Thankful. Thats a word I never thought I’d write on this blog. There isn’t much to be thankful for in the loss of a child, so this year when we sat around the table full of turkey and stuffing I had to think very critically about what I would say. We are so blessed to have found a community of faith here in Rotterdam full of people of so many nationalities. Luckily for us, that also includes a handful of Americans who invited us to celebrate this special day. When it became my turn I went with that. I am so thankful that God knew I would need these people during this time of my life. God went before me and created this space of loving and inclusive people who would hold us in our new land and love us without reservation. As the night went on, and the next day went on, and the next week went on, I pondered this question more and more. “What are you thankful for?” I decided to make a list.
- I’m thankful that grief and gratefulness aren’t mutually exclusive. I can be grateful for my short time I had with our sweet pea and still be angry and cry.
- I’m thankful for the supermoms. The moms who have experienced pregnancy loss, stillbirth, and the loss of living children. The moms who have used their unfortunate experiences to support and encourage new moms like me.
- I’m thankful for the people who stayed. The people who heard my story and instead of avoiding me, they leaned in and sat in the ugly.
- I’m thankful for a spouse who has parented our pea with me. Nobody knows how they’ll honor the memory of their child, and James has been right there with me, always going above and beyond to be a parent to our baby even though they aren’t with us.
- I’m thankful James and I were able to save up money for our time of dire emergency. Not all families have that privilege, and without it I wouldn’t have been able to take care of my mental health in the way that was so necessary.
- I’m strangely thankful for the people who were outrageously cruel to me in my time of loss. The people who couldn’t handle my grief and lashed out in hateful ways. They taught me who they really were and showed me to be grateful that I don’t need to cary on a relationship with them.
- I’m thankful for a therapist who let me take the lead. She let me come in and cry or come in and vent. She could have led with her sociological expertise, but instead she led with my story and honored it in every way.
- I’m thankful for the people who made me cry. The people who weren’t afraid to bring up my baby. These are the people who knew avoiding the subject was so much worse.
- I’m thankful James has a Dutch passport. Without it we wouldn’t have been able to take the leap that turned out to be necessary. We both have been able to heal in this new land as we have taken time away from work and spend it caring for each other.
- I’m thankful for the new friends we’ve made. The “post loss” friends. We didn’t know them when our sweet pea died, but they have fully embraced our story and honor us as bereaved parents.
I could go on and on. This is only the low hanging fruit. God never promised to remove pain, God only promised to hold me in it. That is the root of my thankfulness. As a Methodist I am a believer in grace upon grace. I’ll admit it, I don’t see grace in loss. I do, however, see grace in what happens after loss. I’m thankful for my God who has gone before me to shower me with love and grace and who continues to keep me in relationship even amidst my sin.
So yes, my original answer stands. I am grateful for a community of faith who has offered us love and friendship. It just turns out that I get to be grateful for a lot more. And for that, I’m thankful.