This morning, I was unexpectedly faced with the agonizing task of packing up my daughter Goldie's little clothes.
Before I even realized what I was doing, my spring cleaning attempts to make space for more summer clothes had me surrounded in all sorts of little girl things—things that were meant to be filled. Things that were meant to be worn. I held up one of her pink striped nighties, imagining what it would have looked like on her tiny frame, and immediately fell into her clothes sobbing. I sobbed and rocked, sobbed and rocked…..holding her nightie close to my chest, dreaming about what it would have been like to have cradled my baby girl just a little longer than the 40 minutes I had with her on this earth.
And as I wept, a thought flashed through my heart.
This is what sorrow feels like—and this feels so good.
You see, on more than one occasion in the last few months since I lost my daughter to anencephaly, I've been told that God wants me to quit grieving, that it's time to put my tears away because Goldie is in a better place. And every time I've been given this ‘word,' it was unfortunately in a church setting.
(Deep, long sigh).
The words of well-intentioned people don't make me angry, they actually break my heart. I can't fathom someone believing that God thinks there's something wrong with a mother grieving and weeping over the loss of her child less than 3 months after the death—the child that HE created her to birth, nurture, and raise, except she's now denied that privilege. The child that HE created her to love, kiss, and hold, except her arms are painfully empty. The mother's heart inside my chest—it's created in the image of the mother heart of God. I've found that the agony and longing for my little Goldie is the most natural, normal, comforting part of the grieving process. I've learned more about how the heart of God longs for us, yearns for us, experiences hurt, pain and loss when we're away from His arms.
There would be something wrong with me if I didn't miss curling her little hand around my finger.
There would be something wrong with me if I didn't daydream about the day I get to wrap my arms around her and twirl her around.
And I will feel this way in some capacity until I see her again.
Dear friends, I'm learning in the loss of my child that there's a distinct difference between sorrow and despair, and one that I'd very much like to educate the world on—but especially the church.
Despair is hopeless.
But sorrow can be hopeful.
I've known the black hole of despair before, and it ravaged my soul with its death grip.
Years of addiction brought despair—the daily battle of feeling powerless at the mercy of a substance—being dragged back again and again to do something you hate doing. You wonder if you'll ever be free—if you'll ever be normal again. You long for change, but the longer the addiction holds you in chains, hope vanishes like a flame in a hurricane, leaving only the black darkness of despair.
Years of fear brought despair—the fear of never being free, the fear of never being loved, the fear of never becoming.
I guarantee you, if I let my heart move into fear right now over the loss of my daughter, I'd be immediately stricken with despair. Fear would slaughter my mind with thoughts of the possibility that this might happen all over again someday. Fear would plague me with speculations, questioning whether or not I could even get pregnant again, or if I should even try because of what might happen. Fear would torture me in the pain, and slash at me in the grief. And fear always brings about its friend despair, who takes and takes and takes—offering no comfort, and no way out.
Despair leads to depression.
Despair leads to substances.
Despair leads to hopelessness.
But, oh, the hope that fills my heart in the midst of my deepest sorrow!
-It's amazing how my heart can carry the heavy sorrow of losing my little girl, and still be filled with the hope of seeing her again one day.
-I can hold the tension of being filled with joy while watching my son Moses play, and in the same breath, be so sad that Goldie won't get to grow up playing with him.
-I can be genuinely elated for a best friend who calls to tell me she's pregnant, and turn around sobbing because I just want my baby back.
One emotion doesn't negate the other—they're held inside my heart in the same moment, and with the same intensity.
I love my sorrow right now—in fact, my heart feels so healthy being filled with it as I walk out the grieving process. Yes, sorrow is painful, but it carries so much love. And love gives birth to hope. And hope is what ensures healing.
I have no intention of trying to make myself get over the sorrow of losing my daughter. And you know what, that's perfectly ok. I know this mother will miss her baby girl until the day she dies—because that's what a mother's heart was created to do.
But within the sadness of death, I still hold the joy of life.
Within the tears, I find the smiles.
And within this sorrow, I'm filled with the hope that someday, I know I'll hold my Goldie once again.
13 Responses to “Why Sorrow Feels So Good: The Difference Between Sorrow & Despair”
My heart breaks for your loss…but at the same time swells with your example of a daughter’s love for her Heavenly Father, and a mother’s love for her precious babies. I am so very sorry for the pain your heart endures. Continuing to lift you and your family up! Love and prayers! Until you meet your sweet Goldie again xxoo
Thank you sweet friend! xoxo
This is so very true..beautifully expressed, as usual. Feel every word you have penned from your heart, and understand your pain…but, oh, such HOPE! Glorious, Hope in resurrection power, and the promise of Eternity. I live with that Hope daily as I long for my little boy, now 15 years in Glory…not a day goes by that I don’t long for him, but there is comfort in the promise. You will heal, but you will never stop longing for your reunion. You are doing just fine – no need to rush through the stages. Rest in Papa’s arms and He will carry you through. Blessings to you and yours.
LOVE THAT. You will heal, but you will never stop longing for your reunion. Perfectly put. xoxoxo
So beautiful, Christa. Any tips on fighting fear so as not to sink into despair? It’ll be a year next month that our girl was stillborn and I recognize my grieving process as one full of despair, struggling with the same thoughts you mentioned. Realistically, without a miracle from the Lord we could have a rough road ahead of us when we conceive again. My mind goes where it shouldn’t again and again and I always hear Jesus telling me to look to Him but sometimes I feel like I don’t know HOW, if that makes sense. And as her birthday approaches I feel I might not know how to CELEBRATE her and not just agonize over the day. I know I’m several months ahead of you in this journey of navigating motherhood while grieving another child but you are such a light and inspiration! Tips? Thoughts?
Oh girl, I am so so sorry. ): Did you read my blog called ‘How To Stay Calm In A Tornado?’ It touches on, what I believe, the fear that comes at us when things like that happen, and the attack of the enemy to take us out when we partner with the fear.
Your job isn’t to cast out your fear. Your job is to position yourself to be loved even more….because perfect love casts out all fear. As you’re loved….HE does the work. As you look at Him….HE brings the peace. Today, I started to get overwhelmed and move into fear as we packed YET AGAIN to move out of another place. All these questions began to rise inside, bringing on all sorts of fears…..and I stopped and physically LOOKED UP. I literally lifted my eyes to the heavens and with tears in my eyes declared ‘Jesus, I will keep my eyes on you.’
Every time you feel overwhelmed, let Him love you. Every time you feel fearful, tilt your eyes up and let Him love you. They’re little things, and it takes some effort and retraining…but I promise you, they make a world of difference!
This is so precious, healthy and beautiful! Sorrow is something that isn’t really embraced in the American culture, and then there’s the Christian culture that can heap shame and judgement right on top. So grateful you are embracing all of it, and grateful you are sharing!!! Xoxo
Thanks girl! xoxo
I was so encouraged to see you take this stance without having to justify your journey. People simply don’t understand how you can hold two seemingly opposing emotions or reactions in one heart… its a very hebrew way of looking at life- walking the tension between two positions without negating the power of either one. The balance beam of our faith journey. I wrote about this in my song for Bears of Hope (a beautiful organization who support families in Australia after the loss of a baby) Live Among Angels, and am again trying to articulate for a song to be released this year for The National Centre for Childhood Grief where I am writing for children who are learning to live in the power of Life after their encounter with death … its hard terrain to navigate and despair seems pretty close at times…living as it were, just down the hall from sorrow and disappointment. I applaud you for your courage and transparency and for keeping your heart and this public dialogue open when you could have clamped shut and everyone else would have understood.
This is a good word!!!! I think it’s so neat that we can grieve with hope – that we don’t have to be filled with hopelessness, but we can trust the strength of the Lord to be our joy in such a hard hard hard time
Wow.. invigorating. Thank you for sharing and inspiring us. It is through pain and sorrow that we feel our strength. The strength He had given us. So powerful. Stay strong and continue to inspire the rest of us. God is with us always.
This is so beautifully described! After losing our baby Ella in April, I can honestly say that the grief and sorrow has been a paradox of both agony and ecstasy. The pain is hard but somehow so incredibly beautiful because of the intense presence of Love. Thank you for sharing. Much love
This is timely and Healing, my daughter lost her son over 8 ago and she still sorrows greatly, as well I, her Mom, but not like her, obviously my heart longs for her to find some healing , and I just love your perspective on sorrow vs. despair. I hope she reads this….Thank U for your sharing and inspiration to help others!!