Gratitude

Knowing the outcome, I would do it all over again. If given the choice to be spared from all the pain and grief and sorrow and not have been pregnant with Ginny, I would choose to have Ginny every time. I wouldn’t take it back for anything. 

From that aspect, I am grateful. I’m thankful for the time we had with Ginny. I’m thankful to have delivered her body, and I’m thankful for all I’ve learned in grieving her. 

That being said, sometimes it is so hard to be grateful. This season should be a time of thanksgiving. Don’t ask me to share what I’m thankful for. She was supposed to be here this holiday. She was supposed to be part of all the family gatherings. She was supposed to be my biggest blessing. She’s not here for it; she’s missing. I’m not grateful for that. 

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6

This verse is hard for me right now. I totally get the next verse, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” I have experienced that. But making my requests known to God is difficult when my last request was denied. And to do so with thanksgiving seems impossible. I can hand over control. I can ask that His will be done. I can ask for peace. But I am unable to thankfully ask for anything else. Does it even matter what I ask? I trust that his plan is better than mine. Isn’t that enough? I don’t know. 

I have been blessed in countless ways. So many of my prayers have been answered, and only one has been denied – a big one. I should be grateful. I should celebrate this holiday with thanksgiving. I will try, but I’ll also try to give myself grace if I can’t. God knows my heart, and he gives me sufficient grace through all my ungratefulness and even anger. When I don’t know how to pray and supplicate, the Holy Spirit intercedes on my behalf (Romans 8:26). He holds me in my hurt and in my joy. 

One Year Ago – The Anatomy Scan

During the first half of pregnancy, I was so eager to find out whether our baby was a boy or a girl. We would have to wait for the anatomy scan at 20 weeks. That seemed forever away! As we got closer, we realized that we could schedule the anatomy scan for when Daniel’s parents were in town for Thanksgiving. That added an extra layer of excitement!

We anxiously waited. We had names picked out for a boy or a girl. We held off on buying any clothes. I didn’t really have an accurate hunch on the sex. One day I would say, “Yeah I think it’s definitely a girl!”, and then the next I would say, “Actually I’m feeling boy.” I had no idea! haha

I knew that the anatomy scan was to measure the growth and development of different parts of the body, but all I was really focused on was finding out the sex. I was too excited to worry about anything that could be wrong. Now after hearing so many baby loss stories, I know that the anatomy scan can be a very scary appointment. But then I was naive and hopeful. 

The day finally arrived! Daniel’s parents and I parked and walked the long path to the NC Women’s Hospital. We eagerly sat and chatted in the waiting room, hoping to hear my name called any minute. This is the same waiting room and offices where we would come months later to learn the horrible news. But that room was untainted then. 

My name was called! All four of us squeezed in the little ultrasound room. A very friendly ultrasound technician welcomed us. She asked questions about our family and whether we wanted to know whether it’s boy or girl. We quickly answered “YES!”. We were so excited!

She began the ultrasound. We could see our baby wiggling. We could see the heart beating and blood moving through the cord. She showed us the brain, kidneys, stomach, heart, lungs, liver, etc. Everything looked great! Growth was on track and healthy. When the technician framed the long-awaited “crotch shot”, there was no question. It was quite obvious….IT’S A GIRL! Daniel and I looked at each other, “We are going to have a little girl.” There was so much love in that moment. Daniel’s parents were so thrilled and happy. 

The technician took some cute pictures of her feet, her face, her body. She even did a 3D scan of her face. I couldn’t believe we were looking at our daughter. I couldn’t be happier!

After the scan, a doctor came in to go over the results. The baby girl looked healthy! I did have a small intrauterine band (not amniotic band which the doctor told me not to google). The band would not cause a problem and was out of the way of the baby. I was relieved and not at all worried. Of all the things that could be abnormal, that’s probably the best.  

We started walking out of the hospital. I whispered to Daniel, “Do you want to share the name?” He agreed. We stopped just outside the doors and told Daniel’s parents. Her name is Virginia Hope Jones; we would call her Ginny! We all teared up and hugged. Ginny was the name of Daniel’s great-grandmother who they were all very close to and I so wish I had the chance to meet.

I looked at my phone and realized I had several missed texts from my family. They were impatiently waiting to hear the results. I called my mom and told her, “It’s a girl! She is Virginia Hope Jones!” She was so excited and happy. My whole family guessed it would be a girl. I texted the rest of the family. They were all so excited! 

From that point on, we really knew her – our daughter Ginny! She was cute and perfect and healthy. We couldn’t wait to meet her in April! Little did we know, that wouldn’t happen.

That day is probably the best memory I have of our pregnancy with Ginny. That was the most time we got to see her alive. I’m so incredibly grateful for that day. I knew it would be an important day, but I didn’t know just how precious those memories would become. November 20, 2018 is a day I will never forget!

How to Help a Grieving Friend

I’m no expert at this. All I know is what I’ve drawn from my own experience and what I’ve learned from dozens of books, podcasts, and blogs over the past several months. 

I’ve learned so much about grief that I never knew. I realized I was wrong about a lot of things prior to my own loss. Because we don’t talk about grief very often, there are so many misconceptions. Below I’ve compiled a list of some of those misconceptions along with truths I’ve learned. Many of the unhelpful things people say are true. They are true, but they don’t provide any comfort in the moment. People need to feel validated in their pain. Hope for the future or a purpose doesn’t make the present loss less painful. The best thing to do is to acknowledge your friend’s suffering. Then remember their loved one. Don’t be afraid to mention their name. 

For those who have gone through loss, do you agree or disagree with anything on these lists? Is there anything you would add?

The Evolution of Hope in Hardship

I’m going to describe my experiences. Everyone’s experience is different. I’m still on my journey. Some days are more hopeful than others. Along with all of my blog posts, these are my thoughts at the moment.

Hardship hit when we lost Ginny earlier this year; we were completely heartbroken. How do we get back to a place of hope after that? It has been an evolution. Hope today doesn’t look like what it did in those first moments. In those first moments, hope looked like survival.

It was something we couldn’t conjure ourselves. We could barely live the next minute. How could we look for hope? 

We didn’t need to. God was right there immediately. We cried out, and he held us right away. How can I describe it? It was like a warm blanket of love covering us, surrounding us. Taking some of the weight off of us. It was undeniable. It was perceivable. It was a “peace that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). I never truly knew the Holy Spirit as comforter until that moment. 

While sitting with Daniel after we received the terrible news, I remember quoting Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” I had never been in the shadow of death before then. I had never felt God with me in this way before. Just to know we were not alone was hope to get through that moment. It was the hope we needed. 

That comfort got us through Ginny’s birth and the first couple of days. When it was clear that we might just physically survive this, we had to look to the future – the big empty dark future. Grief was so so heavy. Waking up each day and continuing was exhausting. How could this possibly be okay? God answered that it is not okay, but love is bigger than this loss.  Our love for Ginny and God’s love for us is bigger than we knew. Love is bigger than this terrible thing. Love doesn’t make it okay, but love does make it worth it. Our love stays with us. That’s all the hope we needed for those next moments. 

As the weeks went by, I spent more time thinking about heaven. I thought about what it’ll be like when I’m reunited with Ginny in heaven. One of my biggest comforts was the thought that our time apart is a small blimp compared to the time we will spend together in heaven. I thought a lot about our understanding of time and eternity. I thought about how small this time of sorrow is in the scheme of eternity. I thought of Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” This isn’t to minimize our suffering, but it is to put it into an eternal context. We are not separated forever; we are separated for now (that’s still so painful). 

An eternal mindset is not one that looks forward to heaven one day. An eternal mindset is one that brings heaven to the here and now. Our love for Ginny is not dead; it is here with us now and it will continue to grow. Our reconciliation with God is not for a future state; it is for here, now. Embrace the love, embrace the good news, embrace life that’s yours. 

Part of embracing life is to keep your eyes and ears open to what the Holy Spirit is showing you. Throughout my life, I’ve continually been attempting to grow closer to god and hear his voice. I feel like I’ve made small strides through the word, worship, prayer, and relationships. But it is when something big like this happens that you can make huge strides towards God and his will for your life. When my life is flipped upside down, I am finally truly listening. I’ve made real changes in my life and career. My path has crossed with others in unbelievable ways; it is clear God has brought us together. I’m not sure where all of this is going. But for the first time in a long time, I feel like I’m where I am supposed to be and doing what I’m supposed to be doing. It gives me excitement and hope for what’s next. It feels bigger than the plans I’ve made in the past. In my life, I feel heaven got a little closer. 

This connection to heaven, this eternal mindset, this realization of love bigger than loss, and this fear-quenching comfort have given me the hope I need to keep moving forward. I’ve never needed this much hope. Now I need it, and I have it. 

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:35-39