Making Space for Loss

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During this season of Advent and anticipation, I always pause to remember our miscarriage. How our plans suddenly weren’t perfect. How I learned to grieve something defined as “normal” and that happens to more than half of all pregnancies. I learned to grieve a loss that hadn’t even been joyously announced yet.

When we decided to start trying for a second baby, we looked at birthdays and work seasons and picked the perfect time to start trying. (I promise we are more romantic than it sounds!) We got pregnant as planned and, like most of my life, the timing seemed exact.

We were driving home from a weekend in Yellowstone when I knew something wasn’t right. After those anxious ten hours in the car, I called my doctor and the waiting began. Something I never realized about miscarriage is that it’s not instant—it, like labor, is a process. One in which I had to stop and let my body do what it needed to do.

I wonder if that is how Mary felt as she anticipated the birth of Jesus, that underneath the excitement and hope was a feeling of premature loss. A sense that she would have to grieve for this child too soon.

Especially during that first Christmas after, when we were pregnant with a healthy, viable baby, there was an overlying sense of hesitancy, like I couldn’t quite exhale into that blissful glow of pregnancy.

Sometimes, this same hesitancy shadows my hope for our world. I can get too bogged down in the news, whether it’s of politicians or natural disasters or the daily injustices my brothers and sisters experience. I want to be joyful, to remember my hope is in a greater story. A story that holds the cosmos dear and our own experiences closely. But sometimes I just can’t catch my breath, or I need to remember to exhale.

I wonder if, when Mary prayed, she heard God’s own fears, too? How did God-as-Mother feel about releasing the Christ-child into this world? How did God grieve the loss of a son before the world knew him? Perhaps it was similar to God grieving the loss of paradise before it was fully known. 

This season of Advent, in the darkness and candles, in the somber-yet-hopeful hymns, in the quiet anticipation of the Savior, it lends itself to deep breaths and exhales. We are remembering this season by waiting in anticipation for the Good News.

Several years have now passed since our miscarriage. As seasons and milestones are reached with our youngest, I remember that grief less and less. And yet, there are still moments that will always trigger that feeling. We drove to Yellowstone again this summer and on the way home, as I listened to my girls singing and laughing in the back of the car, I felt a twinge of remembering that long ride home.

I realized that grief isn’t over quickly, but takes time. Our emotions and our bodies need space to process and to react. I’m learning more and more that acknowledging grief is important to my relationships. When I grieve the loss of ideals or the loss of an opportunity, when grief encompasses how I interact with the world, I’m learning to give it time. To stop and allow this process to occur.

I suppose this is the importance of recognizing altars in our journey, to stop and mark places that change us. This is what has shifted the Christmas season most for me. It’s one of celebration and excitement, yes, but it has a layer of hesitancy as well—A time to stop and catch my breath. To pause and exhale. To remember that grief and joy are intermingled.

And so, as we engage in Advent and the anticipation of the Prince of Peace, I recognize that in the midst of decorations and cookies and parties and shopping, there is space made for the acknowledgment of loss. That our world isn’t perfect, that Jesus is still coming, and that holding space for that, is part of the celebration.

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Annie Rim
Annie lives in Colorado where she plays with her daughters, hikes with her husband, and writes about life & faith. She has taught in the classroom, at an art museum, and now in the playroom. You can connect with her on Twitter @annie_rim or on her blog: annierim.wordpress.com.
Annie Rim
  • I’m so intrigued by your description of Christmas as “an altar in our journey.” Every year, I experience that — the joy over what is, and the longing for what can never be. Your words make me realize that even this is an offering to God: the willingness to accept, with grace, the withholding or the removal of something we had desired. And I guess that’s what altars are for. Annie, thank you for this beautiful wisdom.

    • Thanks, Michele! I love the image of altars but am just learning to stop and recognize them – and then to honor them. As I learn more and more about the church calendar and how to observe it in my life, I’m finding the need for those altars more and more.

  • Annie, thank you for sharing your experience for those hurting this season. For giving us this reminder to hold on, that He is coming! Just beautiful…

    • Thank you, Nicole! So thankful that we have that hope to hold….

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  • I’m so sorry for your loss, and thank you for sharing. This year we lost a dear friend to suicide. Not the same, but a poignant advent and mingling loss with hope all the same. The pausing to sit in grief and to reflect is necessary in making our way back to joy, I think. Thanks for these words of truth.

    • Sitting in grief and allowing it to be present is how we find our way back to joy, isn’t it? I often want to brush over and move on, but there is the sacredness of grief. I’m sorry for your loss – you and your friends were in my prayers over the holidays.

  • Your words are beautiful and speak to my heart that has long wrestled with grief during the holidays while I attempt to make space for joy. You share honest words of hope from your personal lament. This might be my favorite you’ve written. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks for that encouragement, Debby! That’s the tension, isn’t it? Allowing for grief as we look toward joy…