Grieving the lost opportunity to be a mother to my baby who had died, there were times when I felt an overwhelming need to be mothered myself - to be held and carried.
I was not sure if I had enough strength to walk the road of grief.
I asked God: 'Will you carry me?'
His response came loud and clear:
'I already am.'
On 16th August 2010, at 17 weeks pregnant, I went to an ultrasound to discover that the baby I was carrying was no longer alive.
I had seen the obstetrician the previous day and she had not been able to find a heartbeat, but although I knew there was a possiblity that there could be something wrong with the baby, I did not worry about it and assumed everything would be fine.
However, the scan technician could not find a heartbeat either and after examining the head and body of the baby, he found that the bones were beginning to move out of place, (like they were floating he said). He said that it looked like the baby had been dead for several days. He also found that the placenta was partly detached, adding weight to the likelihood that the cause of death was a detached placenta. (I had been diagnosed with partial placenta previa during the pregnancy, meaning the placenta had attached itself low in the womb.)
After exploring options, I decided to have an induced labour, meaning that labour would be initiated chemically and the baby delivered normally. I chose this method because I keen for the baby to be brought out in one piece, so I could see him or her (I did not know the sex of the baby at that point), and because I did not want to wait up to four weeks for the labour to start naturally.
Two days after the scan I went into a private clinic in Lima, Peru where I was given drugs to start the labour and the baby was delivered a few hours later. On examining the tiny body, it was clear that he was a little boy.
He was perfectly formed and his development in line with a baby of 16 weeks. He had ten fingers and ten toes, with a little fingernail on each one; dark eyes; and an indented chin like his brothers. Tiny lines, showing where his hair would have grown, were visible on his head. He fitted neatly into the palm of my hand.
We called him Solomon Paul because Solomon means ‘peace’ and ‘shalom’ and that is what we felt during that time despite the difficulties. After some thought, we decided to bury him in our garden.
Some of the questions I asked myself during the first few weeks were:
How can I respond to this grief in a helpful, godly way?
How can I stay focused on God's plan for my life despite the pain?
Every grief is different. Everybody responds differently. How I felt and feel about my loss is different to how you feel and will feel about yours. I do not seek to tell you how you should feel or how you should respond in your grief. Please feel free to take what is helpful and leave what is not.
Simply, by sharing my story and experience, my prayer is that some of it may speak into your situation. My prayer is that you will be able to include God in your grief and receive the healing God wants to bring to you.
Death was not part of God's original plan, nor is it part of heaven and eternity with Jesus. (Revelation 21:4) Death, as a consequence of the fall, pains God's heart as well as ours. He is not a distant, non-caring God. He is a God who wants to meet us in our pain and carry us through it.
When a death happens, we immediately feel out of control. We could not stop our loved one from dying. Our feelings are overwhelming and at times feel all-consuming.
After I found out Solomon had died, I felt a huge fog descend around my head. I could not think about or concentrate on anything else which was not connected with his death. This fog lasted for me around two weeks, but others may find the time to be longer or shorter. Both are 'normal'.
Feeling out of control and in the unknown territory of grief, I felt like I had no control over how the grief process would happen - that I would just be carried along on the wave of it, and some day I would manage to either surf it or jump off.
I knew of people who had been so consumed with grief after a lost one that they had fallen into a deep depression or become ill. I wondered if I would end up the same way, unable to move forward. I have suffered from depression in the past, and I wondered if I would just become overtaken by it, helpless and weak. I told God about my worries. I did not want this to be the beginning of a season of depression.
A signpost appeared in my mind and I heard these words:
You have a choice.
One sign lead off down a road of depression and despair. A path of denial, avoidance and trying to numb the pain. A path of 'Why me?' and 'What if?'
The other sign pointed to a path of hope in grief. It did not promise there would be no suffering – in fact it confirmed there would be, but it was a path of peace, comfort, hope and even joy mixed in with facing the reality and difficulty of what had happened.
I did not know if I had enough strength to walk down that second path.
Don't worry. You are already on it. I'm carrying you down it.
Earlier in the year, I was listening to a talk from Dayspring Church in Sydney, Australia. It was about grief and responding to it. One thing the Pastor said really helped me in the process. He said:
Don't ask questions God is not answering.
That includes the question 'Why?'
'Why not?' You may ask.
1. You are unlikely to hear an answer and this may cause anguish.
2. You cut off your main source of comfort.
Instead it may be more helpful to ask:
God, how do you want to meet me in this?
That is a question God is longing to answer.
I was so surprised at the responses God gave me as I asked Him that question over and over again. The depth of comfort and relationship I have encountered with God has been greater than I have ever experienced before.
Facing the reality of a loss and dealing with it takes courage, support and time.
Even when society recognises our loss, the expectation is often that we will get over the loss quickly, after the initial details have been dealt with.
This is far from the reality of most grieving people.
Some psychologists set 'raw grief' at around 13 months on average - with 'non-raw' feelings of grief lasting much longer. This is not always the case, but I have mentioned this to create awareness that it is normal to still feel a loss deeply even months afterwards.
Things that helped me were acknowledging and facing the things that I found difficult, as I felt I could. That meant sharing about the loss with others; allowing myself to cry rather than put on a brave face, even in front of my children; seeing Solomon's body and burying it; and asking God how he wanted to meet me through it all.
I read books about heaven and about grief, and I wrote down my feelings in a personal diary, reactions to the events that happened and the reactions of others around me as I processed them.
As I faced death, rather than avoiding it, the face of death became less victorious and scary.
I realise now that death has not won, and Solomon is one of many children rescued and growing in heaven.
God is not in a rush. He is gentle and patient and lovingly meets us when we call on him. I remember times when time itself felt like it had stood still, and I felt like God himself and the angels around me stood with me as I felt the loss of my child.
Just as we have to face the reality of the loss we have experienced, we also have to come to a place where we can accept the reality of the life we now live in.
As I have read and experienced more of heaven, I have often desired to leave this world and join the next one.
But my time is not yet up.
One of the hardest things for me about experiencing hope and glimpses of heaven has been the decision to persevere in this life.
Where does God want me to focus my time?
Where is there life after this death?
As I have drawn close to God, He began to answer those questions and bring life out of the death I experienced. For me, those answers came in the form of beginning to understand the joys of gardening, writing and experiencing a new perspective on heaven and eternity.
God wants to answer those questions with unique answers for you too.
As we become preoccupied in the loss we have experienced, we often find ourselves intentionally or unintentionally disengaging with life that goes on around us. It is normal to take a step back from life when you experience a loss, but there comes a time when you have to choose to step back in.
Death and loss leaves a wound on our souls - even though with time it will heal, a scar will be left and we have to learn to live with that scar. It is our choice whether that scar becomes a victorious battle wound or a hidden secret.
Life is so much greater than what we daily experience. Our currently reality is barely a shadow of the true heavenly reality. Our perspective is so small. Earth was originally created to be like heaven, but sin has taken it far from our Creator’s original intentions.
Our little lost ones did not remain in our current earthly reality where they were originally destined to be, but they were escorted into the heavenly one. They still live (in fact, it could be said they live more fully than we do!).
But what is heaven like? Do our lost ones remain forever in the state that they were lost? What happens to them in heaven?
Since losing Solomon, I have read a few books of people who have experienced heaven or heavenly visions, and I have had some visions myself. My aim is not to state or debate these visions as fact or not, nor to create a theological debate, but to humbly share with you a glimpse of a greater reality. My voice is just one, and I encourage you to listen to God’s Spirit as you read these accounts.
You are free to accept them or leave them.
One of the first visions I had when I asked God where Solomon was now, was of a heavenly nursery, with the babies each in a womb-like capsule, or enclosed cradle, being attended to by angels. Angelic voices were singing over them, and as the angels sang, the little bodies responded and glowed.
A few days after that vision, I read a book called Nine days in Heaven – The Vision of Marietta Davis a re-written account of a vision Marietta had when she was twenty-five. She described much of what I had seen and more – she described an infant paradise – nurseries of small numbers of infants grouped together who had similar destinies, who were ministered to and trained by angelic beings and angels until they were ready to move to the child paradise.
At one point Marietta talks to a child has been raised in heaven – he asks her to go back and tell his parents and those who have lost little ones: ‘Although our parents may grieve for us, we are free and extremely happy…this is the only world we know…it was here that we awoke to the reality of our existence.’ He tells her that although they visit earth with their guardian angels and see the pain and sorrow there, all they have ever known is the peace and happiness of heaven.
One of the most beautiful parts of the book is Marietta’s description of how the babies are introduced to Jesus as their Saviour, and the infant worship to him. Every breath they give is a song of praise to him.
Each child has its own unique character and destiny. The character and destiny of your child will be developed and matured in heaven. If you know Jesus as your friend and Saviour, you too will meet your child again there.
Christine Pringle in her book Jesse also describes a vision she had of her son twenty seven years after she lost him in an early miscarriage. She had not even been aware of his sex then. After listening to a talk by Jesse Duplantis, she had been made aware of the angelic care of miscarried, aborted and young babies and children when they die. Later she had a vision of a young man laughing, and on asking the Holy Spirit about it, she was told that it was Jesse, her son who had died all those years before. He had grown up in heaven and was very much alive.
1 Corinthians 15:26 tells us that the last enemy to be defeated is death. In this world, death still exists and will exist, but we are not left without hope. Even though our children have died too soon, death does not have the last word – these little ones have been rescued and restored in heaven and will live there until such time as all those who love Jesus will live in the new heaven and the new earth. (Revelation 21:1).
Any loss takes time to adjust to and grief is part of that process. Healthy, holy grief, should be a process of coming to terms with the reality we live in, whilst recognizing the hope to which we are called. It is not about questioning God’s faithfulness to us, but about opening ourselves up to let Him show us a perspective which is beyond ours.
After Solomon died, we were able to bury his body in our garden, and then I planted many small plants among the fruit-tree saplings. Springtime came two months after his death, when these photos were taken, and the garden came to life; the many sunflower seeds growing up.
When God showed me glimpses of heaven, as I read other people’s accounts too and every time I saw beautiful flowers, it reminded me of heaven. I decided to plant a colorful garden out back. Solomon had been buried there, and it was a way to privately remember him, but also every time I looked out I would be reminded to set my mind on things above and not on earthly things (Colossians 3:2). It was a part of heaven, here on earth.
The gardening was also such a soothing part of the healing process for me – getting my hands in the soil and planting new life, was a positive way for me to take time to adjust to the loss.
Sands UK - Stillbirth and Neonatal death Support. This website has a good section supporting and explaining grief - it is aimed at Stillbirth and Neonatal death, but much of the information also implies to women who have had miscarriages.
Miscarriage, Stillbirth and Infant Loss Blog Directory. This website is not just a directory of blogs, but also other websites connected with miscarriage, stillbirth and infant death.
Jesse by Christine Pringle
Nine days in Heaven – The Vision of Marietta Davis by Dennis and Nolene Prince
A Grace Disguised by Jerry Sittser