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Friends & Suffering

This period of my life has sort of inevitably and unconsciously sifted out friendships and people that used to hold pieces of my heart. You really learn who truly cares when you are in grief. Grief has a way of making things like returning phone calls, or making dinner plans seem like the last thing on earth that matters. These tasks would require me to perform a certain way that would be deemed “socially acceptable.” Most of the time grief throws those mores and performances out the window–whats the point anyway? The people that have been there for me has been surprising. My friend–let’s call her “Sam” has been through an unspeakable amount of suffering, physically, relationally, and emotionally. She has become one of my best friends after Ella died. She still texts and calls me daily–and regularly acknowledges the fact that I am not ok. Her example of love has changed me, and set my own bar for friendship pretty high. The next time I have a friend who is experiencing death and grief, I will grieve with them and be there for them in a way that is so personal. I won’t expect anything from them. And I will do my best so just be in the depths with them. I probably won’t say “I’m here for you,” or “I’m praying for you.” I will cry and grieve with them…I hope I will.

Part of me has wanted to tell so many people from my past and present that the old me has died. If a friendship continues–you have to acknowledge that. You have to acknowledge that something as simple as a dinner date or a phone call is sometimes a lot for me to handle. Family and “friends” have ignored me, let me be, neglected me, and then expected me to respond the same way. The old me didn’t need as much. The new me does. For my own emotional wellbeing I have written off people who fail to realize we are still suffering and we are still broken. A conversation without this monumental realization is quite pointless to me.

I’ll give a little example of what I am talking about. This past Christmas we received countless picture cards…none of them acknowledged the fact that maybe Jason and I would be having a hard Christmas without our baby. People I thought would remember or care simply signed their names and wished us a “Merry Christmas.” Needless to say it was a very painful holiday, and all of those cards ended up in the trash. One card stood out from the rest though, a cousin of mine asked me if her card with her pregnant belly on it would be too much for me to handle. Thanking her I told her yes it would be too painful. She will never know how that little consideration and thoughtfulness blessed me. Now I understand that people forget. I get that. That used to be me. But the new fact is that I live life with a wound, and that wound is tantamount…it IS my life right now.

Some people in my own family have inadvertently made me feel terrible for my grief. They have sort of silently threatened me to act, to put on a happy face–so they don’t have to feel my pain. I don’t know why this is, I surmise that it makes them feel uncomfortable and sad, and afraid. Perhaps to deny my grief is somehow making sure it won’t infect them? Not sure. Maybe it simply is oblivion. I’ve had to choose to forgive many people for their lack of concern and for their insensitive remarks. Like I said, I used to be like that too…and if I’m honest I still am. We all let each other down as humans.

As a human being we can only carry so much. I carry grief and loss, and I don’t want to carry bitterness and unforgiveness in my load. I want to share an incident that also happened around Christmas that took me some time to forgive, and apply grace. I am still choosing to do this today. A family member and I where talking, and during that time they said they had to protect their newborn baby, and they weren’t sure if they wanted to be around us at Christmas time. This person also informed me that the maternal instinct was to blame, and it was hard for her to explain to me. Hard to explain to a mother of a stillborn who had no power whatsoever to breath life back into that little frame? I was devastated. That conversation literally left me speechless. I’m glad that God did not allow me to say what I was thinking or feeling. It would have been explosive I’m sure. Understanding where people come from, and assuming the best is always the key to letting go. It took me a long time to forgive her, and I’m sure to this day she has no idea how much she hurt me.

I wish that, that time was the only time I had to feel low on account of a family member or friend, but we do this to each other all the time. We are all selfish, self-consumed, and thoughtless. I want to share these accounts because I feel like it is an important part of my refining. For awhile I really damned up my heart, and made myself cold. I didn’t want to let God continue the refining that he started in me the day we lost Ella. There is a constant battle to keep my heart tender and right. A constant battle to look at my own inadequacies and failures. A constant battle to bestow grace that is and has been bestowed on me. This is so hard to do. Sometimes I want to be bitter and mean…and blatantly honest.

I get random texts sometimes from people I knew when I was eighteen, saying things like “When can we catch up?” But they haven’t been here with me in this fire, or on this journey. We are different people now. Catching up involves me opening my wounds up and being honest about who I am now. And I am quite certain that most people don’t want that, because if they did–they would’ve been here with me in these seven months. My mom had a vision one day, and she said she saw me, and Jesus..and He said “She’s coming with me.” She had the impression that I was going on a different path, and that most can’t go with me on that path…it is ours alone to take. Friends and family with young babies and daughters can’t expect me to go on their paths with them. I am mourning, and in death…and they are celebrating in life. I think this is the best way of putting it. We are on different paths. We are different people. So this is me releasing old friendships, old expectations, and old ways. This is me embracing others emptiness and brokeness. This is me not pretending. Seven months later and I’m still mourning. RIP the old Me.

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