By Rachel George
Sometimes it’s the small talk that kills me. Those little questions from people in the grocery store line, bank tellers, waitresses, new acquaintances. “What do you do for a living?” “Are you married?” “Do you have kids?” It’s not that I mind answering those questions, even honestly. It’s my daily reality, it always hurts and talking about it doesn’t make it harder. But the reaction is hard. “My son was born last April.” (Insert other person’s smile and nod) “But he actually passed away in June.” (Their face falls. Silence or awkward apologies.) I wish I could tell them that even though he died, HE LIVED. I wish I could flip those two sentences and show people the overwhelming joy that came with loving him in his short life. I wish I could tell them: “My son died, but let me tell you about his life. Let me tell you about the joy he brought me and still brings me. Let me tell you about Clive.”
Clive is our firstborn. The first baby we got to hold and know. A year before delivering him, I lost our first baby in a miscarriage. It rocked my world and shook my faith so hard. Darkness descended for months, and God felt far. As I slowly let God back in, I felt His comfort and peace. Months later, we were blessed to be pregnant with Clive. We watched him grow and flourish. At 30 weeks, his heartbeat was irregular, and after constant monitoring, he was born at 32 weeks. A beautiful baby boy. Full of snuggles and smiles. Bright-eyed and old-souled. He was very sick, and we rode the rollercoaster of progress and setbacks for five and a half weeks. We never got to bring him to the nursery that we lovingly labored over but sent him on ahead to the arms of Jesus.
So we’re left here, sorting through the memories of those 39 days with him (+32 weeks of carrying him) and trying to navigate the waters of grief rather than parenting a baby boy.
When I think through the past eight months, I’m overwhelmed by the wide array of thoughts and emotions that have filled me. Darkness, sadness, bitterness, despair, sorrow, longing, numbness, and confusion have slowly made room for hope, memories, joy, peace, love, and faith. It happened so slowly that I can hardly say how or when. I’m healing and, although I’ve lost a limb, I’ve learned to move again. Slowly at first. Exhausted with every small movement. Pained constantly. Gradually, the pain lessened. I began to move more and push my limits. Some days it still throbs but not every day. There will always be an obvious loss in my life, but I’m still moving, growing, and coming alive.
If I had a chance to go back and tell my despairing and hopeless self, this is what I’d say to the self that thought “I can’t heal from this.”
“You will heal. Slowly, but that’s okay. It can’t happen quickly, and you won’t want it to. The pain will always be a reminder of loss, but it will also remind you of such great love. You’ll hedge yourself in, protect yourself from too many distractions and people. You’ll seek support from those you trust, some old friends and some new friends. God will meet you in the darkness, and He will remind you of his steadfast truth. You’ll allow yourself to be honest with your thoughts and feelings, meeting them head-on and working through them. You’ll actively walk through grief, often stumbling, and you’ll begin to process through your experiences. You’ll get to know yourself better than you imagined. Your relationships will be challenged, your marriage will be shaken, and your identity will be questioned, but, with God’s strength, you’ll make it through. You’ll help others that are hurting and they will, in turn, comfort and heal you in new ways. Triggers and flashbacks won’t always run your days. It may feel like they won’t stop, but they will. And you’ll dream again. The nighttime dreams will return, and sleep will come. The daytime dreams will begin again, too. Thoughts of hope for the future, and blessed memories from the past. You’ll come alive.”
And I am alive. I have lost a treasured child, but I have allowed his existence to change me for the better. My soul has become deeper and more beautiful in the pain. I’ll always be healing, grieving, missing; yet I’ll always be moving, growing, and coming alive.
Rachel George is a former kindergarten teacher, wife, Jesus follower, and loves to share her story. Read more of Rachel and Sam’s story at their blog, CliveWins.com, or follow them on Facebook or Instagram. In Clive’s memory, they’re also working on getting Jesus Storybook Bibles in the hands of families in hospitals or families experiencing loss. Find out more at room423bibles.com.