Monday, June 8, 2009

Sunday's church update: epic fail

I wish I were kidding with the title. Buckle up; it's a long, bumpy post.

Church was an unexpected heartache this past weekend, and even as I type this, I'm still trying to process those two hours.

If you read this post, you know that I was anxious about attending services on Sunday. Even as we drove the few miles to church, I could feel the tears pricking the back of my eyes. I tried to explain to Jim why I was nervous, and all I could come up with was telling him I felt raw and that I wasn't sure what to expect.

Sunday School was pretty sparsely attended; there were only two guys and three gals in addition to Jim and I. I knew that they had all been informed about Duncan two weeks ago, and I can't tell you what I expected or what I would have scripted to have happen, but I can tell you that I did not expect for everyone to act like nothing had happened to us, you know?

One person in particular surprised me in her lack of attention, only because she has experienced the pain of pregnancy loss as well. Two miscarriages, not a stillbirth, but still -- our shared miscarriages were something we'd talked at length about, and I guess I thought of all people in the room, she'd understand how fragile I felt walking back into class, all puffy-eyed and flat-stomached.

Nevertheless, I survived Sunday School, and we found seats towards the back for worship. And as we sat there, I felt the loneliness and grief and exhaustion rise up in my throat to choke me. I felt very much like I did in this post that I wrote after we visited our first Tennessee church in January; I felt like not one of the 300+ people in the room had even noticed we'd been gone for a month, no one noticed a rounded belly now flat, no one bothered to question the tears streaking my cheeks.

The opening song of the service was Blessed Be Your Name.

Of course it was.

How fitting that it be the song that was playing on the radio the moment I got in the car to drive to the hospital on May 16, between the doctor office visit that couldn't find the heartbeat and the ultrasound to confirm what I already knew. I drove through the rain that day to the sound of my wiper blades beating time to "You give and take away, You give and take away..."

And that refrain welcomed me back to church this morning, and opened the floodgates of my heart. I stood at my seat and sobbed, first only into Jim's shoulder and then, finally, one person rushed to my side and held me as I wept. A friend from our small group. Whether she sought me out or whether God sent her to my side, I don't know, but had she not shown up, I very much doubt I would have stayed for the service.

With Jim on my left and Deanna on my right, I felt bolstered enough that the sobs became silent tears, and I sat through the worship and the message in relative peace. I wasn't completely tuned into the service; at times I detoured into my own little conversation with God, especially during the chorus "Here I am to worship, here I am to bow down, here I am to say that You're my God..." I lifted my eyes to the ceiling, mouthed the words, and told Him, "Okay, 'here I am'...now fix me."

I felt stable as the service ended, until.....

Oh, until.

As I began to chat with Deanna about all I was feeling, the tears returned, as one would expect. But then, over my shoulder, stood the lady from Sunday School that I'd expected to approach me earlier, and she says,

"I'm sorry....I guess I didn't realize you'd still be hurting."

And with those eleven words, I felt cut off at the knees.

She had managed to underscore ALL my insecurities that have formed in the last 22 days, primarily that there is a "how to" book out there that is being withheld from me. I'm so fearful that I'm doing "this" wrong -- that I'm grieving wrong, that I'm responding to Jim wrong, that I'm not moving on fast enough, that I'm moving on too fast, that we should have had a funeral, that we should have had maternity pictures taken, that we should have done something we didn't or that we shouldn't have done something we did.....

I KNOW she was wrong in her assumption. I KNOW that to not be hurting still would be unnatural. I KNOW this. But it still hurt in an unimaginable way to have someone imply that "this" -- that Duncan's birth, his death, his very existence -- was not a big deal. And sadly, she was not the first to insinuate this. But she was the first person to say something so ignorant to me. (The other comments were made by men to Jim.)

And now that I've written that all out, I'm even more exhausted than I thought possible when I started writing the post. I'm also rethinking the post title, because "epic fail" = drama much? But also because it wasn't so much church that was the problem, it was the love and sensitivity and compassion that was lacking that left me empty.

We will go back to church next week. And the next. And I would imagine that in the near future, we'll even become members. And I'll most likely keep crying through services for a while. So, if you go to my church and know who I am, and if you see the tears fall, please just come hug me, and maybe not say anything at all?

30 comments:

Sara said...

Oh, sweet heavens, Mon. I am so so so sorry. *hugs* What a knife through the heart ESPECIALLY since this woman has also experienced losses of her own. That's simply just cold. I think "epic fail" covers it well. Love you!

Kelly @ The Beauty of Sufficient Grace said...

Monica,

My heart is aching as I read these words. I am so sorry for this and all the hurtful things to come...that people will say without realizing how much their words will cut into your tender heart.

And now, if you don't mind, I would like to boldly address some things about grief. Having walked the path myself more than once and walked the path with others many times over the past twelve years. Duncan is your baby...your child. There will always be a place in your heart that will remain tender for him...a missing place. You will not always hurt like this. And in time, your grief will not come with such intensity. (But it will for awhile...and it has certainly NOT been long enough for you to just feel all better and stop missing your precious son.) Right now, you are still in the raw stages of early grief. And, you are right...tears will probably flow at church for awhile. That comment from the woman who said I didn't know that you would still be hurting. Oh boy. I am not a wallower by any means. And God has brought great joy into my life. I would rather laugh than cry. But I have cried plenty over the years. It has been twelve years since we said good bye to our daughters and ten since I last held our son...and a couple weeks ago, when there was a skit at church about being reunited with our loved ones in heaven, I sobbed into my husband's arms like it had only been yesterday. They showed a mother grieving for her child, and then the child running into her mother's arms in heaven. The floodgates around my "missing place" opened up and poured out. I don't do that very often at all anymore, but in the early days, I did do it often. And that's part of grief.

I also understand the regrets and guilt and doubts you are feeling about doing it all right. Everyone does it differently, and you are free to walk this path...your path the way that seems best to you and Jim. Feeling those things is also normal, but please know that you are and have been a beautiful mother to Duncan and to Seth. This is such a raw, unknown place...this sea of grief. It is a place of being tossed to and fro without rhyme or reason. And I know that there are times when you cannot feel Him right now...but even as you are tossed about, He is holding on to you. The waves might overtake you sometimes, but He will not let go. You may not have the strength sometimes to hold on to Him. He will not let go. And He will pull you through this stormy sea, and sit you on dry secure ground once more.

But for now...the gut-wrenching grief...there is no way around it or quick way through it. Just know that no matter what anyone says...no matter the doubts and regrets that riddle your mind...you are a grieving mother, walking this path the best way you can...and there is no wrong way to do that. And also know...that it will not hurt this much forever.

I'm sorry for the length of this comment, and I hope none of my words will be used for harm...but for encouragement. Please know that I am praying for you and your sweet family as you walk this path...

Love,
Kelly

Jenn said...

I don't really know what to say other than what is her problem? What a horrible thing to say to you. I'm so sorry that happened and at church of all places. Praying for you!

Vanessa said...

I came across you blog a few weeks ago and my heart just breaks for you. I am so completely appalled at the fact that there are people out there who do not acknowledge that you just lost a child. You had another son. He was born. He was here on this earth. His life counted, and Christ took him home. It just defies all logic that people could insinuate anything different. As a christian, it makes me sick that other christians are not reaching out and acknowledging your son's life and death, and being the arms of Christ, to hold you up when you are shattered. I am so sorry.

Stacy D said...

Oh Monica,

I am just so, so sorry. Kelly said so much that I would want to share as well, but has said it more eloquently than I ever could.

I know the pain is so raw... to the words of certain songs, to the comments of others. It is so hard; but you are doing this well.

I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to call back last night; tonight and tomorrow are a bit busy as well. I will be sure to check in with you towards the later part of this week.

Of course, I am always on e-mail during the day :) I'll write you in a few...

~ Stacy

Shannon said...

I can't imagine someone saying that to me...and me not exploding on that person. There is no right or wrong way to handle grief - each person has their own way. I just can't believe some people sometimes.

Marlo said...

I remember that first church service after losing my Dad...absolutely brutal. And no one said anything close to the comments you heard. No wonder people become disillusioned by church!
I'm glad your friend came to your side when you needed her. And that no matter how distant God may feel right now, that He's there, too.
The above comment by Kelly is beautiful too.
I'm still praying!

angela jiniel said...

There is no book and no right way to handle it. Don't worry. My parents still grieve once in a while. My Dad still won't watch shows on TV about sick kids. My mom still feels hurt when no one acknowledges Bobby's birthday. She still struggles once in a while when people ask her how many kids she has. It doesn't go away, it just gets easier to deal with, at least from what I've seen with them.

Everyone handles loss differently, especially the loss of a child who was taken so early. Be strong for yourself and know that you are allowed to feel whatever you feel. Others may not understand, but that's okay.

I hope you can grow to feel welcome in your new church and others reach out to you.

Still praying...angie

Jessica mommy to Alex/ RTS said...

I havent lost a child, but after my sons diagnosis, I had many of the same experiances at our church. No one seems to miss us, and to be honest I have only been 3 times in 2 years. There is alot more to it,but I know what it is like to go to church needing that fellowship, and only to be left alone.
Im so sorry for your loss.

phasejumper said...

hugs hugs hugs

Jen VBK said...

I know you have no idea who I am, but I want you to know that I am thinking and praying for you. I had a miscarriage over 4 years ago and there are still times when I am sad. Worship songs still seem to make me tear up and Blessed Be Your Name just so happens to be one of the worst. I wish people would understand and would know what to say. I've often thought about writing a book on that subject since people just don't know how to act or speak around people who have gone through this. I will be praying for you!.

Jeanette "Frogster" said...

Dear Monica, I love what Kelly said in her comment - I think she said it best and of course can relate a whole lot more than I can. I pray for you every day and know that this road ahead of you is not an easy one.
Here are some hugs from someone who cannot be there in person to give them :(, love ya, Jeanette

Angela said...

Oh, wow, Monica, that sounds horrible. I am so dreadfully sorry. Still praying for you. :(

G & H said...

Wow....Thank you so much for sharing this journey...for those of us who have been there and those who havent your stories can help us all be better Christians ... I am so sorry it just truned out so not good but am glad to hear you had your hubby and God sent youan angel friend to be your other shoulder to cry on... I don't really have good words to say and I am dragging onbut I just want you to know that I am praying for you very much and that the third person holdin and hugging you during church was God...

Bridget Steele said...

I’m not sure if you remember me from our State Line days… I was a Meade then but I still remember how sweet you were to a lowly junior high cheerleader. I saw the link to your blog a few weeks ago from the PCC alumni list and have been following your posts, debating whether to leave a comment and say hi.
But when I read this post I had to respond, probably from a perspective that few can give.
Last year, a friend of mine delivered a stillborn baby boy named Liam. She was just over two weeks away from her due date.
To give some background, I hadn’t known her for long. I had gotten married about 6 months before and had moved to New England to begin a new life. This friend was probably the closest friend I had made there, but we weren’t the type that would call and talk or spill our souls to each other.
When I heard what had happened, I remember struggling with what to do. A voice in my head told me that she had family nearby to be there for her, that she had friends she had known for years that could comfort her. The first time I saw her at church after it happened, I did come up to her and give her a hug. But I never made the call to find out how she was doing or to see if she needed anything.
Several months later, my friend and I were at a party talking, and she began opening up to me about losing Liam. She told me about the weeks after, everything that had gone wrong and how difficult it had been. And I had to hold back the tears because all I could ask myself was, “Why didn’t I call her? Why wasn’t I there for her?”
I know why I hadn’t been there for her: I didn’t know what to say. I was afraid of saying the wrong thing. And ultimately, I was too selfish to face a difficult and uncomfortable situation and put myself out there.
I’m so sorry for your loss. And I pray that the people around you will step out of their comfort zones, stop assuming that others are offering you the comfort and support you need, and be there for you.

rosebud78 said...

OMG. It really shocks me that somebody who has been through miscarriages would say that. It really goes to show how DIFFERENTLY people can interpret and handle their experiences. But, according to ME, you are the "normal" one, and the official handbook does say that you would still be hurting. Trust me, I checked. ;) I just wish that people weren't such insensitive dopes. I'm so sorry you had to be a sitting duck for her ignorance. I'm glad I checked in on your blog today, and just know that I would definitely hug you if I were there. Duncan will always be a part of you and your family. People who don't get that don't deserve to hug such a wonderful person like you. Much Love, D :)

Fiona said...

My wee baby niece was born asleep over 6 years ago and I know just how raw MY grief can still be so I can only imagine what it is like for her parents. I have my own children and numerous nieces and nephews but I sorely miss my little angel niece.

The woman at church should have known better!

Jenny said...

Hugging from Chicago....

Mom to 2 Angels said...

Sorry we weren't there. And I am so sorry that you had to endure such hurtful comments. Some people just don't think first. Or maybe that's what people expected of her when she lost hers, who knows. Anyway, I'm sorry. There are no right words, but there are definitely wrong ones. I'd like to come by later this week if you are up for it.

CandMB said...

Hey you. I have sat here for 5 minutes now trying to figure out what to write. I know that I have nothing to offer you, I know that you have people in your life now who know first hand the pain you're in, but if you want to chat, vent, whatever I'm around this week. Still love you...

Kim said...

Girl! I'm crying for you right now!! Really, I am. My heart breaks for you. I've thought of you so much lately. We really need to get together soon! You are too close not to! When you are ready for some crazy company {I'm talking about my kids} let me know!!! I'll even come to you!!!

Mochamama said...

Monica- I totally understand how you are feeling. Tomorrow marks the 4 month mark since I gave birth to our son Mason who was stillborn. This past week was the first service I attended and didn't cry almost the whole time. Satan doesn't want us to go to church but God blesses us by it. I don't know if you've read any books but after we lost our son, I ordered 8 different books that were highly recommended. I'm currently reading Empty Cradle Broken Heart by Deborah Davis and it's been wonderful reading a book that says exactly what i'm feeling and confirms that I'm not going crazy. The biggest thing I've taken away from it is don't set a timeline for your grieving. Let yourself grieve and know that you will have good days and bad and that's ok. Praying for you!

Mary said...

You've almost got me in tears - scratch almost. What a horrifying thing she said. And sadly, nearly everyone I know who has suffered a terrible loss like yours has had equally idiotic things said to them. I am so sorry for your loss, and I wish you strength for the days ahead.

Sarah B. said...

Hugs sent from Ohio, dear friend.

Anonymous said...

God Bless you and your family! I am so very sorry for your loss and the pian you are feeling!

Valerie said...

Monica -

I cannot believe that a woman who has experienced the pain of miscarriage would allow those words to leave her lips. I wish I was there with you at church that day so that I could have hugged you when you needed it.

You're right - no words are necessary, especially when they are words like those.

Val

Rebecca, Idaho said...

I am in shock.... seriously? How in Gods name could someone say something like that out loud? there are tears in my eyes and I don't even know you personally. I found your blog through a prayer request when your son passed away and have been coming back ever since, to see how your doing and to pray that somehow you all find your way through this process to some sort of comfort. How do you now find comfort in the place thats supposed to be the most comforting? Again I am so so sorry.

Michele said...

How arrogant and insensitive; I can't believe someone who's been through it could say something so careless. It will hurt forever; but it will hurt less as time goes on.

Michelle said...

oh my, how insensitive some can be rather than being supportive. There's not much more that I can say that hasn't already been said. I sure wish you went to our church. You would be met with loving and open arms every single week :)

Rhonda said...

Oh Monica,
How sorry I am that you had to endure a service like that! If only you lived here with me, I would've been that person to ask how you were and to give you that much needed hug. So you know already how weepy I am lately, so I'm crying for you once again. Although I'm so sorry you had to go through an extremely rough 1st service, I'm thankful for your post. It was a reminder to me as a woman and as a pastor's wife to never forget those who have lost babies, especially the one lady in my church who lost her baby boy about the same time you lost Duncan. Dan and I (especially me)are thinking of you always and keeping you in our prayers. Love you tons!

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