Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Living the Paradox

"I see now that my faith was becoming an ally rather than an enemy because I could vent anger freely, even toward God, without fearing retribution."

~ Jerry Sittser, A Grace Disguised

This grief thing is so . . . strange.  It's hard and confusing sometimes, feels good other times, and is unpredictable all the time.  That's the most difficult part, aside from the reason why I grieve -- that I can't predict when I will a certain way.  Sometimes I can't stop crying all day, then suddenly the tears stop without warning and I feel completely normal a moment later.  Sometimes I feel like I want to scream and scream at the horror of the reality that our daughter is dead, dead before she was born.  And sometimes (like this weekend) I feel angry beyond reasoning.

Today I feel normal again.  I wish I could cry, turn on the tears whenever I felt the need (which is often).  I understand tears.  I understand wildly swinging emotions.  After all, my baby died a month ago, died inside me, gone before I could even try to help her.

But this normalcy?  It makes no sense.  I want to cry.  I have a reason to cry.  Why can't I cry?

My therapist says that these breaks between the sadness, these bouts of normalcy are in themselves normal.  A part of the grief process.  No cause for concern.

But I am concerned.  Because I have a lot of experience pushing my emotions down and down, burying them under layers of self-delusion.  Because that suppression resulted in an eating disorder that almost cost me everything -- my life, my marriage, my friends, my sanity.  I have a reason to fear normalcy.

Here, though, is another example of the many paradoxes I find myself experiencing at every turn.  Because while my past makes me fear that the destructive "coping" habits will reemerge and claim me for good this time, I am also grateful that I had an eating disorder that taught me healthy ways to deal.  That my years of excruciating struggle with mental illness equipped me with the tools I need to guide me through this grief.

Another paradox: although losing my only daughter, firstborn, is unimaginably hard, I can still look back at this year and say without hesitation that has been the best year of my life (so far).  How is that possible?  My daughter is dead . . . yet I feel unimaginably blessed.  I have never felt so whole and healthy.  As for why, I can only point at God.

And yet another paradox: that while I do feel angry at God (an anger that is already fading as my heart melts before the memory of His many mercies), I can't stop talking to Him.  I can't stop pointing at Him as the source of my life.  And I don't want to stop.  If He's not who He says He is, then nothing else matters.

Another: that this loss has strengthened all the relationships in my life.  How can death do this?  It seems impossible.  And yet I feel closer to my husband, to my friends and family, and (here is the best part) to everyone else in the world.  My painful vulnerability also gifts me with new eyes to see the world more accurately -- a place that is broken, that is full of horror, that is not how it's supposed to be.  A world populated with the suffering.  I feel angry -- not the stubborn, ego-stroking anger of this weekend, but righteous anger (I think, anyway).  Anger that partners with God, that hurts with the hurt.  Anger that says I want to stand with you in your suffering -- and "you" means everyone.

And this, the greatest paradox of all: while I would never wish for Eve's death, while her death is like the amputation of a limb that I will learn to live without but will never regain, I am grateful for how I have grown so far.  I am grateful that her death and my pain are not wasted.  I am glad that there is life and gain to be had here in the midst of suffering.

Of course, I might feel differently tomorrow.  But I hope that this is where I will keep coming back to.

Look at that -- I hoped!  All is not lost.  And this, this is what I hope for with all that I am, where I hope I will land and root deeply in the end:

"Gifts of grace come to all of us.  But we must be ready to see and willing to receive these gifts.  It will require a kind of sacrifice, the sacrifice of believing that, however painful our losses, life can still be good -- good in a different way then before, but nevertheless good.  I will never recover from my loss and I will never got over missing the ones I lost.  But I still cherish life. . . .  I will always want the ones I lost back again.  I long for them with all my soul.  But I still celebrate the life I have found because they are gone.  I have lost, but I have also gained.  I lost the world I loved, but I gained a deeper awareness of grace.  That grace has enabled me to clarify my purpose in life and rediscover the wonder of the present moment."

~ Jerry Sittser, A Grace Disguised (emphasis added)

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="A journal entry written just after I became pregnant. Now my heart is full of love for everyone, thanks to the love that grew in me for her."][/caption]



  1. Blessings to you and yours in this holiday season.

  2. [...] Living the Paradox, Part Two If you're new here, you may want to subscribe to my RSS feed. Thanks for visiting! [...]


"I am glad you are here with me."
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King