Going On

Six months ago she was born. Perfectly formed with big feet like her father, tall thighs like her brothers and sisters. Really our child. So loved, precious and wanted. Amanda Marsman, born on March 22 2017, but before she was born, she had already passed away.

This road of grief is heavy and lonely and hard. I often find it hard to write too, because I can’t find the words to describe it, and also because what I think is too dark. But I started this blog. I decided to write and I to be honest and real, also about my brokenness. So that is why I write anyway right now. Also because I need some attention. Maybe misery loves company indeed, because lately I feel the urge again to say when I meet someone: ‘Do you know my child has died?’ ‘Do you know that if that hadn’t happen, I would have walked here with a pram too?’ It is almost as if the pressure in my head has become so big these last days that it is time to allow it to st(r)eam out.

Sharing helps. She was so beautiful. I so much want to hold her, hear her voice, see her smile. I want to grumble about sleepless nights and about brothers and sisters who are too wild. I want to sing songs for her, feed and bathe her. But I only have an empty crib in an empty nursery, some photographs and a small piece of paper with the imprint of her little feet.

What I learned from the books I read in the weeks after her birth, is that these imprints are very important, because that piece of paper has been really in touch with her body. When I first read that, it seemed overboard to me. But the last few weeks, I find myself drawn to that piece of paper with the imprint of her little feet. I cherish it and it became very precious to me indeed.

This road, this process, this deep dark valley, stirs up new things in me again and again. I can’t say: ‘I would never do this or that’ or: ‘I would never overreact like that’ anymore. I have to admit – to my shame – that in the past I have judged the way other people were mourning. But now I have found that the loss of a child really feels as if something has been ripped away, smashed a hole in my life, got the soil under me and that I have to find out everything again. I have no clue how to do this. How to ‘give this a place’ in your life. How to involve God in it.

This morning, I could only cry, and yesterday and the day before it was the same. I am surprised that there are still so many tears coming. I am bewildered about what to do. What can I do about this? I wanted something tangible and after searching for a long time I ordered a bracelet with her name. It is beautiful and it suits me – better than the tattoo I considered for the first time in my life. But it doesn’t solve anything. I looked forward to wear this bracelet, but now that I have it, I realize even more that there is nothing that can replace her.

I am constantly facing the fact that I can’t do anything. I work hard, try to be there for the children and I keep myself busy, try to distract myself. But again and again I bump unto it: a deep sorrow, an intense longing, an elusive missing. The only thing that helps a little, is knowing that she is totally fine. She is perfect and completely happy. No pain, no grief. She went to her destination immediately. But I am still wrestling, searching for God, searching for His comfort and security. And I don’t know how to receive that. I sometimes feel inconsolable.

This morning I eventually sat down again to read the bible. Psalm 84 this time, where, translated out of my Dutch bible, it says: ‘My heart and my body cry out to the living God.’ Yes, I can relate to that. And: ‘Blessed are those who live in Your house, they are continually praising You.’ This brought a smile on my face because it gave me a glimpse of what Amanda is doing right now and how happy she is. And then verse 5: ‘Blessed (happy) is the one whose strength is in You – in their heart are the smooth roads. If they go through the barren valley of the mulberry trees, then they make God their spring and also the rain will cover them abundantly (in my footnotes it says: blessing). They go forth from strength to strength’.

There is more in this Psalm, but I decided to allow these words to sink in first. To thank God for the smooth roads in my heart and that I apparently can make Him my spring, my source. And that I can always go forth in His strength.

Later that day, a letter came in from one of our foster children[i]. She responded to the news about Amanda’s death and wrote: “I want to encourage you to keep going because in life we sometimes go up and sometimes we go down, but the important thing is to move forward.” I smile because it fits so perfectly with what I had read in that Psalm. I go on from strength to strength. And I trust that God will show me how to do that exactly.

First published in Dutch on September 22, 2017

[i] We sponsor four children via Compassion, each of the same gender and age as our own children. This is a great blessing for them and for us as well. With giving financial support, Compassion can give a child that otherwise would have no opportunities, food, education and healthcare. Also you can write with the child to encourage it.

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