I've written before about the relationship between faith and grief, but I haven't written much about what it's like to actually go to church after baby loss. I think that's mostly because people from my church will read this, and I don't want them to think that they've done something wrong or that I am picking on them. I also don't want extra looks or glances at each service. But I want to be honest:
While Ariella's death hasn't really shaken my faith, it has made going to church incredibly hard.
You see, there are plenty of things that make being at church hard. Babies born in the months before and after Ariella, including one who was born the week before. I see those babies growing up while knowing that I won't see my girl grow up. Women who were pregnant at the same time as me and with whom I had plenty of baby-related conversations. Those women have their babies in their arms, I do not. Advertisements for the two mothers groups that I had planned on attending, but now cannot do so. Seeing people get prayed for and healed (and rejoicing for them), while knowing that my baby girl wasn't healed.
I knew those things would be hard, but I underestimated how hard one other aspect of church would be: worship. In the 32 weeks since Ariella died, I've only managed a couple of weeks without tearing up (or bawling!) during worship. You see, so many songs that we sing talk about how Jesus has defeated the grave. I am so, so grateful that Jesus has done so, as it gives me the assurance of seeing Ariella again. But singing about the grave being defeated when I have literally lowered my daughter into her grave? Ouch. That hurts. Yes, I believe that Jesus has defeated death - one day it will be no more. But in the present day, death is all too real to me.
Then yesterday I heard this song:
I'm Still Yours - Kutless
If You washed away my vanity, if you took away my words, if all my world was swept away, would you be enough for me? Would my broken heart still sing?
When my life is not what I expected, the plans I made have failed, when there's nothing left to steal me away, will You be enough for me, will my broken heart still sing?
If I lost it all, would my hands stay lifted to the God who gives and takes away? If you take it all away, this life you've given, still my heart will sing.
Even if you take it all away, You'll never let me go. Take it all away, but I still know that I am Yours, I'm still Yours.
I like how this song doesn't say that my heart will sing in spite of what happened; it's about making the choice to praise God and sing to Him and about Him even when we have nothing left. When bad things happen, you do have a choice. You could walk away from God or you can choose to praise Him even if everything is taken away. I've seen both happen and it makes me so sad when I see people walk away from God and/or the church in the tough times. It's understandable but it does make me sad. On the other hand, when I see people who have been through the unimaginable and yet their faith is stronger than ever, that's inspiring. That's who I want to be like. No matter what happens, I want to be able to stand and worship God throughout the week and each Sunday in church.
A friend told me at the start of my grief journey that sometimes we just have to go through the motions until it becomes real again. For me, that means going to church and doing my best to worship even though my heart breaks at the sight of a small baby or the sound of their cry. Some weeks, it means acknowledging my weakness and staying at home. It's been 32 weeks, and sometimes I still feel like I'm just going through the motions at church. But I'm convinced that's ok. If I didn't do that, I'd never go, and that's no good either. Going to church is hard, but worthwhile. Even if it's only to stay in the habit until I'm no longer just going through the motions.
When hard times come, the choice is yours. If everything you have or long for is taken away - what will you do?