We’re currently in Colorado, doing some preparations to help our family adjust well to life overseas. One of the most significant portions of this training was a day focused on grief and loss. Our facilitator did a remarkable job of leading us into a time of silent reflection and then honesty about the manifold losses and pains in our lives. I, feeling a bit weary, made up my mind at the onset of this session that I wouldn’t let it get too “real.” That resolution didn’t last.
I began to recall different difficulties in my past and near future. Elementary bullying, a significant facial birthmark and several painful removal surgeries during my early years, the prospect of leaving elderly grandparents behind, being far away from my brothers and closest friends, all these and more are tough things. Through honest prayer, I felt a freedom to share these pains with God and in a real way put the burden on Him. There is another pain, though, that tore my heart open on that day. It was the pain of losing our first child in miscarriage.
It was, in retrospect, a healthy day. Beneficial even. But good isn’t the right word. It was hard. I cried more on that day just over a week ago than I had ever cried for our unborn baby.
The lessons from the day didn’t heal my grief or allow me to “get over it,” as if that were even a realistic or healthy outcome. It did help me, though, to hear our facilitator share his own story of the empty arms of miscarriage. Their child was the fourth, leaving them with three living. Ours was the first and we also have three children living. Their pregnancy occurred around the winter holidays, too, and they felt the same deep loneliness compounded by well-intentioned but unhelpful advice.
He and I were able to talk at the end of the day while we stood freezing in the parking lot. Our souls were able to comfort each other and we agreed that there is no neat answer or heart-mending cure. There is now this story, this pain, this loss. A black color on the canvas of our lives that makes us so hungry for a day when all tears are dry.
I want to be the kind of husband and dad who can show his wife and kids, especially his sons, how to really be sad. Leadership and masculinity isn’t just about toughness and fixing the leaking faucet. It’s also about snot-filled sobbing, hunched over in pain, and hugging someone so tight it hurts.
[Jesus] was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief Isaiah 53:3a