One of the hardest chapters of my life involved a season of infertility. How’s that for an opener? Nothing like just jumping right in to a deep subject, right?
The reason I’m revisiting this part of my journey now is because I had the opportunity to take part in an emotional and spiritual care training class over the weekend. It got me thinking about how people have cared for me in the past, and this was a season where I really needed that.
Todd and I wanted kids early in our marriage. We were both older when we married, and there’s a bit of an age gap. Todd didn’t want to be an 80 year old man at his kid’s high school graduation.
Like most women, I thought it would be easy. You decide you’re ready to have kids, you do the thing, and then you have a baby.
It wasn’t that easy. To make a long story short, we lost several babies along the way. They are waiting for us in Heaven.
I remember feeling especially shell-shocked after one of the miscarriages. They were all awful, but this one just hit me harder. We’d made it 12 weeks. That was supposed to be the magic number. It wasn’t. It was so incredibly painful. I hurt physically. I hurt emotionally. I was confused. Why couldn’t I do this most basic thing that every other woman in the world could do? My friends were having babies. I was teaching high school at the time and even some of the students were having babies. It was everywhere. A constant reminder of this thing I was unable to do.
Our friends were so supportive. They did all the things you’d expect friends to do, and I am forever grateful. I want to be that type of friend actually – one who sees a need or hurt and reaches out to help.
In the training I attended, we talked about how to come alongside people in a way that helps them grow through the experience and, ideally, have a stronger relationship with God.
When I think about ways people came alongside me, all were well-intentioned but some were not so helpful.
Let me explain.
Lots of people told me that this is something that happens to a lot of women.
- I didn’t care about a lot of women. I was focused on my own loss.
Lots of people told me that in a few months we’d be able to try again.
- Yes, but that wouldn’t erase the life I wasn’t going to get a chance to meet.
Lots of people told me that God needed that baby in heaven.
- This just confused me. I needed a baby too. My brain wasn’t functioning enough to wrap my head around this idea.
Lots of people sent me notes with pages of Bible verses.
- I love God’s Word, but I wasn’t in a place mentally to read through it. I didn’t need words.
One of the phrases I learned at my training is “ministry of presence.” I love this phrase. The idea is that you don’t see a person’s grief as something you need to fix. Grief is natural. It’s necessary. Go alongside the grieving – be there.
One friend in particular, Joyce, demonstrated the ministry of presence to me. She showed up at my door with these delicious little chocolate covered ice cream balls. She sat down with me on the couch, and we ate every single one of them. Joyce didn’t have to tell me she was sad for me. I knew that because she showed up. She didn’t have to share some deep spiritual truth or lead me through some sort of life-changing counseling session. We talked about the obvious, but only briefly, and then we talked about other things. I don’t remember what they were. I just remember that I felt normal again. And she didn’t judge me for how much ice cream I ate.
I think sometimes we can get caught up in what we think we have to say or do. This is an expectation we place on ourselves. Sometimes, what we really need to do is share a few moments with a friend over ice cream. Show up with their favorite coffee or take-out. Call them if you don’t live nearby. Of course share a meaningful Bible verse or something you’ve learned from experience, but also realize that you being present is the far better thing. It’s you being God with skin on – and it will be just what that person needed.
I’d love to hear about some of your moments! What was the most meaningful way a friend helped you get through a difficult time?