When a boyfriend in college broke up with me, I thought the Christian thing to do was to try to slap a smile on it and talk about how I was confident in God’s plan. After an initial 48 hours of lots of ugly tears, I pushed down the rejection, inadequacy, and sadness. Almost a year later, those feelings finally came pouring out. It was ugly. I felt them with the same intensity I should have originally. In some ways, it felt like they came out with a vengeance because they were also mad about being locked in the closet of my heart for over a year. When they did make their way to the surface, it was long past the time when it is socially acceptable to be grieving a break-up. It was painful.
Stuffed down feelings come out, often at the most inopportune times.
One of my younger friends has been one of the most thoughtful people in my life since December. Her wedding date was closely tied with when we had hoped baby #2 would arrive. All of her wedding events were bittersweet for me. Out of town events I “shouldn’t” have been able to attend due to proximity to my due date. It was an honor to love and celebrate her this spring, but also a painful reminder of what might have been.
With each upcoming event, she would reach out and let me know that it was okay if I was sad while I was there and that part of her was sad with me. It’s okay if you need to take breaks and get away. It’s okay if you cry at an event for me.
In the season of engagement, when it’s easy to think “it’s all about me,” she choose the selfless path and still saw me. She gave me permission to feel whatever I needed to, whenever I needed to. It was one of the biggest and most gracious gifts I’ve ever been given. What she essentially told me was, “Ali, you don’t need to perform here.”
In one conversation where she had been especially caring, I asked her how she was so good at this and so thoughtful (she’s wise beyond her years this newly 24-year-old former YL girl of mine). She told me, “Ali, you made my high school mantra ‘When you’re a mess, be a mess.’ I’m doing for you, what you did for me.” In the most lovable of ways, she’s a recovering people-pleaser-I’ve-got-it-all-together-all-the-time-gal too.
I like being a great friend. I like having my act together. I like being productive. I like being the girl you can count on.
One of the hardest parts of grief for me is the way it keeps knocking me down. It’s been hard for me to give myself permission to be okay with being knocked down.
There have been several situations where I’ve heard the lies, “You need to get it together. You need to act this way. You are not meeting my expectations. You need to get over this.”
There is no fast way through grief, no shortcuts. If there was, I’m confident I would have found it already because I have been looking for them. The only way to battle grief is to go through it.
Like my friend generously did for me, I’m trying to do for myself: You have permission to feel whatever you are feeling. You have permission to let it out. You do not have to hold it in or press it down. It’s okay to admit that it’s hard. It’s okay to acknowledge the pain. It’s okay to still have waves of powerful sadness.
I’ve chosen to let myself be sad about everything I miss about never knowing Maizie outside of my womb. I’ve let myself grieve the ways her pregnancy is different than this current way. I’ve longed for the way she moved and felt in my body. I’ve let myself feel anger towards God or others and then worked to reconcile. I’ve allowed myself rest.
As I get through this, I want to be a deeper, more complete, more empathetic, more aware-of-others-and-their-story person. I want to experience what it says in scripture that God transforms us from one degree of glory to another. To go through this transformation, I’ve had to be willing to submit myself to the furnace of trial. I am not going to attempt to control what this process looks like.
God is changing me. He has been changing me. I see the glimpses of it and I know I’ll see the markings of Maizie’s life on mine in bigger ways over the years to come. I want that, more than I want to look like I have it all together. It’s been one of the most terrifying experiences of my life to look grief in the face and say run your course. But I have had all the comfort and strength in the world as I rest in God’s hands.
To my dear friend Laura, thank you for the gift of permission. No words will ever be able to describe what you did for me in those first four months following our loss. I want to be that type of friend for other people in the future. Sometimes I had to take you up your permission and sometimes I was able to rise to the occasion. Either way, knowing I had it made me feel safe and known in a way I can’t describe. Love you forever dear one.