christmas, denali, grief, suffering


The last two Saturdays have been hard for me. Maybe the combination of going back to work, family gatherings, Christmas cheer, winter darkness and general sadness about life right now have got me down…well, okay, that’s a lot. Now I’m starting to understand the need for regular emotional release…

It is human nature to make connections with others – to relate our circumstances, to connect our stories. That’s how we create friendships and build relationships. It’s part of being human. However, there are times when trying to relate or connecting stories can be challenging. Because although there may be some similarities, in the end, my story is mine and your story is yours.

It’s in times like these that I’m grateful for animals. They don’t try to relate because they can’t. They don’t share success stories or try to encourage me. None of that is possible for animals. But, what they do very well, sometimes better than humans, is provide the gift of presence. Denali won’t leave my side when I’m sad. In fact, last Saturday, she forgot to eat her breakfast – she just lay with me in bed until I got up in the late afternoon. It wasn’t until then that she realized how hungry she was. So, moments after eating her breakfast, she asked for dinner! She couldn’t explain anything away or make everything better with comforting words – I wouldn’t have wanted her to even if she could. But, she stayed with me. Even when I got mad and tried to push her away, she just stayed right there waiting for me find my own strength.

I think because we have the capability of forming words and sentences and paragraphs we believe we have to use them all the time. That’s not true. The biggest gifts I’ve received in the last few weeks have been from my husband and my dog – no words, no consolation, just presence. They just sit with me, lay with me, hold me. They know there are no words, so they get comfortable in the silence.

Although they don’t like it when I’m sad, they don’t try to make it go away. They are able to sit in the tension – their tension, not mine. They can be present in my sadness because they know there’s nothing they can do to fix it. Others, however, aren’t as comfortable with my sadness. Out of the goodness of their hearts, out of their love and respect for me, they want to fix it. I can understand that. I’ve been there before. But, there are some things you just can’t fix.

And, relating your story to mine, although much appreciated and well-received, doesn’t fix anything either. So far I’ve yet to come across someone who has an identical story to mine. Because I haven’t been completely forthcoming in the circumstances, assumptions are made and suggestions are offered. I appreciate it all, but it’s still my story, not yours. Do you know someone who can’t create a child AND doesn’t want to pursue medical assistance AND isn’t inclined toward adoption AND doesn’t feel guilty about either of those things AND is present in her grief AND wants to find purpose in life without having children AND won’t let bitterness overcome her? If you do, please introduce me to her because I’d like to be her friend.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that I can’t relate with other’s stories that aren’t quite the same as mine. This doesn’t mean that I don’t want people to reach out and share their experiences. The last thing I want to be is alone in this journey. However, even with all the connections being made, I do feel alone because this is my story and mine alone. People want to fix it and they can’t. And that’s okay. I don’t need anyone to fix me. I’m making my way through it – slowly, painfully, faithfully.

Writing helps me process. There has been something cathartic in writing out my thoughts and then just putting it out there for anyone to read. It’s also a bit scary. Am I sharing too much? Am I not sharing enough? Should I even be sharing at all?! By publishing my thoughts on this blog, I’m opening myself up to whatever thoughts and opinions others have to share. I’m grateful that only positivity has come from those thoughts and opinions – I think this is a sign that I surround myself with good people, even on social media. I’ve heard from friends that go back to early childhood up to fairly recent friendships. There are so many who have struggled with infertility – who don’t share my story, but who share my pain and grief and loneliness. Had I not been open with my pain, I never would have known about theirs. Had I not shared part of my story, I wouldn’t have been comforted by part of theirs.

The human condition is a tough one – every day is a day we’ve never seen before, every encounter is unique. We have a lot to negotiate and manage on a daily basis. And even though we all have our own specific stories, we all share one story too – being human. Despite all of that, whether we have the words to comfort or not, we all have the capability of being present with each other. I think being present has a lot less pressure than finding the right words. What does presence look like? Denali, Brad, and my friend who sat with me in the back of the sanctuary during worship yesterday while I cried – those are signs of Immanuel, God-with-Us. May we all be Immanuel for one another this Christmas.god-is-immanuel


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