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.....
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?