A few weeks ago, I was grocery shopping and spotted Peeps-scented hand soap. I immediately welled up with tears right there in the middle of the aisle. The realization that Easter season was starting hit me fast and hard. Our daughter, Hannah Grace, was born and passed away just a week before Easter last year. The fact that the Easter season was coming around again instantly triggered a rush of pain and grief that it had already been almost a year since we last held her.
While navigating the triggers associated with the Easter season, my husband and I have been preparing our hearts for Hannah’s first birthday coming up in 3 weeks. When she turned 11 months old a week and a half ago, both of our hearts became overwhelmed with sadness. For the first time in a long time, looking at pictures of her made me think of all the most difficult times-the day she was diagnosed with a fatal neural tube defect, the moment when her breathing became labored and we knew it wouldn’t be much longer, the last moments of her life when she was struggling to breathe. Normally I can look at her photos and smile and have joy in my heart as I celebrate and remember her precious life. But this past week, the flood of painful memories have been like tiny daggers piercing my heart over and over again. They hurt. And they have been cutting deep. I’ve missed her deeply in the last week. There’s pain in knowing that it’s already been almost a year since we last held her and could look at her face to face. And then there’s pain knowing that it’s only been a year and that it may be 30, 40, or 50 more years before we can look at her face to face again.
As Mace and I have been processing, hurting, and grieving, we found out just a couple of days ago that two of our friends recently lost their baby days before he was due. Instantly our hearts and minds, tender and grief-stricken, begin to grieve and feel, like really feel, all the pain of losing our child all over again. The grief cuts deeper and deeper still as we put ourselves in their shoes and grieve for our sweet friends and their devastating loss.
So what do we do, friends? Grieving a loved one never goes away. It sticks with us literally for the rest of our lives. We have to learn how to live with it in a healthy way, or it will kill us on the inside. The hole left in our hearts can never be replaced by another person or thing. My sweet baby girl who is growing inside me right now is not meant to fill the hole left by Hannah. She has a new place in my heart that only she can occupy. Hannah’s place is Hannah’s place alone. So how do we go on? How do we live with a hole (or holes) in our hearts? If you had a hole from a bullet wound you would get it repaired. But how do we repair a broken heart?
The only way that I have found, and I mean, truly the only way, is a deep trust in, dependence on, and love for the Lord. There is no other way. Stop searching for something that will never fill that hole. That hole is cared for and healed by the Lord. No one and nothing else can comfort us like His Holy Spirit. Nothing can bring us a deep joy like trusting in His goodness in all things toward us. No one can ever be as dependable as He is. Even my husband, who is a phenomenal man who loves the Lord, will let me down at times, but God never will. Yes, God has given me my husband, friends, family, counselor, and others to help me walk through this grief journey. They are all gifts from Him and are conduits of His love and grace. But they don’t replace my need for a deep tethering to the Lord. So often it can be easier to rely on others (who we can see) more than we rely on the Lord. I can rely on Him in full assurance of His faithfulness to keep His promises. He will never leave me. He watches over me as a good shepherd watches over his flock. The Holy Spirit steps in to comfort me when I’m in an aisle at the grocery store in tears. He cares for me and gives me peace when my heart is grieving for my own loss as well as my friends’ loss. God surrounds me as I remember the last few hours of Hannah’s life and how I long to see her again, and He reminds me that she is with Him, and He is taking good care of her. I grieve now, but I do not grieve as those who have no hope. I have hope, deep, faithful hope, that “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17). I don’t even know what that looks like, y’all, but I don’t have to. I have faith and hope that it will be so because I love the Lord and trust His Word.
So that’s where my heart finally lands. It sinks deeper and deeper into an ocean of grief, but at the bottom of the ocean I don’t find a hopeless, desolate, deserted floor. I find the arms of a loving Savior who are ready to hold me and care for me. I find a loving Father who knows what it’s like to watch His only Son die. But who watched knowing that three days later His Son would rise from the grave to new life. My hope in my God is not in vain. He beat death! And one day, He will restore everything as it should be. No more death, no more grieving, no more crying. Just life. Sweet, beautiful, eternal life.
Rest your broken heart in His tender hands, my soul. Cry out in pain. Grieve. Yes, mourn. But always remember the hope those in Christ have. Until I see my baby girl Hannah again, rest in that hope, my soul.
Pressing on in faith, Jennifer