dear new mom, it's okay to grieve
I was honestly surprised by all the responses from a previous blog about the first weeks home as a new mom. I barely even published that post because it felt “scattered” to me. Yet several dear mothers have encouraged me to continue writing down/blogging/remembering these days and these feelings because it will all pass by so quickly.
I do consistently use my Instagram as a sort of “mini-blog,” especially since I get all of my Instagrams printed instead of scrapbooking. But this blog is a different kind of space — it feels more like a three hour coffee date instead of simply texting while I’m trying to make dinner. This place has always provided me with some room to really knead the gospel into a certain chapter of my life. And lately, my pages have been filled with learning to be a mother and a wife as our family grows.
However, I’ve been debating about publishing this particular post for quite some time.
Probably because it’s still really raw. And I’m still somewhere in the middle of it. And honestly? There are still days I go back to my draft folder and read it to myself. But it’s one of those hard lessons that feels bigger than me, so I decided to hit publish in case someone else needs to know they’re not alone in this season.
So here it goes.
Something about motherhood took me by surprise.
And no, this isn’t one of those “7 things no one told me about being a mother” blog posts … goodness knows I read almost a hundred of those while I was pregnant and I usually clicked away feeling a little underestimated. My goal here isn’t to insult or inform. I am simply wanting to invite anyone to join me in the freedom to struggle.
I’ve been a mother now for about four months (much longer if you count pregnancy, which I do). And boy, it has been a journey. Pregnancy was a thousand times harder than I thought it would be, labor was intense, and the first months home felt a like I was living in someone else’s life. None of it was void of grace. None of this is overshadowing the incredible treasure of the little life God has given us. But one thing has continued to plague my heart as the days turn into weeks turned into months:
Since becoming a mama, I didn’t know I would feel this much grief.
There. It’s out.
And no one gasped except me, right?
I’ve struggled for weeks to find the right word behind what I was feeling. I couldn’t even talk about it until recently because the only words I could find were a little scary. I was afraid of being labelled too quickly with postpartum depression or that someone might confirm all my doubts about whether I have what it takes to be a good mom. I’ve listened for hints of anything similar in conversations with other new moms, but God bless us, we are usually far too sleep-deprived to put two words together, much less trust a current “mood” because they fade in and out so quickly.
It’s really hard to know when to turn the truth loose, especially when people aren’t expecting it.
“How are you doing, girl? Loving motherhood?”
“Uhhhh, well. Right now I feel really stuck in grief.”
Can you imagine the crickets?!
It’s not that I felt/feel the absence of love or joy for my baby boy. It’s the strangest mixture of gladness and sorrow, wanting to laugh and wanting to cry, deeply loving my “here” and yet deeply looking for something back “there.”
I randomly stumbled across a very old journal entry that I wrote a few months after I got married. What I wrote back then felt strangely familiar in my current season:
Why does it feel like I’m grieving?
Yes. That’s what I feels like. But why on earth am I grieving? No one has died. But life has changed.
I don’t care how ready or prepared you are for change, it still stretches and pulls on you in ways you could never expect. I was as ready and excited about marriage as I have ever been about anything in my life — and it has required more honesty, energy, and adjustment than I could have ever prepared for. I slip my key into the front door of our apartment and it opens up into my “home” that still smells like someone else. I walk the short trails to the bathroom and then out to the kitchen and then over to the window; wandering around looking for a trace of familiar surroundings. Every morning my eyes open and graze up these walls and around the corners of these rooms — waiting with an eager heart for this to feel more like my home.
It will come one day. I’m sure.
And as much as I love the quiet around here, those voices that once filled my environment are deeply missed. Even if I did often feel alone in my own shared bedroom, their noises and giggles and arguments were something like a comfort for me. It was all I knew. And I know that they still laugh on in a house far away, where I no longer live. I still feel there … and here.
It was a good life that I’ll never forget or wish away. Yes, there were days I couldn’t breathe from the tension, but I love those people so much. And it feels so wrong for me to ache with something that feels so much like grief, because I am truly happy being Brian’s wife and I never want to be anywhere else but with him. Yet, I am sobbing all over my keyboard. When I say I miss them, it doesn’t mean I want to go back or leave what I have here.
It just means that I’m changing. And all change requires you to lose and gain. What we leave behind is much more familiar than what we are moving into. The past feels safe. The past is beautiful. But so is the present. Each day I wake up in this strange bed with the most familiar and lovely person in the world.
Maybe life doesn’t change as much as it requires us to change.
I once heard honest words;
“Though nothing may ever be the same
The heart keeps widening for change”
(Sleeping at Last)
As with motherhood, it’s the same feeling of my heart “widening” — the same paradox of grief and joy, the same tenderness of soul that makes me feel a little unsure and out of place.
Motherhood definitely fills your hands with good things — but it also requires you to leave some good things behind.
And sometimes we need space to grieve those things. We need to know it’s okay to grieve those things.
Just like we count the gifts, we count the cost too. Jesus never requires us to follow Him blindly; He encourages us to take a good look at what we are leaving behind — and make our choice based on what we consider the Greater Treasure.(It’s always Him.)
For me, I lost (even if temporary) feeling comfortable in my own skin. I lost the ability to care for Brian when/how I want to. I lost the freedom of following my creativity whenever inspiration hit. I lost the simple routine of going to sleep without fear of interruption. I lost the ease of errands and making plans and staying out late. I lost the familiar process I use when I spend time with Jesus. I lost the safety I found in uninterrupted conversations. I lost the joy I found in availability. I lost taking a shower when I want and eating breakfast before lunchtime and finishing an entire cup of coffee. I lost the idea of not needing any help.
Yes, some of these losses don’t seem like much, but oh how high they stack upon a grieving soul.
There were so many days it felt like I had traded my life for death. So. Many. Little. Deaths.
But in the ashes of those goodbyes, Jesus knows how to produce abundance. In those ashes, LIFE would spring up.
April 16th, 2016 — There are still moments when life feels too small to live within. I finish a feeding and count the hours until the next one, mentally walking through each chore and diaper and change of clothes and pacifier hunt that will need to happen before then. And sometimes I feel trapped in this routine, closed in by this little human’s needs, and life feels very small. My mind wonders when life will feel like “mine” again and I instantly collapse underneath heaps of guilt about such thoughts. So I suppress them and hope they will feel unwelcome and never return.
But I’ve got to face them. I’ve got to look into the face of what my life is right now and decide how I will treat it. Will I choose joy? Or will I resist asking for grace and function out of a sense of obligation until my strength wears thin?
Yes, perhaps life is small right now. It’s full of a million small moments that invite a big God to transform everything within me and around me. And I guess that’s where I start:
God, please change me. Transform my heart to see something different than what my selfishness sees. Provide me with the biggest joy possible within all these small moments. Help me not to become fixated on the duties of the next hour, but the delights that await me. Give me a big vision for this small life of mine.
Even in my darkest days, it’s not that I wanted to sink into a pit of despair and stay there.
I guess I was just looking for permission to grieve these things.
It’s okay to grieve all these little losses on my way to fully embracing the life I’ve been given now.
But as confessions of grief come, it’s important to gently lead my heart back to joy, back to divine purpose, back to the reality that this investment is worth it and life is not about creating a comfortable life but finding comfort in Jesus.
Occasionally weep deeply over the life you hoped would be.
Grieve the losses.
Then wash your face.
And embrace the life you have. — John Piper
It’s really hard to help someone who is grieving. It’s awkward. We don’t know what to say or do, probably because most of the time we don’t see any good in grief and we just want to rush them to Happiness ER as soon as possible. But I’ve learned that rushing someone through grief is like pouring concrete on their heart. It’s suffocates any life that’s trying to come through and basically freezes them in this one awkward spot.
So I’m learning to get those feelings out. To weep if I need to. To grieve it fully. To write into the pain.
One evening when I was in a stormy sea of these feelings, I heard it clear:
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. (John 12:24-26, ESV)
When I look at Jesus, I see how to do this grieving and dying and glorifying well.
He knew that the pathway to glory was through death.
He knew He could not bear this fruit without dying. And he invites us to join him.
It won’t be easy, but it will be significant. It won’t feel natural, but it will be eternal.
The grieving is what prepares us for the incredible joy. The ashes are what prepare us for abundance.