The Doctor & The Detective
Loss is a doctor and a detective. It wields both a scalpel and a magnifying glass. It has the ability to fillet us open where it then examines every piece of us under the microscope. There are pieces of me that are pure and honest. But there are other pieces that I hide so well, even I don’t recognize their presence within. Pain is a nosy private detective.
Like many women, I struggled with insecurity at a young age. I was constantly worried about how my body looked, how much I weighed, what I wore, and what other people thought about me. As I aged, different experiences combined with maturity made me believe that I had outgrown insecurity entirely. I believe my friends and family would say that I am a strong and confident woman. But the loss of of my son has exposed insecurity in my ability to be a successful mom.
I have already shared with you my instantaneous reaction after my loss was to blame God. But as I have been working through my faith, I find fewer reasons to blame Him and I still want to pin the tail on the donkey. So, I blame myself.
Isn't this the natural next step? I am Jasper's mother, the woman who couldn't keep him alive. I have spent countless hours trying to remember all the possible workouts that could have injured him, all the days that I might have accidentally skipped taking my prenatal vitamin, and the couple of times I took a sip of my husband's beer. I have wondered if the amount of Tylenol I took when I had a cold was too much or the temperature of my baths may have been the culprit. I have wondered: Did I do too much or too little? Did we pray hard enough? Should we have had our pastors come and pray before we made the decision to induce? I have thought: I must have deserved this. I’m not a good enough Christian. God must not love me as much as I hoped. Maybe I complained just enough times to relinquish my right to have my baby. The blame game is a dark place.
The list truly does go on, and on, and on. And at the bottom of it, when you've exhausted every single possibility, you are left covered in the largest pile of guilt you could ever have imagined.
I am so sorry if you have felt this way and asked similar questions. If you are blaming yourself for your baby’s death, believe me, I understand. And it is the worst feeling I have ever known. Helpless to save them. Guilty you couldn’t. Afraid to think your own body, the one that is supposed to bring life, caused death. We are women; created to bring life. So why is having a baby so damn hard?
As I wade these muddy waters I don’t believe guilt is from the enemy. I think it is an attitude we consciously choose to accept into our lives. Guilt is therefore a choice. It is a way of living. Guilt requires responsibility to maintain and it allows and encourages self-punishment.
So I began to punish myself. I forced sadness even on better days. I stripped myself of my worth with discouragement and beliefs I was an inadequate mother. I secluded myself believing I was unworthy of being around other people, for I was a death bringer. And last, but not least, I asked myself over and over again, “What is wrong with me?”
I have always enjoyed reading the book of Psalms because I can relate to King David’s emotional heart. There is so much hope and rejoicing in David’s poetry, but there is also deep sorrow. David continually pities himself, asking the Lord why He has forsaken him. When I read the words written out of David’s pain, I imagine him hiding in a cave with a journal and a pen scribbling down his thoughts in between shivers of both cold and fear. In the dampness of the cave, I think David was hard on himself. Maybe David wondered what he had done to deserve this fate. Maybe he also tore himself down and was broken by his circumstance. Maybe he too wondered what was wrong with him.
Psalm 40:1-3 says, “I waited patiently for the Lord; He inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.”
When I read this, I couldn’t help but wonder if the miry bog was guilt and the pit of destruction was self punishment. Although my circumstance is different than David’s, sorrow is the same.
My sister-in-law came down to see me a couple days before our son’s memorial service. I was both excited and apprehensive to see her. When she arrived, all my fears were dispelled because she is one of those people who knows exactly what to say and when to say it. One afternoon, she was allowing me to share my thoughts, and she said this in response. “Jasper’s life was always meant to end here.” As much as I hated those words, they slowly began to lift my guilt. This was the plan. It wasn’t my fault.
David must have come to this conclusion because he says that God put a new song in his mouth. A song of praise instead of self punishment and defeat. God placed David back onto the solid ground and upheld his steps when he was weak and when he was confident.
I don’t have to feel guilt for losing my son. I don’t have to maintain my guilt by punishing myself for what was out of my control. Instead, I need to believe that the God who lifted David out of his circumstance is the same God who will lift me out of mine. I need God to give me a new song to sing, one of joy and encouragement. A song that breathes life into dark places. A song that removes all guilt, and lets me stand on the rock.