When past and present collide: On new beginnings and old wounds.

Brian and I spent all of Labor Day weekend on a mission to find a house in Texas ahead of our move in a few short weeks. We went from house to house, trying to shorten our long list of prospects. Finally, we brought our list of over twenty homes down to two. They both had pros and cons, and were such similar houses that it made the choice incredibly tough. Brian loved certain things about one house, and I loved certain things about the other. We had reached a fork in the road.

As we picked each house apart, room by room, trying to determine which would be the one, the stress of the entire weekend began to well up inside me. I was so afraid of choosing the wrong house. This is such a big commitment, and a huge decision. I didn’t want to do the wrong thing. There was something so familiar about this feeling. I had been here before, only a million times worse.

The last few times we made major, life changing decisions we were sitting at a conference table across from our team of doctors and nurses, while I was nearly seven months pregnant. We were sifting through so many different options, trying to save our daughter all while protecting her from any unnecessary suffering. We tried to make the best decisions we could as we fought for her life, but despite our best efforts – we still lost her.

So here I was, sitting across from my husband talking about floor plans and paint colors, trying to tell myself this wasn’t the same, but the stress felt so familiar. I looked Brian in the eyes and asked if we were doing the right thing as tears began to form in my eyes. He immediately began to change his tone to a happy, confident one. He told me he was excited, this was good, and we were going to make the right choice.

I tried to stop the next sentence from escaping my lips, but I couldn’t hold it back. “But the last time we thought we were doing the right thing, Aria didn’t make it.” I knew this wasn’t the same, and I didn’t want to ruin Brian’s joy by bringing it up, but I felt like I was sitting in that conference room all over again.

With the utmost understanding and compassion, Brian grabbed onto my hands, and assured me this was not the same. He said it multiple times as the tears fell from my eyes until he could make sure I was really hearing him. This was not the same. Our story was not going to take another horrible, unimaginable turn.

The next day, after a much needed night of rest, we both agreed on a home and confidently put in an offer. The nervous hesitation still lingered around me, but as soon as we heard that the sellers had accepted our offer, joy exploded.

I’m excited that we will soon be the owners of our first home. I can’t wait to start unpacking, decorating, and making it our own. This home will soon be a place filled with many wonderful memories, and I am so ready to begin.

I have heard it said before, that there will come a day when the pain and trauma of your past will coexist with the joy of your future without negating it. I have a much better understanding of that phenomenon now, and I’m grateful for it.

It’s still tough to leave Florida, because we began our journey with Aria here, and this place holds so many memories of her life. But we will always carry her with us, and leaving here does not mean leaving her behind. She is still just as much a part of this new chapter as she would have been, if she were still in our arms.

We are still the Rose family of three. Two on earth, and one in heaven, ready to take on Texas.

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The mystical (and nonexistent) band aid called time.

As the days, weeks, and months have gone by, I have begun to sense a false belief that every passing second is creating a pathway for us to get over the loss of our daughter. There is an expectation that the magical band aid of time is making us better, and bringing us out of the darkness.

To a certain extent, I get it. How many times have you heard the phrase “time heals all wounds?” But here’s the thing – time heals broken bones, not broken hearts. Depending on my mood, there are times when I actually take offense to that well meaning phrase. You see, I’m not just sitting here patiently waiting for time to heal me.

I am healing me.

Grief is an active process. I am grieving with every cell in my body. I don’t run from my thoughts and emotions. I allow myself to spend hours sobbing on the floor of my daughter’s empty nursery. I frequently find myself running to the nearest restroom seeking refuge, and a place to shed a few tears in the middle of my day. I think about my daughter as I sift through apples at the grocery store. I think of her as I catch a glimpse of other moms pushing their babies in shopping carts at Target. I am constantly allowing myself to remember her, and process it all.

Many people in the “time heals all” camp often encourage me not to think about it, and to completely avoid the painful thoughts. This is because they operate under the assumption that one day I will wake up and it won’t hurt so much. But honestly, that is terrible advice. Ignoring your wounds only makes them worse. Most will agree that it isn’t healthy to bottle things up when it comes to anger, but the same is also true for grief. Attempting to avoid dealing with the pain only makes it worse, just as ignoring a literal wound would likely lead to infection.

You have to honor the process of grief. You cannot rush it by restricting it to a certain span of time. The truth is, no matter how hard you try to say that you are done, and time alone has healed you, you will end up dealing with it at sometime or another. There comes a point when those pent up emotions will become so destructive, and all consuming that you no longer posses the power to ignore them. This is how grief finds a way to swallow you whole without warning, years after the fact. If left untouched, time has the ability to completely destroy your wounds.

However, I do think there are still moments when it’s appropriate to postpone your grief. One really good example is the workplace. I know breaking down in the middle of a staff meeting is certainly not my idea of a good moment to grieve. It’s fine to tell those thoughts to come back later, once you are in a place where you feel comfortable embracing them. But that is the key here – you have to come back and process it.

There are also moments when I have said not now because I am desperately trying to find joy again. Sometimes, I have to allow myself to relish in the brief moments of peace, so I can recharge and build my strength. There is a very delicate balance between grief and joy that is a vital part of this process.

But having said all of this, it is important to admit that there will never be complete healing. Wounds of this magnitude tend to leave behind many scars and weak spots. For a while, I really resented that. I wanted to be made whole again so I could go back to being the person I used to be. On the other hand, this everlasting ache for what will never be stems from an undying love for my child. I am so deeply affected by her passing because I am her mother, and no one else on the face of this planet shares this specific bond with her. That is something worth embracing.

The bottom line is this: Although time has passed, and I have begun to heal within that time, the catalyst for healing is not found in time itself. It is found by allowing the process of grief to mold me.

As toilsome as it may be, the jagged rocks and relentless waves will guide you to where you need to be.

**I wanted to add a little disclaimer because I know the grief process is very unique and different for everyone. This post is written with knowledge I have gained from my own process and from speaking with others. I hope it encourages and helps you as you navigate the waters of grief, but I understand that these words may not be true of everyone. I wish all of you the very best in your journey through life.

 

 

Can we talk about God real quick?

People often turn their backs on faith in times of despair. It’s natural. We tend to ask “If God is real, and says he loves us, why did he do this to me?” I have asked that question more times than I can count, and I will probably ask it again in the future. No one is immune to doubt. We all feel it at some point, and it’s part of being a Christian. God gives us free will, you can choose to believe just as much as you can choose not to. God is not a puppeteer. 

When we learned that our daughter’s chance of survival was incredibly slim when I was almost seven months pregnant, I felt so abandoned by God. How could he do this to me? How could he do this to my baby? She’s so innocent, she did nothing wrong! I cried out to God asking why he was punishing her. I was enraged. 

Then my husband, Brian asked me to pray with him. Excuse me? You want me to pray to the very God who is going to let my child die? I wanted to refuse but I saw the hope in Brian’s eyes and couldn’t say no. So we prayed. 

And my heart softened. 

Then Brian asked if we could meet with the chaplain at the Children’s Hospital. I dragged my feet, and made plenty of excuses. When we found out the chaplain wasn’t available right away, I told Brian it was probably best if we just went back to our hotel. But he pushed, he wanted to wait for her. Once again, that hope in his eyes was enough to shut me up. So we met with the chaplain. We talked about God, we talked about faith, and we prayed.

And my heart remembered the promises of the God I once loved. 

The bible says God is near the broken hearted. He grieves with us and feels our pain. He doesn’t want us to suffer, but that is the cost of living in an imperfect world that has been torn apart by sin. He has not abandoned us, and our faith will be redeemed.

At the biggest and most heartbreaking moment of our lives, we chose to have faith. We chose to trust in the Lord’s plan for our lives. So Brian and I began to pray, hard. We forced ourselves to sit in silence and wait for God to show us the way. We even stopped praying for him to save our daughter because we didn’t know if that was his will. We prayed that God would lead us down the path that we were meant to explore. If he was going to save her, we asked him to bring us through it. If God was going to send us into the valley and call our daughter home, we asked Him to be our guiding light. We continuously prayed for His will, and the Lord provided. 

I’m sure a few of you are wondering how I can say our prayers were answered when our daughter did not survive. That is because we didn’t pray for our own will. Every single ounce of my being wishes that my baby was still here. I will miss her for every moment of the rest of my life. Losing her ripped a massive hole in me, and I’m not sure that hole can ever be fully repaired. We wanted to be able to keep her and watch her grow. But the reality is that having her here is not the life God intended for her. She was just passing through this world, blessing our lives for a little while before making her grand entrance into heaven. God showed us that, and we have felt His healing presence throughout our grief. We asked Him to guide us, and He has. 

There is a song called “Blessings” by Laura Story and in it she sings:

What if your blessings come through rain drops

What if Your healing comes through tears

What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near

What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

This song resonates with me because it relates to our experience in multiple ways. Our daughter’s health problems were incredibly serious and complex. Even in the womb, the safest place for her, her little body was fighting. One doctor told us that if she did survive, we needed to be prepared to see her suffer. That was incredibly heartbreaking to hear but she was being honest and I’m thankful for that. God calling our daughter home prevented her from ever feeling pain. In her short but meaningful life, she knew only love. That is God’s mercy working in her life. He did save her, just not in the way we truly wanted Him to.

So I ask of you, if you find yourself at a crossroad in life, choose faith. God will not let you down, no matter how dire the situation may seem. Even the world’s biggest tragedies can bring hope. 

You can read our daughter, Aria’s full story here.