Holding Our Angel

Loving After Loss


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Theo’s Party and Steam Bun *U/S pic in post*

p1030097The belated birthday party we threw for Theo went really well! We ended up raising $1,867 for UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital!

I am so glad we had the party. We had a lot of fun, and it was so good to see our friends gathered celebrating Theo. Such a good reminder that they still love and think about Theo.

The color s of the party were yellow and gray, Theo’s nursery colors. I had an p1030098Italian soda station, a hot chocolate station, and an Italian restaurant did the catering. The cake was from Costco, and I picked a baseball theme cake as I know Kenny was so looking forward to teaching Theo baseball. We played board games and held a raffle and had a photo backdrop set up for pictures. The backdrop was the only thing that incorporated Steam Bun into the party–I made it out of yellow, gray, and navy blue tulle. Gray and navy blue are Steam Bun’s nursery colors. The backdrop is of both my boys.

I brought Theo bear to the party, and everyone sang happy birthday to Theo while Kenny and I were holding Theo bear. I almost cried at this point, but that was the only time during the party I was sad. A friend and loss mom asked if they could take a picture with Theo bear, which just melted my heart.

p1030100I’m also so relieved we waited to have this party. If we had pushed ourselves to do it around his actual birthday, I wouldn’t have enjoyed myself. But I had fun, even though it was 2.5 months after his actual birthday. I see a lot of loss moms doing wonderful things in memory of their children–fundraisers, RAK, etc. and sometimes I’ve wondered why I “wasn’t there” yet. Especially as a Christian–shouldn’t I be pushing myself to help others in honor of Theo? This party helped me realize that I have to go at my own pace, and I’m so, so glad I didn’t push myself to do this fundraiser before. I think I would have felt a little bitter and resentful if I had done it earlier, and that would do p1030104nobody any good. (Not a criticism of those who do these things right away, just sorting out some feelings of guilt I had on not doing that earlier.)

On Sunday we had the 3D/HD ultrasound of Steam Bun. He looks so much like Theo and Kenny. Just like everything else, it’s both a good and bad thing. I love feeling like I was looking at Theo when I saw Steam Bun, and that they will have that connection. But I also felt some pain, it’s a reminder of what I won’t get with Theo and a small part of me worried that I won’t be able to separate the two in the future.

Steam Bun was being his usual stubborn self and we couldn’t get any photos of him without the cord in his face. He was chewing (well, not chewing since he doesn’t have teeth but chomping? sucking?) on the cord and playing with it, and that freaked me out. It was both cute and made me laugh, but also concerning to me. I asked the tech if she could see if the cord was wrapped around his neck, and she said she wasn’t allowed to confirm anything like that as that is classified as diagnostic but that she would try to get me a good look at his neck so I could see for myself. Fortunately Steam Bun soon moved his head around, and I could see his neck was fine. We saw Steam Bun moving a lot. He also had his feet in his face for a little bit, and his wrinkly feet looked so much like Theo’s. We go back in a week and a half to try to get better photos.

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It’s the little things

A couple of months ago I read Always Within: Grieving the Loss of Your InfantIt’s a collection of stories about pregnancy and child loss.

There was one story that really stood out to me, it was by a woman who buried all 4 of her children (her oldest two were killed in a car accident when they were a few years old, and then she had twins who were stillborn). Her whole story was incredible, but she had one quote that really stood out to me:

Just the other day we got our house painted. That’s good, most people would say. No, it was not good. Do you know that all the fingerprints my children left on the walls were painted over?

This quote resonated with me so much, there are so many little aspects to child loss that hit me randomly. Things I never expected to hurt.

Last year, our taxes were difficult to do. Theo was born alive so we were able to claim him on our taxes as a dependent. I didn’t care about getting the tax break, but being able to claim him as a dependent meant SO much to me. He got a SSN, a birth and death certificate. They mean everything to me because it’s proof that he was here. I don’t have a child in my arms to prove I am a mother, so I hold onto as many tangible things as I can that prove he is my son. And being able to say on my taxes I had a son, a dependent, felt like a small validation.

This year we can’t claim Theo as a dependent. He was not alive at all in 2016, so according to our government he is no longer my dependent. I mean, I get it from a purely tax perspective. But it cuts like a knife to know that this year we can’t say Theo is ours. I’ve been putting off taxes for a couple of weeks, but we really need to do them this week and it just sucks to say we have no dependents when we have a child already.


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Comparing the pregnancies and other things

**Trigger warning**

I had my regular appointment yesterday. It went pretty well. We pushed our second anatomy scan back a couple of weeks, my dr wants Steam Bun to be a little bigger when the scan is done. I’ll have a growth scan done at the same time, and I think that will be the last growth scan unless something is off. After the scan, I’ll be having regular NSTs. And then Steam Bun will be here, hopefully healthy. My fluid levels have been checked at almost every appointment, and so far they are looking good.

I’ve been having constant headaches the past couple of weeks, which didn’t really concern me but I brought it up with my doctor anyway. She said that can be a sign of preeclampsia, but my blood pressure is fine and there’s no protein in my urine. But I still need to monitor my blood pressure myself until my next appointment, and if it starts going up to come in right away. A loss mom mentioned that baby aspirin can help prevent preeclampsia, so I emailed my doctor about it and she ok’d me going on it.

I also talked to her about putting a sign on my door that lets everyone know what’s going on. She said that’s fine, she’ll let me put up whatever sign I want. The practice doesn’t have a sign already made, so I’ll be making one. It will be pretty basic and say something like “This patient has experienced child loss. It’s ok to ask about her oldest, but please be sensitive. Expect her to cry, but it’s not a bad thing if she cries”. My OB will be the one performing the c-section, and she assured me she will let everyone involved know what is going on. I don’t really care if I cry in front of all of the doctors and nurses, but people feel awkward when I start crying and then they feel like they can’t bring Theo up. I want them to bring Theo up, so they need to know it’s ok to still talk about him even if I cry. I kind of wish I could carry this sign around with me everyday “Ask about my dead son. I may cry, but I still want you to ask”.

At my next appointment we’ll be going over the “birth plan” in more detail. Do we want to hold Steam Bun right away (provided he’s not showing signs of distress)? Do we want them to examine Steam Bun before we hold him? Who will be in the OR beside my OB, etc. Obviously the ultimate birth plan is to have a living, healthy baby and life-saving measures take priority over everything else, but things were so rushed and chaotic with Theo that we never got the time we should have with him. We missed out on things that should have been offered to us by the hospitals, and so our birth plan with Steam Bun will include what we want done if he is in distress, has the same condition as Theo, etc. We’re making plans for both a healthy baby and a sick baby.

Kenny and I have been comparing this pregnancy to the one with Theo since the beginning, but especially lately.

Physically, my pregnancy with Theo could not have gone smoother. Textbook pregnancy, and I had the usual complaints.

This one has been different since the beginning. At my first appointment my dr said I had a subchorionic hematoma (SCH). It fortunately was less than 3 cm, but she still recommended I not exercise until it cleared up. Which it did at 10 weeks. Not being able to exercise for those first few weeks got me out of my routine, and it’s been hard to get back to regular exercise since.

And then a few weeks later, there were sugars in my urine, so I had the 1 hr glucose test, which I failed. I passed the 3 hr test though, and have had no issues with sugars since. I was still eating healthy the majority of the time at this point, so I know it wasn’t my diet that was causing this issue. Never had any issues with sugars while pregnant with Theo.

Theo and Steam Bun have proven to be incredibly stubborn babies during scans, though I think Theo was more stubborn. He would not move out of his position if he was comfortable, whereas Steam Bun will at least move briefly, but he usually moves back to his spot pretty quick. With both Theo and Steam Bun, I’ve had to had some scans multiple times so the techs can get all of the images they need.

The heartburn started earlier in the pregnancy this time, but it’s different than with Theo. We’re betting Steam Bun will have a good amount of hair, but not as much as Theo. The back pain started earlier though, and the round ligament pain (RLP) is more intense this time. I’ve also had some pain on my c-section scar, which my dr says is due to the scar being stretched but I’m convinced it’s partly because Steam Bun is kicking the crap out of it.

Which brings me to the biggest differences in the pregnancies: the movements and kicks. Theo was a kicker. He moved around, but he liked his spot and much preferred to just kick and punch me. His favorite spot to kick was my left ribcage, and he would go to town on kicking it throughout the day. Steam Bun is calmer. He likes to squirm around more than kick, though he still kicks a good amount. His favorite spot to kick is my c-section scar.

I’m carrying the babies differently. Theo was higher up, and further back. Steam Bun is sitting lower and in the front.

No matter how old your child is when they die, it’s all horrific and it is not “better” or “easier” to lose your child at birth or 10 years old or 20, etc. But I think a special pain of losing your child before/at/just after birth is that you don’t know their personality. We have brief glimpses of their personalities while they were still in utero, but that can only tell you so much about them.

Kenny and I have talked a lot about who we think Theo would have become. We’ve decided he would have been the “brawn” of the family. Theo would have been very athletic, Kenny used to joke he was practicing karate in utero and we would joke about how Theo would never walk–he would go straight from crawling to running, and he would never stop once he started. He would have been smart, but he would have enjoyed physical activities more than anything else and would have been outgoing and very energetic. With Steam Bun being so much calmer in terms of kicks and movements, we think he’s going to be less hyper and more observant. More brainy or artsy than athletic. We joke how Steam Bun will blame Theo for the trouble he gets into.

You know how they talk about how birth order affects personality? That oldest children have certain personality traits, only children are different than those with siblings, etc? Steam Bun is our second child and the baby of the family. We’re probably done after Steam Bun, regardless if he lives or dies. But… Steam Bun in a weird way is also the oldest of the family and the only child. I mean, Theo will always be his big brother and we’re going to raise Steam Bun to know his big brother, but in a lot of ways Steam Bun will be an only child. And so I wonder how that will affect his personality. Will he have the personality traits of “the baby” of the family? Or will he be more like the stereotypical older/only child? I kind of want to see if anyone’s done research on this… how does the death of an older sibling affect the personality of the younger children?

I’ve noticed that my pregnancy with Steam Bun has been very cyclical: period of bonding/optimism for the pregnancy, followed by a period of fear and withdraw, then repeat. Right now I would say Kenny and I are entering a period of bonding/optimism. It’s so scary to be bonding with Steam Bun, I hope we are not hurt at the end.


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Not Fair

Every night Kenny and I pray before we go to bed.

During last night’s prayers, Kenny thanked God for bringing an acquaintance’s baby into the world safely.

I realize that there isn’t a finite number of kids that can be born, but it hurt so much to hear this news. It brought up a lot of emotions of “why us?” and “why them?”. I wouldn’t wish child loss on the devil himself and I’m glad they aren’t in our position, but I still don’t get what they did to deserve a healthy baby that we didn’t do.

I realize rationally the answer to that is nothing, that life is random and ultimately there is so much we can’t control. It’s pure chance that Theo died and their daughter lived, and nothing we could have done would have changed the outcome. That is almost harder to swallow–accepting that the most important things life to us are not within our control.

This couple are acquaintances, so I told Kenny I can’t hear about them again. And I know this is so unfair of me to say, but I really struggle with praying for things like thanking a baby was born healthy or asking God to look after someone’s baby and make sure it’s healthy. Again, I don’t want anyone else in our position, but it’s just hard seeing those prayers answered when ours for Theo wasn’t. Fellow loss moms are the only exception to this, I have no problem praying for their babies.

We have about 40 people coming to Theo’s party this Friday. I’m so so grateful that so many want to come celebrate our boy, but I’ve been really struggling with having this party the past few days. This isn’t how his first birthday party should be held, this is nothing how his birthday party should look. Part of me almost wishes we weren’t doing it, but I know I’ll be glad we had it once it’s over. I feel a little guilty for admitting that because again, I’m so happy we have so many people in our life who want to acknowledge and celebrate Theo, but it needed to come out.

Basically, pregnancy hormones and grief are a dangerous mix and have made me a blubbering mess the past few days.


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Visualizing

Now that I’m in the third tri, I realized I’m *actually* going to have to go to L&D at some point to have Steam Bun.

I knew that before, but I always kind of shrugged it off. Or told myself I would deal with that later.

Well, later is now and now I have to deal with this reality.

I went to L&D once a few weeks ago when I thought my amniotic fluid was leaking, but fortunately they only kept me in triage and didn’t actually admit me. That was hard enough, I had to walk by the room where I was in triage before having Theo.

But when it comes time to have Steam Bun, I will actually be admitted to L&D, I will have to go into an OR again, and stay in one of the recovery rooms before being moved to the room where you stay post-birth. This is me at that thought:

nope

I can picture every detail of my 28-hour labor and the c-section so clearly. I remember each nurse and doctor, I can easily tell you which rooms I was in. I remember what the OR looks like so perfectly, and the hallway leading to the OR. And thinking about any of it just makes me want to cry.

So I’m spending some time visualizing the hospital. Hoping that if I picture it often enough, I’ll be triggered less when I go to L&D? I don’t want to go on one of the group hospital tours, but I’m thinking I’ll ask my OB if she and I (and Kenny) can do a walk through together to get used to being in the same place again. The blessing and curse of a scheduled c-section is you know *exactly* when it will be taking place. I won’t be wondering how much longer it will be until we meet him, but at the same time I will know exactly how much time we have until we are greeted with a healthy baby or a sick baby.

I’ve also been trying hard to think about what it will be like to meet Steam Bun alive and healthy. To hear him cry, which we never got with Theo. Maybe if I trick myself into only expecting the good when I go into L&D it won’t be so hard? I’m not sure how successful that will be…once you know child loss you can’t unknow it, so it will always be in the back of my mind that we may be walking out empty handed again.

I plan on asking my OB if the hospital has a sign they can place on my door that lets all doctors and nurses know I’m having a “rainbow baby” or that I’ve lost a child. I don’t like the term rainbow baby and have avoided using it so far, but I know it’s something that the doctors and nurses in my practice are used to, so it’s the easiest way to let them know about my loss history. So far all of the doctors and nurses I’ve encountered have been really good about reading my chart and seeing that Theo died, but I’ve heard enough stories from loss moms where this does not happen and I want to avoid being in that situation.

 

Fucking PTSD.


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Comparing Grief

I try really hard not to compare my grief to that of others, or vice versa. It’s not fair for anyone involved–grief is such a unique journey, and there’s nothing wrong with how I’m grieving or how they are.

Sometimes though, I do compare myself to others and think “why am I not there?”. It’s been 14 months and a few days, why I am not able to do/say/think X? Why can she do/feel that, but I can’t? Why am I still dealing with Y and she seems to be over it? Why did Y affect me and not her in the first place?

It’s easy to believe the lie that there’s something wrong with you, your grief, that you’re broken in some way. That you’re behind. That you’re doing grief wrong.

But grief is not a race, there is no winning or losing. There’s no comparing or ranking of grief, there’s no right or wrong.

Some days it’s just harder to remember that than others.

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Baby Shower, Car, and Third Trimester

Yesterday was just a blah day.

A coworker had her work baby shower in the conference room at lunch. My cube is directly across from the conference room. I work from home most days, but as my luck would have it, there was a meeting I had to be in the office for yesterday.

So I leave for work, and stop at a coffee shop for my daily bagel and hot chocolate. I get back to my car and it won’t start. It sounds like it’s trying to start, but it never actually turns over and just shakes and makes weird sounds. I try it a few times, and I’m about to call AAA when on the 5th or 6th try it finally starts. Fortunately, my mechanic is right by my office (I can see my mechanic from my office), so I text a coworker that I’m running late and drive to the mechanic first. I walk to work.

The meeting I had was over before the baby shower started, and I was really hoping to leave then and finish my day at home, but my car wasn’t ready. So I put my head phones in, turned up the volume, and did my best to ignore everyone and the shower. The conference room was already decorated for her shower, so every time I looked up from my desk I saw baby stuff. And of course, everyone was talking about babies and who was going to be pregnant next, how cute babies are, etc.

There was a potluck set up in the conference for the shower, which I did not attend. I couldn’t bring myself to go into the conference room, and I also didn’t bring anything for the potluck since I was not intending to be at the office at lunch time. Someone did leave me a piece of red velvet cake though, which was nice.

I don’t begrudge the coworker for having a shower, but I just wish I hadn’t been included or had a way to easily escape it all. There’s been so many emails the last week about this shower (don’t forget this Friday is the baby shower! Sign up for the potluck for the baby shower! 15 minutes until the shower starts! etc.), and I’ve hated seeing every one of them. Being trapped at work didn’t help, and essentially forced to be around a baby shower. It also didn’t help I was asked multiple times if I was going to join the shower or grab food. So it was a triggering day.

The mechanic didn’t find anything wrong with my car, he said he started it about 50 times and didn’t have any issues. He’s a good mechanic, and I trust him, so I’m crossing my fingers and hoping my car was just being pissy. Kenny said the car is acting out because it knows I’m replacing it next year (with a Tesla. So excited!). He’s probably right, when I called Kenny to let him know what was going on, I told him I would be so pissed if this car needed to be replaced now or we had to spend a lot of money to fix it right before I got my Tesla.

My ten-year high school reunion is coming up this summer. I can’t believe it’s already time for that. I will not be going, it’s too close to Steam Bun’s due date for us to make it. I’m honestly relieved I have that excuse, the thought of going to my reunion makes me want to cry. Having to listen to people talk about their happy families, having to explain mine over and over again… no, it doesn’t sound enjoyable at all. The people important to me from high school stay up to date on my life, and vice versa. 

**Trigger warning**

 

I had a major realization this morning. I am in the third trimester. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I mean, I know how far along I am but I’ve just been thinking about it in terms of weeks, and for me to suddenly realize, oh hey it’s the third trimester! threw me for a loop.

My first thought was, ohmygod, we have so much left to do! I’ve been keeping a list of what we need to buy/do before Steam Bun’s birth in my phone, and suddenly it seemed so daunting. I have only a few months to get it all done. What the hell. I woke Kenny up in a panic, and began rattling off everything we had to do, tallying up how much we are going to spend over the next few months… and Kenny promptly fell right back to sleep.

February is Theo’s month. We have his party in less than two weeks (ahhhh!), so I’m going shopping today to buy the last of what we need for that. It’s so bittersweet buying things for this party. It’s fun and I love that people are willing to come and celebrate Theo’s (belated) first birthday with us, but I also hate it. This isn’t how life should be, and I will forever hate it for that reason. March will be dedicated to buying everything we need for Steam Bun and his nursery, and April will be dedicated to putting it all together. We also have our maternity photos in March, and I need to buy an outfit for that. We’re including our Theo Bear in the photos.

We decided officially against a baby shower, but we will be doing the 3D/4D ultrasound. We have everything we need for Steam Bun (minus a car seat, stroller, and Owlet baby monitor), so a baby shower seems pointless. Those who have asked what we need/want, I’m simply telling them diapers or clothes for Steam Bun. I do want to use some of Theo’s clothes for Steam Bun, but I’m not really sure how much I’ll be able to handle that so I’m hoping having a mix of Theo’s clothes and new clothes for Steam Bun will help me cope. And since we’re not having a baby shower, doing the 3D/4D ultrasound seemed like a good way to celebrate Steam Bun.

I need to make some lactation cookies soon. Right before Theo was due, I bought some brewer’s yeast so I could make these cookies to help make sure my milk supply was good. Even though I pumped for a month after he died, I never used the few cookies I made in advance, nor did I use any more of the brewer’s yeast. And the brewer’s yeast expires next month, so I think I’ll make a large batch of cookie dough to freeze in case I need it.

There’s also the dreaded hospital bag. I can’t bring myself to really think about preparing the hospital bag for more than a couple minutes at a time, and I certainly can’t bring myself to actually get it ready. The last hospital bag I prepared was me throwing some clothes for Kenny and myself in a suitcase right before we left for San Francisco. Right before everything came crashing down and what hope we had was shattered. I can’t do it. I can’t prepare another hospital bag. All I care about having with me is my digital camera, to ensure I get good photos of Steam Bun in case the worst happens again. Everything else… I don’t care or we can probably find in the hospital gift shop. Maybe I’ll task Kenny with getting the bag ready.


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Complaints

I’m reading Leah Remini’s Troublemaker and like it so far. She has a quote that made me laugh out loud:

I hate when people say, “Enjoy it,” when you’re complaining about something. I am enjoying it. But I also enjoy complaining about it. It’s one of my favorite pastimes.

So, with that, I am going to do some complaining and I will enjoy it. 😀

  1. I dislike most pregnant women. (You know if you are an exception to this rule for me.) Just because I am in a public place and am visibly pregnant does not mean that I want to commiserate with a complete stranger on the pregnancy. Go complain about pregnancy to some other pregnant lady and leave me alone. This is partly why I don’t attend Kenny’s softball games: the arena is filled with pregnant women or newborns whose moms think that I want to talk to a complete stranger about the pregnancy just because I’m pregnant.
  2. 99% of what people say to pregnant women is stupid at best. I get it, they are trying to be nice and encouraging. But can they not think for 5 seconds?? I don’t like my body being commented on by people, especially people I don’t know well or at all. Do I want your opinion on how awesome/awful the month my baby is due is? No, I don’t. I also don’t want you commenting if I am waddling or not, your opinion on the sex of my baby (“Two boys? Are you going to try for a girl next?” Can’t I just be happy this baby is still alive so far?!), etc.
  3. “You look so tiny!” hurts. Again, I get it. They’re being nice. But this is sooo hard to hear. I am already worrying enough about how this baby is or is not developing, I REALLY don’t need someone saying I look small. What’s worse, the comments went from “Wow! You look farther along than that!” to “You look so tiny!” which makes me worried the baby stopped developing at some point (doctor has confirmed he hasn’t and is still measuring just fine for his gestational age). This is why I haven’t told people my due date, to avoid these exact comments. But it’s not working, because even though I give a very vague answer to people when they ask when I’m due, I STILL get these comments. Ugh.
  4. My back and sciatica are killing me. The only other time I’ve had sciatica pain was when I was pregnant with Theo, so I’m hoping it will go away once Steam Bun is born. But it’s painful and it makes it hard to walk, and coupled with the backaches is not fun. And nothing sounds better than a hot bath right now, but that’s a no-no so I’m stuck using a heating pad instead.
  5. Somebody was walking their dog and didn’t clean up after it. Which is bad enough by itself, but we’ve been getting a ton of rain lately, and the rain made the mess very watery. Did not want to see that or try to maneuver around it when going for a walk. Pick up after your dogs, people. It’s really not that hard.

Ok, I think I’m done for now. That was fun. I should probably get back to work now.


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Knowing when you don’t know

**Trigger warning**

Had a bit of a scare today. Steam Bun barely moved for almost 2 hours. I text my church group and a couple of loss moms, and got in the car to go to L&D. Fortunately Steam Bun started moving again when we got in the car, and his movements all day have been fairly regular.

I opted not to go to L&D once he started moving again, though I do have an appointment this week. His movements for the rest of the day have been pretty typical, slightly less in the strength of his kicks and movements, though I’ve been told that’s not something to really worry about.

So it’s been a stressful day. And it ended with me crying to Kenny. Did I make the right decision to not go into L&D? What if something happens and it could have been prevented by me simply going in? For the first time in the whole pregnancy, I really wished I had a doppler so I could hear his heartbeat. Because, honestly, if I had gone in to L&D, they would have checked his heartbeat and done an ultrasound and then send me on my way.

I’m on such edge in this pregnancy. How do I know what’s best for Steam Bun when I never knew how sick Theo was? How can I trust my body, my doctors after Theo? I should know what’s best for Steam Bun, but I can’t trust that I do because I never knew just how sick Theo was. How can I be a good mom when Theo died and I had no idea he was so sick?

Where’s that line between being paranoid and knowing when something is actually wrong?

As I type this, Steam Bun is kicking like he normally does. Maybe he was in a bad position to feel kicks, maybe he was just napping earlier. Maybe he’s just trying to make me go insane to prepare me for the hell he’ll cause when he’s here. Lol.


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Faith and joy in hard times

There’s been something I’ve been struggling related to my faith, and this article explains it very well. Specifically these paragraphs:

Feeling guilty about admitting struggles or asking for help is not from God. That guilt comes from our own sin. It’s prideful to think we can do life alone, handling all our problems without the help of others. We need community to walk alongside us in tough times, but more importantly, we need a Savior. Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Rather than pretending to have it together, sometimes the best way to show how God is working in us is to be transparent about our desperate dependence on Him. Doing so puts our inadequacies on display, which can be terribly humbling. But it also shows that we’re human, and that our power to persevere doesn’t come from us, but Christ in us.

This is why it drives me absolutely nuts when Christians say things like “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle”. Or when they brush aside what you are going through and just tell you to “have joy!”.

I am not strong enough to handle my son’s death. No one is. Burying your own child is horrific, and it takes more than anyone can handle. I’m not a big sports person, but my favorite metaphor for God is baseball related. God is not the pitcher in life, He is not determining what trials and joys you experience. God is the coach, there to guide us through life and help us get through it. There is so much about life that is out of our control and more than we can handle. Good and bad things happen, to both good and bad people. It isn’t fair, it is life. And God is there to help us deal with it all.

I still believe in God, and I always will. But Theo’s death impacted every part of my life and shook my faith to the core. The anger and bitterness toward God has come and gone in waves. My anger toward God is less now than it used to be, but it is still there. I’ve gone back and forth on questioning God “why did Theo have to die?”–sometimes I want an answer, sometimes I don’t. I don’t believe everything happens for a reason, so I don’t believe there was a purpose to Theo’s death, but I find myself still wanting to know why he had to die sometimes. I believe God had the power to save Theo but didn’t, and that has brought forth a lot of complicated emotions.

This wrestling with God has brought me closer to Him though. He’s the only one who listened to me unconditionally, and loved me despite all of the names I’ve called Him. He’s been there for every moment, in a way no one else can be. And most importantly, despite the fact that I’m angry with Him for not saving Theo, I take comfort in knowing Theo is in Heaven being watched over by God. I picture God playing with Theo until Kenny or myself is able to play with him. My trust in God, while not perfect, has grown as I’ve turned to Him for help and with everything I am feeling.

Will I ever be at peace with God over Theo’s death? I have no idea, I really don’t. Maybe a few months or years from now I will, maybe it will come and go and it will be something I always have to work on. One is not better than the other, and I’m open to wherever my heart and faith lead me.

Our church talked a few months ago on the importance of joy. The idea is happiness is based on our circumstances (such as a promotion, etc.), but joy is based in our faith in God. You can be going through a difficult time, but still have joy. I guess joy can be described as your overall attitude, but it’s not quite the same. I am trying to figure out what it means to have joy in times of hardship because admitting your problems/struggles is not the same as not having joy. While it seems impossible to feel contradicting emotions at once, it’s not. I have peace in the knowledge that Theo is in Heaven, but the fact that Theo is in Heaven also brings me a lot of heartache. I see the joy and the good in our lives, but I still feel the deep sadness every day too. I think figuring this out is especially difficult considering I will be grieving Theo for the rest of my life.

It’s easy to say that having joy while you are struggling is important, but so much harder to live out. If you are honest about the “bad” emotions you are feeling, you are being too negative. If you keep it to yourself, you’re just pretending to be ok. It’s like you can’t win. Though the comments that I’m still too sad, etc. still sting, I’m learning to tune them out more and more. I’m being authentic in my faith and grief, and figuring this all out the best I can. And the moments (however long or brief they are) of sadness/anger/etc. are not my whole journey: they are one messy part. I realize that currently, this part is what I talk about most so I don’t fault people for not being able to read my mind, but it’s something to remember no matter who you are dealing with. Just because I’m talking a lot about these aspects doesn’t mean it’s all I feel. And there is still so much that is too raw and personal for me to talk about with anyone except Kenny or my therapist.

Like the article touched on, when Christians say “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle” they are minimizing who God is and overestimating our own abilities. No one is perfect, we all have strengths and weaknesses. But none of us are God, and admitting our shortcomings is ok. Saying you are struggling is to see yourself as you are: an imperfect person who, while doing the best they can, needs God. God is greater than us, He can handle everything and when we aren’t honest about what we are going through we are minimizing God. I believe God will take care of me if I turn to Him for help. I wish so, so much that Kenny and I weren’t going through this, but we are, so I’m trying to lean on God more than I ever have.