn't function or go on. In the beginning months, I simply had absolutely no motivation and no joy for life. I literally didn't eat for months. My physical, emotional, and mental health was a mess. It was hard to function, to remember things, to be clear minded, to be happy, and to be me again. Sometimes loosing other things in life was hard and even felt like it was happening all over again.
I couldn't be around babies/ kids that brought so many other people joy. It was just a reminder to me of what I didn't have every time and so deeply longed for. It felt like grace at times was not extended to us, simply because people did not understand. We are all human and no one is perfect. I had to choose to forgive and let God come in to begin the process of restoration.
Excuses or comments from others of their children, for a time I had no grace for. I simply couldn't understand why they couldn't be grateful for what they had (or though it seemed). Something I would have given anything to have my children here. Being around this was hard at times in certain environments. We both so deeply wanted to have some spaces that didn't always have that constantly in front of us, but it seemed the only safe place we had was our home. It felt like salt in an open wound, constantly. People getting pregnant so easily and not even planning it in a sacred space was also hard to see. I couldn't understand why that could happen, because to be able to have a child and carry a child is an absolute miracle. A miracle I will never take for granted. Every single baby, no matter how they got here, is a miracle and always will be, their life matters! Sadly, 65 American babies are born still every single day. All deeply loved & missed. All these families deserve support.
I don't say all these things to be a victim. I say these things be real and raw. Please do not think that we don't love kids. We do and can't wait to have more kids in any way that God brings in our lives in the future! This is simply sharing the thoughts and feelings that many parents like us can feel.
Many other mothers I have had conversations with, that do not have children here on earth yet, related with many of the feelings I had. These feelings and emotions do not mean they were always true, but they do mean that they felt real in the moment. I had to choose each and every single moment to choose God and to choose peace. I have grown so much through this journey and I continue to learn and change as a person. I will be able to comfort others who go through loss. I will give them HOPE. I will give them a safe space. I will give them time. I will give them resources. I will give them the answer to the hope I have. I will be sensitive. I will be there to support them.
My biggest support has been prayer and worship. Many times just listening to a worship song was all I could do. God's sweet presence and peace would surpass all understand.
"Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy."
What Is Helpful
We are still learning what is helpful for us in our journey but we have been able to pin point some that are extremely helpful.
Their life mattered(s)! The mentioning of the person's name, sharing memories, or telling what impact they had. These things all can help and encourage the person grieving. It may be hard at first, especially in the beginning of grief, but eventually hearing memories and impact helps in the healing process. Biggest of all, it truly honors that person. For our son, we want him to be honored just like any other kid that is here on earth! No one looses someone and then never talks about them or mentions their name again. There may be some instances that it does, but in general, people are still honored even though they may not be here anymore.
Checking in. Typically people might check in on the people that have experienced loss a month or two after. However, the person that is grieving (their world has stopped), but yours has continued and it can be easy to forget to check in on them. Make an effort to check in on them at least monthly. Depending on how close you are to that person, will depend on what is helpful. Grief doesn't just go away and others process it longer than some others do. Know that stuffing away grief is never healthy, and it only prolongs the healing. Remember we all need to have grace for each other. People will know how much you care though, when you reach out consistently. We have noticed that when those whom we are closest in relationship, it means the most when they reach out and check in. It doesn't take a lot, just a call, text, email, card, etc. It's not about all the time, it's consistency. We have found there will be a select few that you will be close to that actually take the time to do that. This also includes not just the wife or mother, this also includes checking in on the father or husband.
Remembering dates. It means a lot to people when others remember the birth date or other important dates from that person's life. In our case, people remembering Kanaan's birthday and saying Happy Birthday means a lot to us. To others it may not. The best thing is to ask the person grieving, what things mean a lot to them for you to remember. On the other hand, the person grieving may have to ask people they want to remember a date and say that. It can be uncomfortable and awkward to have to ask others to remember dates, but remember those around you don't necessarily know what to do and they can't read your mind (as much as we would like them to, it's not reality). Doing something special or just a simple call, text, or card makes it special to that person. It helps that person to know that the one they love is not forgotten!
Listening. Sometimes the person grieving doesn't need you to give advice or relate to them. Sometimes they just need someone to listen and be there. Sometimes we are too quick to say "I'm sorry, I had a similar loss, (continuing to explain or compare your loss)", this is not helpful! That just diminished the grieving person's loss and took the attention off what they are going through onto your own self. There is a time and place for this is relating to the person, and sometimes that is really appreciated. Other times, in the early months of grief though, this is not helpful. Losses can be similar but they will never be the exact same. Comparing never helps.
Ask what they need. Acknowledge their pain and never assume that something is helpful unless you ask or know their love languages. They may not tell you what they need, so you might have to ask them. They may not even know what they need themselves, but at least you have tried to reach out. If it's someone you are really close to, learn their love languages. Then you will understand what is more helpful to them even if they don't tell you! Never force yourself on someone. Some people appreciate company and people coming over. Others do not and need more space. Don't assume either way, just ask. Remember, don't be offended if you don't get feedback. They may just need time and will reply when they feel they can. Those grieving can feel like they are stuck in a whirlwind and their reality doesn't seem real for a time. I have found that I enjoy it when friends or those I'm truly close to reach out, other times I need space. It's helpful to still include them if you normally would. If they decline your invite to be a part of a group, event, or etc, don't take it personally. If they accept it, great! Either way, give grace. Just make them feel welcome.
What Is Not Helpful
Through this journey, we have painfully experienced what is not helpful. We forgive and have grace, but this is a great learning experience to share.
Never saying anything. By this, I mean never checking in on the person grieving, never mentioning their loved one's name, never acknowledging them, or asking how they are doing. Someone of us do not know what to say in a situation of loss, but sometimes it's worse to say nothing. It can feel as though people think you are back to normal, they forgot, or that they feel awkward to acknowledge it. This is hard, because other people grieving may not care if some people do not say anything, they themselves may not say much about their situation is they are not processing it. If you know that the person or family talks about their loved one, shares memories, or does something in their honor; then it definitely means something to say something or ask how they are doing. I would rather have someone say something (even if it's not helpful), then say nothing. Others grieving, may not agree. That's okay! That's why it's helpful to speak up or hint to what is helpful.
Insensitive comments or actions. None of us are perfect. We take risks when we speak. A person will either receive it well or can take offense to it. We all have a choice how we react and give grace to others. It doesn't mean that words don't hurt. It just means, you choose who you listen to and what words you take to heart. Through the months of our journey, there has been many things said that were hurtful. Most people have meant well, and we choose to try and see that. Other times, it can just simply be insensitive. Try and think before you speak. I myself, have to be reminded of this as well. At times, it's not just words, but it can also be actions. I could share many examples, but after realizing what things were hard or hurtful, I realized I never said anything to that person to let them know it was hurtful. Sometimes the person grieving feels like they shouldn't have to say if something is hurtful because they don't want to hurt that other person. This is difficult but necessary if you want to grow in your relationship with that person. I am still practicing this! other times, you may not have the type of relationship with that person to be able to do that. In those cases for the one grieving, guard your heart. You may have to leave or get away for a time, do something to relieve stress or emotions, seek counseling, or create better boundaries. Examples: Some examples in pregnancy loss situations or similar that can be insensitive are: complaining about kids, comments like" you'll understand when you have kids or you don't know what it's like to have a kid" (people just not thinking when they are with you in the same room, just unnecessary), people having high expectations on you (expecting you to function and be your normal self again), comments like "It was God's will" (highly hurtful and completely wrong, God's will is never for anyone to die), comparing our loss to theirs, or people playing the victim in your situation (never asking how you are/what you need, or assuming things that are not accurate by thinking you are not letting them in). None of this is fun to talk about, however it is necessary and it's an opportunity for growth and healing!
3. Acting awkward or weird around the one grieving. Our society in general doesn't support people who are grieving very well. People get awkward and can't even sit in silence with someone who is grieving. It's not fun, but try not to act awkward around the person grieving. It can make them not want to open up or make them feel like they can't get emotional around you. Just be a support. It can be in very simple ways. Instead, ask them about it, listen, cry with them (if appropriate), hug, do errands, visit them, send them something, encourage them, pray for or with them. Remember to ask them what would be helpful. Some people need more than others and others much less.
For those grieving: Putting your grief to action for healing:
Creating a garden or memorial for your loved one.
Spend time in prayer and worship.
Join a support group.
Read books. Some specific for baby loss that was helpful: Holding on to love after you've lost a baby by Candy McVicar, Holding onto hope by Nancy Guthrie (story of Job), Anchored by Erin Cushman, Heaven by Randy Alcorn, and The louder song, by Aubrey Sampson.
Giving something in honor of your loved one. This could be a gift, a donation to a charity or organization, or really anything.
Creating a space in your house in honor or you loved one with pictures, memorabilia, or symbols, etc.
Get a painting, tattoo, necklace, picture, ring, or anything to remember them by.
Pick a symbol for them. Mine is bees, so anytime someone gets me anything to do with bees it reminds me of our son Kanaan. Find something that will bring you joy over time.
My hope and prayer is that you have found this article helpful if you are grieving or supporting someone who is grieving. As time goes on, the sting of the pain will lessen. You will never forget, and you will always remember your loved one. The pain may never fully go away here on earth, but peace and comfort will come. We are all human, but we can learn to get out of our comfort zone and reach out to others in various ways. Remember, we grow around our grief. Grace upon grace.
Lyrics from the song "Scars In Heaven" by Casting Crowns.
If I had only known the last time would be the last time
I would have put off all the things I had to do
I would have stayed a little longer, held on a little tighter
Now what I'd give for one more day with you
Cause there's a wound here in my heart where something's missing
And they tell me that it's gonna heal with time
But I know you're in a place where all your wounds have been erased
And knowing yours are healed is healing minе
The only scars in Heaven, thеy won't belong to me and you
There'll be no such thing as broken and all the old will be made new
And the thought that makes me smile now even as the tears fall down
Is that the only scars in Heaven are on the Hands that hold you now