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Grief and Emmanuel

How do I even write this?

It’s such a strange string of sentences to type – but I feel obligated to share them, having chosen to live in this odd space where my life is so private and yet so public all at the same time. Knowing how valuable the “me too” of this community has been, I feel compelled to tell our own story. I have this nagging worry that we are becoming an anonymous tale of grief. A vague object of pity. And I’ve never been one to let someone else tell my story.

I’ll do my best.

Earlier this month, we lost a baby. Those of you who know us in real life know we were expecting a little girl in June.
Earlier this month we held and cried over and prayed over and buried her.

It has been the saddest and strangest month of my life.

The doctor who broke the news to us described a second trimester miscarriage as “brutal”. How bizarre and tragic to think that this baby – who I prayed for and dreamed for and named and knew – should have a story ultimately concluded as “brutal”. With that word ringing in my ears, I’ve tried to return to a normal life.

To buy milk in Target and marvel that somehow all of the people around me are unaware of what the world is missing.
To dance to Christmas music with an almost-two-year-old Aidah and temporarily forget the secondhand grief I feel that my social butterfly won’t have the sister we celebrated.
To remember her and forget her – to mourn her and honor her with every little thing I do.

Brutal felt like the wrong word – and you all know how much I value words. Yes, it’s been awful – our hearts and hopes are shattered. It was traumatic in every possible way. But it’s been more. She was more.

Finally, I remembered something I read from my girl, Glennon Doyle Melton:

Life is brutal. But it’s also beautiful. Brutiful, I call it. Life’s brutal and beautiful are woven together so tightly that they can’t be separated. Reject the brutal, reject the beauty. So now I embrace both, and I live well and hard and real.

That’s what I was looking for – the made up word to describe the confounding surreality of it all. Miscarriage – and the ensuing process of grief- has been brutiful. To acknowledge one side without the other is all at once either too harsh or too saccharine.

The brutal in holding such a tiny body – the beauty in being home when it happened, able to marvel at her fingers and ears and nose. If I looked away I would have missed that.
The brutal in watching the man I love scoop dirt with his bare hands – the beauty in hearing his whispered prayers and earnest tears.
The brutal in the sleepless nights – unable to close my eyes. Too many images I don’t dare look at; can’t bear to forget. The beauty in the quiet, solitary, necessary healing done in those hours.

It’s been brutiful – there’s no better term for it. We went into it with eyes wide open — full of tears but open nonetheless. It’s been raw and exhausting but vital to have seen it all, brutal and beautiful. As my friend Steph summarized: “Grief is such a weird thing – it blots out the sun and somehow helps us feel it a little extra all at the same time.” How grateful I am for the mercy in that duality.

It’s made me all the more grateful for people in our lives who haven’t looked away. Who, in the wake of our loss, have come wide-eyed into our grief. Who wade into what I KNOW is an uncomfortable and impossible situation. And they stay.

It’s been brutal and broken — but if you ignore it, you ignore the beauty. If you look away from my pain, you miss the story of my daughter.

Our people haven’t looked away.
The texts and calls and visits. The food dropped off. The offers to play with Aidah. The prayers and shared tears and most of all, the shared silences.
There is such a temptation to erase grief, to fill sad silence. I get that – I’ve only ever been on the other side of it, desperate to bring cheer or distraction or wisdom to situations that I now recognize as simply sorrowful. I’ve been so in awe of and grateful for the people who have entered our sadness and made the difficult choice to stay quiet. To allow us our grief and sorrow. To not try and erase or ignore it for their own comfort. To hold our hands and our heads and their tongues while we cried.
I am so grateful for friends who have seen the brutiful. Who have been our brutiful.

The grief is fresh. it comes in waves. I could probably write more coherently if I let things settle. But I feel compelled to write this now, in these early morning hours when I lie awake, unable to sleep. Not ready for that gut punch, that slideshow. It’s brutal. She was beautiful. It’s brutiful.
I feel compelled to write this now because I know I’m not the only person who is grieving this Christmas, feeling that awful, awesome weight of just how damn brutiful this whole season is. The lights and music, the kids in Aleppo, the spirit of generosity, the babies we lose too soon. I’m sure I’m not the only person who is not exactly feeling the joy and magic this season. Who has weathered a loss that blots out the sun. Who feels so impossibly out of place in a season of celebration. I guess this is what I have for you, what I’ve appreciated so fiercely from the people around me:

That sucks and I’m so sorry.
I am here with you.
If you want to talk about it, tell me your story.
If you want to be sad together, I won’t look away.

And most of all I want to say this, because it’s one of the only things I know to be true, despite my world around me in pieces:

He is with us.

There have been sprinkles of joy and goodness and light. Goodness and mercy have followed me, even in this valley. But the promise I’m clinging to this Christmas – the one I have seen unfold so brutifully in these past few weeks, is that of Emmanuel. God with us. A God who stepped into our brokenness. Who didn’t shy away, who clothed and cared and – most importantly – dwelt among us.

So many people told me they’d pray that God would feel close or that He would come near to comfort us, etc. And I imagined some sort of hovering white light, a cozy presence, an uncanny sense of being held.
It hasn’t been that way for me.
But I’m realizing that the people I’ve been so grateful for – the drawing near — that’s Jesus. That’s what He did — and it’s what He enabled us to do. He didn’t sweep in and fill the silences and distract from the brokenness and brutality. He came and dwelt among us. He told us to be and share and create beauty. He shared our brokenness, He didn’t look away.

More than anything, I’m grateful for Emmanuel. That He is with us. In the kindness and practicality of His people. In the silence. In the authors who paved paths through this pain. In the mercy of distraction, the cleansing nature of tears, the closeness of family. That he came into the mess – not to bulldoze it or to teach us the mystical purpose behind it…but to make it new.
The world is broken, but he promises to sit with me. He sends people to do it in his place. He opens our eyes to beauty in the midst. And He promises that things will not stay broken. All of my children will be gathered to me again. She is with Him and He is with us and for that we are not afraid and we do not despair. Goodness and mercy follow us, in every brutiful moment, as He dwells among us, reflected in so much of his creation.

In the end, all I can say is Merry Christmas — really and truly. I thank God that He came to stay and allows His people to represent Him so imperfectly. Let’s keep being Emmanuel to each other. Let’s walk into each others’ real lives and bear witness to the brutality there without looking away. Let’s be intentional about seeking beauty. Let’s brave silences and sorrow and sit close to each other. He is so very present when we do that and we need Him now more than ever.

To everyone who has reached out with comfort – we are inexplicably grateful. I’ve always been grateful for this strange corner of the internet, but even more so when it helps us to be Church to each other. Drew helped me to write this post and shares my awe and gratitude for how deeply and widely we are loved and held. xoxo

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6 Comments

  1. Liz B.

    Love and love and love and love.

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful heart with us. I’m so deeply sorry for this grief you are walking through. Xoxoxoxo.

  2. Suzie

    You both are amazing. Merry Christmas. With love, Aunty Suzie

  3. Diana O'Meara

    so very sorry mari and drew. we will be praying ~ rob and diana o’meara

  4. KIM

    So sorry for your loss. Thank you so much for sharing such intimate thoughts on such a painful experience. Prayers and love for your family…

  5. Mem

    Dear Marri and Drew. Without the love and knowledge of God, how could anyone go through these human sorrows? With the love and knowledge of our God, we can believe even this is in His Plan. All I can do is send my love and prayers and, as do you, know He is in control. My deepest love to both of you. Mem

  6. Katie Mieras

    I read this post a few weeks ago and just didn’t know what to say. I’m so heartbroken for you. I’m sorry.

    Thank you for sharing this piece of your life in such an elegant way. I’ve always enjoyed your writing and I’m even more impressed with the depth of your soul searching and articulation.

    I wish I Had something comforting to say, but I won’t pretend to understand shoes I have not walked in.

    Praying for you as you soldier forward.

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