We are not alone

Two years ago we heard the most horrible news you could receive about your child: ‘I am sorry,…’ Never before did death come so close. Within me our daughter had died.

Our daughter is still dead. We are parents of a deceased child. You don’t know what that means when you have just heared the news. We thought it would be something that you have to process, something you have to go through. We did not realize that when your child dies, a whole future dies and that you will be parents for the rest of your life to a person that you will not get to know. A girl who is part of your family without being there. That is truly very weird and painful. But you have to learn to live with that, so that is what we did. That is wat we are doing.

‘You have to keep space available in your life’, people who knew said to us. Keep space for moments when grief suddenly comes over you. Make sure that you can allow that to happen when it is necessary. And we did. The first weeks we took a walk together every day. We tried to share what we thought and felt, as far as we knew what we were thinking and feeling. We tried to keep communicating so that the lines between us stayed open.

I thank God for that one clear moment I had after we heard of her death. I was so scared that our marriage, after everything we had been through, would break because of this. I realized it was crucial to mourn my way and to give him space to mourn his way and continue to share what I think and feel, without expecting him to feel or think the same. We told each other that we would allow each other to mourn differently, while we continued to just share. We found out that we had likewise feelings and thought, al though we expressed these quite differently.

Today we walked again and reminded each other of two years ago. How we walked then and didn’t know how to go on. How sadness sometimes still pops up at unexpected moments. How everything we believed was scattered and how we had to find out again our faith, our purpose, our identity. How security fell away. Actually, the only thing that was still standing then, is the truth in the song a friend send me on the day of her death: ‘We are not alone, we are not alone, we are not alone, for God is with us’. We listened to that two years ago over and over again, every time we felt we could not go on. I listen to it again today, because I believe it is true, although my feelings often tell me something else.

First published in Dutch on March 20, 2019

The second year

‘First you have to live through the first year’, they said, and we did. ‘Then the second…’ they said immediately after that. I could not get my head around it that you might not be able to really get over this. That you could not just live through it and then leave it behind you. It made me feel angry, rebellious and very determined to show that I could do this. But the loss of a child goes much deeper than I thought. Grief is thicker than water.

It is Spring again. The weather is great and there are different smells and colors outside. ‘Look mum! There are daffodils again!’ my daughter says full of delight. I whisper that I see them too. I have noticed it before and this week it weighs on me. Daffodils make me think of Amanda. They were growing everywhere when she was growing inside of me.

Today two years ago we went to the hospital for another ultrasound. After years of waiting I was finally pregnant and so immensely grateful that God entrusted another child to us ánd very worried because the year before another precious baby appeared to have serious deficiencies at that ultrasound. Fortunately, our little baby was totally healthy and I cried when we heard we would have a girl.

Still we were referred to the hospital for another ultrasound. Because not all was well. Our girl was too small. We kept it silent at first. We celebrated birthdays and we tried to not feel worried. First we needed to have that second check. That week I walked quite regularly through the smells and colors of Spring, felt my growing belly, prayed, spoke life and health and tried not to worry.

February 23, 2017. Our daughter wasn’t growing well indeed. I appeared to be in a pre-stage of preeclampsia and needed to take aspirin, though that probably was too late and would not work anymore. There was nothing more we could do, except praying. We wrote an email to everyone close to us with explanation and prayer requests. I prepared meals to freeze, arranged babysitters and read everything I could find about premature born babies. From 24 weeks of pregnancy on, I had to come back to the hospital every week. As long as she kept growing, I could go home again, But if she stopped growing, I had to stay in the hospital and she probably would be born soon, with all risks to that.

I took more rest, although they said that didn’t make any difference. I only did what was really important in the house and with the children. Nothing more. I did not want to feel  regret afterwards. I wanted to do everything possible to help my child grow. I smelled the smell of spring, the promise of new life. I took time to really feel the small movements of my little girl. Looking back, this has been the last month of her life.

And now, two years later, I walk and bike through spring-smells again. Yesterday I did it with my whole, not whole, family. We went to eat in a restaurant managed by volunteers who were all students to make money for a good cause. We had some good laughs. The children were happy with a week of holiday and we were glad to be able to do go outside after a week of flu.

So there I am, with my Love and my four children. Pain pops up. I have to make every effort to not think of her, but do touch my bracelet with her name on it often. I feel childish and say to myself: ‘Come on. You are rich. You have four big children around you who are laughing and making fun together. Who love each other even when one of them has behavioral problems and is showing that shamelessly.’

It works. A little bit. But again and again a wave of pain comes up, while I laugh with my daughter who almost looks like a student herself, just as those who are serving us. I am proud of my four and really happy with them. I realize again that this is the reality I need to live with. I always will lack one child. No matter how full my table. No matter how full my heart with love for these four. At the same time I miss my fifth and the pain is just as heavy as the joy and the gratefulness. It is a complicated cocktail of emotions. But we have to go through this and live through this last month of the second year.

First published in Dutch on February 23, 2019

Foto door David Jakab op Pexels.com

Happy birthday

wittewereld

It is morning. Tomorrow it will be the birthday of my Love. I walk to the supermarket to buy some treats for breakfast. A friend just encouraged me to ‘go, walk into nature Ineke, that will do you good’. So I decided to walk a longer road, through the park. I choose the route my children would choose: over stones on the water to the other side. For a short time, but very sharp, there is a sense of sadness: I do not have to take the normal road, because I do not have a stroller. I am only on my own.

I look around and see the beauty of a white world. Here and there footsteps and dirt, but most of what I see is totally pure. The white covers the ugliness for only a short time, but what a relief when that happens. I remember what I read somewhere. When there is snow, the earth is drenched, deeply nurtured. It often happens that way in our lives too. You might not see anything from the outside, but deep inside all kind of stuff is happening. I dismiss the thought and plough through the snow to the shopping centre in my neighbourhood.

I walk through the supermarket and think of what he would like and choose things I normally don’t buy. I should not take too much with me if I want to come home with my tennis elbow and my painful back. Cautious I choose the shortest way home. I walk pass flowers and plants.. Suddenly a thought pops up: ‘Lilies!’ I need to have lilies, because tomorrow it is his birthday and she again is not there. Lilies symbolize her being there while not being there. They are the sign that she should have been there.

I walk into the florist and hear myself asking for lilies because they are symbol of our deceased daughter and we will celebrate someone’s birthday. Sigh. I don’t understand why I say this myself and the florist has no words for me in reply. He names his high price and I give it in cash. I put on my gloves again and head back into the cold. ‘Have a good birthday’ he says, by means of saying goodbye.

Suddenly I cry. And I am angry at myself. In the safety of my home I do not cry, I can’t, I flee in business and entertainment. But here, in the cold, with my backpack and a shopper in one and the lilies in the other arm, I am suddenly not able to resist it anymore. I walk home cautious, trying to avoid people. In silence I pray. God, this would be a very good moment to let me know that I am not alone. To my surprise my phone gives the familiar sound. Again tears rain down over my cheeks.

I don’t understand myself at all. I have no control over mourning. The only thing I can do is walk the way that is before me, literally and figuratively. And I could try to stop suppressing so much, as I am doing that way too many times. I encourage myself: ‘you van cry at home, just walk as fast as you can’. But then I pass someone who is not that sensitive and likes to hear himself speak. I have to be blunt to get away from him, but being blunt at a time of deep grief, is way too blunt in my case, so I withhold myself.

When I am home I smash the lilies on the table. It doesn’t help. These lilies are cold and stiff and already dying since they were plucked. I want my daughter walking next to me, babbling about what we bought for her daddy, telling that full of enthusiasm to her brother and sister who will come home for lunch soon. But that is not going to happen. That is just a fact and I have to accept it. But how you do that, is still unknown to me.

Grief is love you cannot give away. That is so true. I sit down and write the postcard for my Love full of sweet words. Happy birthday my love. And when writing down the names of all of us, I write down hers as well, although she is physically only present in the form of a lily.

First published in Dutch on January 31, 2019

Gravestone

The text means: ‘From mommy’s belly straight into the arms of her heavenly Father’ and below Amanda’s name: ‘From old days is God a shelter. His arms carry you forever’

And there we were again. After a year of postponing it, jotting it down month after month on our ‘need to discuss-list’. Again and again there had been more important, more urgent, and most of all: easier matters to talk about then this: choosing a tombstone.

But finally we were there. At the stonemason and in the showroom with all kinds of natural stone graves. I felt a continuous nausea. A bizar resistance, duality, aversion inside of me. There I sat down with my love and someone we barely knew, talking about how we wanted our daughters grave to look like. As if we were choosing a new kitchen. What kind of measures, material, lettertype do you want? As if we were talking business with the most neutral faces. No emotions, please. Not because it’s not allowed, I guess, but because I don’t want to allow them. Let us decide rationally, as wise parents, what needs to be done.

In my journey through grieve, I’ve found that I am pretty good at suppressing my emotions. I am not proud of that, because it is actually not that nice. I often do it without being aware of it and usually I found out later, in no pleasant way, that something does actually touch me quite deeply. Too late, because first I do stupid things, become ill, or have problems with my temper. ‘what’s the matter?’ I wonder, and after a few days, when I finally burst into tears or anger, I realize: ‘Oh! I am just sad!’ ‘I feel hurt’, or, in this case: ‘I was just so nervous for today’. I think that I even made myself sicker then I was when battling flu by not wanting to feel this nagging feeling deep down inside. This nagging feeling of disgust to finally make this purchase.

But it had to be done. The wooden plate our dear eldest made, is almost unreadable now. Amanda is worth a beautiful grave, my Love says. And I want to see it when I am there, because I still can’t believe nor grasp it: Here lies our daughter, who went straight from momma’s belly into the arms of her heavenly father. Susan Amanda Marsman.

I still often can not believe that I do have a fifth child, but I can not take care of her. I feel it sometimes, because I feel panic when we are going somewhere together, feeling incomplete, I still feel confused when someone asks me how many children I have and because the pain unexpectedly comes when I walk on the street, when I am at home or when I wake up.

So this is part of it too. Rationally choosing a stone while your whole soul resists. Coping with nausea when you try to man up. It is like bearing a dead baby: you don’t want to do  it, but you have to. Just like burying your own child: you don’t want it, but you have to. So it is again, though some people might thing that you don’t have to do it, we think we should: putting a dignified stone on her grave. And that is what we did.

First published in Dutch on January 12, 2019

Waves

Suddenly it is there again. Grotesque, importunate and incredibly painful. A silent scream inside of me wants to come out, but stays stuck somewhere. A sob that wants to be cried, but stays inside.

For some days I walked around feeling this way. I felt pressure behind my eyes and a grumpiness coming over me where no prayer seemed to help against. Until it finally became too much yesterday. I cried and couldn’t stop. Again and again, tears stream down. I realized that I miss her so much. It comes over me like a very big wave.

I miss little arms around me. Whimpering behind me this morning, awoke a longing for my whimpering Amanda, who never whimpered, because she didn’t live long enough to be able to whimper. I miss her face against my legs while talking to someone. That she runs towards me because she is happy to see me again. The dull pain of missing her is hard to grasp and at this moment also impossible to suppress.

It’s so weird. How can you miss what you did not have? How can I miss her as the toddler she would have been, while I only knew her as a tiny baby? Words my Love said resound in my head: ‘she just grows up together with our family. She just somehow grows up too’.

So, now I miss the toddler that makes noises and keeps me alert all the time. When I hear other mothers say that they are so glad that their children are a bit older now and don’t need 24/7 attention, I only think: I would give the world to have that right now. To be able to watch her and to not leave her alone for one second.

She seems to disappear. To be forgotten. She is no visible part of our family. From the outside our family seems complete. We are six people together. For many people that is already busy enough. But I lack a child and panic keeps coming back to me. I do not want to feel it. I do not want to admit that the missing is still there and that nothing seems to help to ease the pain. It should stop. We buried her a year and seven months ago. We experienced how terrible it is to leave your child behind.

We had to go on with our lives immediately an now I want to do that too. I manage quite well to do that. I take care, I sing, play music, try to be there for those around me. But meanwhile beneath it all it continues to gnaw. I understand a bit more why people say that ‘mourning is hard work’. It is indeed work in a way, working through, processing, let it sink in, continue to work with it. And there is progression and there is development.

I am translating my blogs into English and by doing that I am confronted with what I wrote a while back. I reread how I wrestled with God. How I tried to figure out how to live with this deep grief. And I’ve learned that I have more peace in my mind now, that I trust God a bit more again and that I am indeed learning to weave the missing into my existence as someone described it. I even thought that the missing became less and more doable. Up till now.

Now it is very much in my face again and I feel the despair, the intense mourning, the very sharp pain all over again. And how and why that happens, I don’t know. I am not searching for it. I just live, work, do the things I should do. But apparently it is like they say about mourning: it comes in waves. And you need to keep room in your live to deal with that. So that you can cry when you need to cry. Or so that you have time and space to write, like I am doing right now. Because when you write, you give words, you acknowledge and give space to just let it be there.

I will keep missing her. She is my daughter and she should be here right now. Realizing that she isn’t, is like a wave coming over me, taking away my breath and smashing me off balance. I can only say, like I did many times before, that God is my anchor and the rock on which I stand. I try to remain standing and allow the waves to bash at me. And I wait until the sea calms and the waves stop bashing – for now.

First published in Dutch on October 28, 2018

Breaking the silence

‘How old are your children?’ asked a friendly women I had never met before. We were at a birthday party, I hesitated for a moment, but then decided to tell the truth. After telling the ages of my living children, I concluded with ‘…and the youngest passed away.’

Silence. Then she asked: ‘Oh! How old would that one have been?’ Relieved and grateful I answered her question. ‘Wow, that’s hard’, she said. And I said: ‘Yes, it is.’ Silence again. We both didn’t know what to say and continued to talk about other things.

Sometimes people react so well to what is so terrible. Sometimes the grief and your child are allowed to just be there. Because it is there. Not acknowledging her does not abate the reality of her absence. The sorrow, her place in our family, the fact that we would have brought a toddler with us if she had survived, all of that: it just ís there. If you don’t acknowledge that, if you stay silent ‘because you don’t know what to say’ (I don’t know either!!) you ignore an essential part of who we now are.

I’ve found that it makes a huge difference whether Amanda is mentioned or not. If her name can be said, if you acknowledge that she belongs to us, we can be present and quite relaxed. We can also laugh and enjoy, because we can also cry if that’s needed. But unfortunately the opposite is also true. When we feel we cannot speak about her and we are not allowed to express our grief, we can also not laugh. We have to suppress all emotions, because what if we suddenly accidentally cry? This has led me to be somewhat apathetic when attending a birthday party or gathering. That is, if I find the strength to come at all.

Do you mention your child or not? It is a FAQ amongst grieving mothers. We became very creative in acknowledging the existence of our deceased child(ren) without being too open. I say for instance: ‘I have four children living in our house’. This works for now, as all these children are still living in my home. Or: ‘I have four children here.’ I don’t think I’ll ever be able to say: ‘I have four children’ because that is not true. I have five children. My now-again-the-youngest is not my youngest and I don’t call him my youngest. Because he might be the youngest here, my youngest isn’t here anymore.

Sometimes people say we better keep it to ourselves that we lost a child, because it makes people feel uncomfortable. I’ve nodded with understanding. Because I, who always wants to please people and make them feel comfortable, thought: ‘yes, that might be something to be aware of’. But it didn’t feel right and later I realized something is wrong here. It makes other people feel uncomfortable? Really? For how long? A few minutes? A day perhaps? And how bad is that? It IS very uncomfortable! And you might feel bothered by it for a short time. We have to live with it day by day. If I keep silence about her, I do more than helping other people to not feel uncomfortable, I ignore a part of who I am. I ignore that I am the mother of five children and that I think of her so much and miss her so terribly. It feels like betrayal, of Amanda, but also of my other children and my husband. Because they have another sister. He has three daughters and we are so proud of her and so glad that she has been here. That is also why we are so sad.

Besides all this. A lof of babies die before, during or after birth and there is a lot of silent grief about silent babies. If I talk about my little Amanda, I often hear stories about other women who lost their child. There are many older women mourning in silence over their deceased children. But by being silent, their grief did not become less and I’ve noticed that when I share about my little girl, there comes room for others to share about their little ones.

That is why I think you can better say something if you know someone has a child that doesn’t live anymore. Maybe you can even help by allowing people to talk, to cry, so that it can be weaved into their lives. So that they can laugh too, because they are allowed to cry as well.

Don’t assume we will talk about it ourselves. Maybe we have the feeling we are not allowed to. But ask about our children. Name them. Acknowledge their existence. And please, let’s cry AND laugh together.

First published in Dutch on October 8, 2018.

Welcoming

‘You need to welcome first, before you can say goodbye.’ These wise and reassuring words we heard from the undertaker who came to visit us for the very first time in our lives. A mortician specialized in funerals for babies.

It was the ‘Silent In Between Day’. The day after the ‘Day of Horror’, when we found out that our daughter had died and we had to share that news with our children and parents while we ourselves could not grasp what this meant. And it was the day before the ‘Day of Wonder’, when we met her for the first and almost last time and found out that you could be so grateful and joyful in such deep grief.

On this Silent In Between Day we were nauseously wondering how this would be: giving birth to dead baby. Fortunately this undertaker knew what she was talking about. She herself gave birth to a deceased child and, though it sounded lugubrious, she knew how to prepare us in plain language on what we had to do. She told us how her tiny body might look, where we needed to pay attention to and how we could take care of her body.

What a reassurance that was: We could take care of her body. We could do something else besides giving birth. We could welcome her and we could treat her body with care. I was still terrified and very nervous. The thought that I was a walking grave kept coming back to me. And that I would not give life but still had to go into labor. But for that the undertaker also had words: ‘You cannot give her life anymore’, she said, ‘but you still can deliver her into the world.’

These words gave me perspective. And mother power: Welcoming. Taking care. Delivering into the world. That sounds way better then: Giving birth to a dead baby. Suffering pain for nothing. Preparing a funeral.

How powerful words are. How important words are. A well-chosen word can do so much good, can give hope and even strength when everything seems hopeless. A poorly chosen word (with well intentions, I am sure of that), that we also had to deal with, can do so much harm, throw you back on yourself and make you sink away in loneliness.

The nights between the Day of Horror and the Day of wonder I almost didn’t sleep. However good and clarifying the words were, in the meantime I still felt like being a walking grave. The child inside of me did not live anymore. I still had to give birth to a deceased baby. She needed to be born and I was not looking forward to that. I wanted to run away from it. I prayed for strength, peace, everything I needed to do what she said: welcome here first. Saying goodbye will come soon enough after that.

And we did it. Had to do it. She was born. Our third daughter, our fifth child. Susan Amanda Marsman, little lily longed for. She had already died. But still we welcomed her. We showed her to our children, parents, brothers and sisters and best friends: Here she is. Our daughter. We got maternity visits, we really became father and mother again. It was a week that I remember almost every minute of. We experienced, lived, thought about everything so intensely. Again and again we set next to her crib, took her in our hands, looked at her, welcomed her and gave her back to God in prayer.

Welcoming soon became saying goodbye. It was clear that we could not keep her here. And after five days the definite moment came. We closed the basked and did the hardest thing we ever did.

I sometimes wished that I had been raised in an Eastern country, where people are allowed to wail and whine until it gets annoying and you are still allowed to go on. Now we stood there, (quite) reasonable Dutchies with quiet tears falling down and silently sniffling, standing awfully still. At the grave of our child. When welcoming became a final saying goodbye and we had to live on forever changed after we had welcomed her for a very short time.

I also wrote a song about this time in our life. You can find it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7e25SAcxElc&t=14s

This blog was published in Dutch first on September 21, 2018

Back to school – 2

Suddenly it is there again big time. I can’t go around it, but with everything I have, I try to pretend nothing is wrong. I see mothers with babies and tolders. They are there together with me at the school playground to bring big brother and/or sister to school. I feel pain coming up and quickly look the other way while walking into the school building. And despite how cute the todler is that tries to climb the stairs, despite how I fond I am of children, this moment I just can’t bring myself to give some attention to this little kid.

I walk pass the mother and child and try to ignore them, focusing only on my own child. Walking back home after bringing my children to school, I feel empty and more alone then before. I walk without a todler hand in hand. The first few days I managed to push away this feeling. There were still children at home, as secondary school started some days later. But after these days I waved them goodbye as well. Without a child on my hip.

I had not expect feeling this again. This feeling of missing, this amazingly deep pain. I don’t know what to do, so quickly go to work, work that I would not have done if Amanda had lived. Some things I even do because I lost her, like helping out in a group for mothers who lost a child, and blogging.

But how empty this all feels. And how this emptiness continually frets, though usually in the back of my mind. I realize that I long for her so intensely. And she is not here. I had a child, but I can’t do anything for her and with her. She really is not here anymore. To realize that again is so painful, and because it hurts so much and I can not do anything with that feeling, I just continue to work.

I walk home and someone walks up to me, with a tolder on his neck. I feel jealousy and tears burning. In my head it yells: I should have walked here too with mý todler, but I am alone. Without a child in my arms, without a child in a strawler and without a baby in my belly, as I still am not pregnant again and grieve about that too.

So here I am again. In our empty house. The tears finally come and I realize again that people matter. How big or how small they were doesn’t matter. Some of us have to deal with the loss of someone who had the privilege of living here for ninety years. Others, like me, didn’t even had the chance to get to know their child better.

But all these people, no matter how old or young they were have value because we loved them. Grief is love you can’t give away. And though I found things to give my time and attention to, though there are still four children in my home who need my attention, still there is also this deep love for this specific beautiful little girl that only lived in my belly. And I miss her. My God, how I miss her. I pray more and more that God will bring my greetings and love to her. Again surprised that I do these things since her passing. It helps a little.

Now that the children go back to school, I need to get used again to this empty house, although it is exactly the same as before the holiday started. I have to get used again to a life with only big children who go to school, and work waiting for me. She would have been able to walk by now. We would have brought the kids to school together and then walk back at a slow pace. She would have noticed everything around her, every detail on the street. I would have taught her how to function in this world, step by step.

But I walked home alone and this deep feeling of missing her, an intense pain, came over me. I go to God with it and it comforts me that she is well and on the best place. But the missing remains, hurts, and I still need to learn to live with that. I actually don’t know how to do that. So I go back to work.

This blog was first published in Dutch on September 5, 2018

Carpe Diem

‘No’, both my Love and I responded. And I continued: ‘No, we didn’t do that before. We do that since, eh, since one and a half year, I think.’ I wanted to say: since Amanda, but somehow I did not want to say it out loud this time, though her name echoed loudly in my head.

I kept thinking about this small conversation. We went out for dinner with one of my sisters and her family. We talked about the ijscoman, a Dutch word for a bus that drives through neighbourhoods to sell ice cream. The ijscoman comes in our street every day in the summer and we actually never bought ice cream from him. I considered it a waste of money when I also have ice cream in the freezer, and usually he comes when I already prepared dinner.  

But that has changed. We sometimes do buy ice cream from the ijscoman, we order pizza delivery’s and we do more things spontaneously, even when it costs money. It is nice and strange at the same time. How we have changed.

When I was still at school I learned: ‘memento mori’.  It means: ‘remember dying’, always live with awareness that this live is not all there is. Realize your mortality. The opposite of this, as I understood then, is: ‘carpe diem’, which means: seize the day. At my school this was explained with some disapproval as a way of living that does not take the future and/or other people into account.

But, since ‘mori’ entered our live, we tend to ‘carpe diem’ much more than we used to.

Since we know what it means to lose a child, we realize much more how precious life is and how important it is to enjoy what God gives today. We are much more aware that live is a gift, that living children are a gift. So we seize the day much more than we did in the past. We enjoy the little things more than we used to, we are more grateful and spend money easier on the children that are alive today.

Since her birth I always count Amanda in. I still unconsciously count to five when we go out as a family. And every time there is a moment of panic: ‘O no! There is a child missing, we are not complete’, only to painfully conclude again that I counted Amanda too, that she is not here anymore, that things are all right, we are all there, and we can leave.

I think that is my ‘memento mori’. And it makes me want to buy ice cream for my other children: carpe diem. We don’t know how much time together will be given to us. It is not a ‘seize the day because we don’t care what will come’ but a ‘seize the day for I am grateful for who is alive today.’ Carpe diem.

First written in Dutch August 28, 2018

Perfect ways

gebroken hart beeld

Yesterday I sang and played guitar in church. I really enjoy doing that, but some songs are hard for me. One of them is Good, good Father. It is a beautiful song but also very painful for me, especially since Amanda died. We sang: You are perfect in all of Your ways. You are perfect in all of your ways. You are perfect in all of your ways to us.

I woke up on that morning to first have some time alone with God. It is what I am used to do: get up early and go downstairs. The children are still sleeping or playing in their bedrooms. I make coffee and sit down to read the bible, thinking and praying. I just finished reading Job and it stood out to me that it comes different to me than in the past. I used to read this book as a story of someone who was very ill, like I was when I was younger. The groaning of pain I heard through the verses was familiar to me. But now I see the father who mourns over his children. I feel and see the pain that I now know myself. The deep pain of loosing a child. A pain that is still indiscribable.

I continued reading the Psalms and I am so grateful that in this book also there are so many exclamations of despair. So, that’s allowed: your pain, your raw complaints: ‘God! where are You?’ Throwing all your misery at the feet of your creator. He can handle it. He doesn’t feel threatened or insulted by my emotions. I once wrote a small song about this. It is in Dutch and means something like: I am safe with You, can quietly breath in and out, I can be who I am, with You.

I had the melody in my head while reading the Psalms. It is so important to know that you can come to God with all your pain, anger, bitterness and misery. I am very grateful for that. The anger in me  seems to go deep. I am so mad about what happened: First I had to wait years before I was pregnant, then we found out our baby wasn’t doing well and some weeks after that we learned she had died. In the months following I found some peace. Amanda is doing well and that is what I want. But there also has been torn something from me. It seems that my heart partly is irreparably damaged.

They say that time heals all wounds,, but that is not my experience yet. It still seems as if my grief grows instead of diminishes. A little bit desperate I asked a sweet lady from church who buried her newborn son ten years ago: ‘Will this ever become less? This deep, sharp pain?’ I point to a place near my heart and she points to the exact same place on her own body and says: ‘No, it still hurts só much. Maybe God doesn’t take away the pain, but He does go His way with it.’

I said to my Love on a day that I cried a lot (I don’t do that daily anymore fortunately): ‘I thought this would be like when you break your arm. It hurts a lot, but when it is set correctly, it will hurt less and then heals and grows even stronger than before. It doesn’t feel that way at all. I actually always miss her. She is so present unpresent.’ ‘Yes’, said my Love, ‘you should not compare it with breaking an arm, but with amputation.’

I did not experience physical amputation, so I need to be careful. If you did experience this: please come back to me if I am making a wrong  equation. I imagine that if your arm has been taken off, you learn to live with that but also have lots of times that you bump into missing your arm. You can function, you are creative, you find ways to compensate, but you also feel the lack, you see other people having to well-functioning arms and that sometimes make you feel jealous. You would also like to play piano, to cook, to play tennis, or whatever you see other people doing. And sometimes, when the weather changes, when you suddenly remember things or hurt what’s left of your arm, you feel the pain even physically, as bad as it was in the beginning.

If this is what it is like, then the loss of our baby indeed feels like amputation. I learn to live with it. I do what I have to do. I enjoy life intently intense because I know how vulnerable it is. But this deep sharp pain does not go away and pops up unwanted and unexpected. And I think I need to do the same as the Psalm writers did: scream to God, honestly share what I feel and meanwhile – even when still grumbling and feeling resentment – proclaim what I know deep down inside: You are perfect in all of your ways.

Or, as I had to sing on a wedding lately: ‘Lord, I want to praise your love, although my soul doesn’t understand. Blessed he, who dares to believe, even when the eye doesn’t see. When Your ways seem dark to me, I do not ask: Why. One day I will see your glory, when entering your heaven.’

With this side note though: I do ask why, because I read that Job did that and David did that and this question is in my heart and I want to be honest. But this surrendering to God, even though you don’t understand a thing, is only possible if you believe that Gods way eventually is the best way.

Life may be far from perfect and my life bumped, broken and crooked. If His ways are perfect, they lead somewhere. And then it this is really true: I am safe with You, can quietly breath in and out, I can be who I am, with You. So I read another Psalm and feel the pain and the joy and find that this is what makes me human. Broken but real. With my anchor in the God who is perfect in His ways with me, even though it doesn’t feel that way.

The picture aboce is a statue of artist Albert György, located in Switserland, at Lake Geneva. It has been posted a lot on Facebook, in light of bereaved parents month. It touched me deeply.

This blog was first posted in Dutch on July 23 2018