Grief: Living with Unanswerable Questions

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by Tabitha Terlunen

[Trigger warning: Loss of a child]

I have both witnessed and been the recipient of miracles. I have felt God catch me when I stepped out onto the churning waters of faith. I believe in miracles, I know the theology, I can grasp the concept of divine will vs. a fallen world.

And then she died.

It was so unexpected that I have wondered if it still would have happened if I’d had some warning. What if I had known there was a problem and started to pray? Could I have a laughing, walking, babbling one-year-old now if only I had known that those pains weren’t the start of early labor or the discomfort of being 38 weeks pregnant? What if I had known they could instead be the only sign that a life barely begun was ending?

In the last year, I have questioned everything. Is God real? Did I make it all up? Can I trust God? I was left look unflinchingly at my own naked soul. I always believed that God was good when other people’s babies died. Was I going to abandon that hope when this sorrow is my own?

I long for the days when my faith felt unshakeable. Now, when the opportunity to pray for healing or protection comes, I flinch like a child who knows what it is to be hit. I am transported back to the maternity ward, my belly swollen as they told me, “I’m sorry, but there is no heartbeat.” I remember nodding, tears spilling down my face as I prayed they were wrong. A tiny part of me held on to hope even through the agony of delivery, even as I held my tiny, lifeless daughter in my arms. I prayed she would be like the daughter of Jairus. I prayed she would be a miracle. We named her Sunday.

I know how to be trite and how to recite pithy little sayings that make me look saintly and give God a PR boost. I could label the kindnesses we received from friends as miracles, or I could talk about how my daughter is now healed in heaven. These thoughts may have comforted me a little, but they are not enough to quench the holy thirst of grief. They don’t answer my unanswerable questions. They don’t help me ascertain the reason why some Christians are #blessed when they pick the shortest line at the grocery store and yet others are not redeemed from violence or poverty or illness, regardless of their fervent faith.

I am a citizen of the Already-But-Not-Yet Kingdom of Heaven. I live in the tension of God dwelling in my heart and yet longing for Jesus to return and wipe these tears. I cannot wrap my head around why I have securities that others don’t, or why my baby is gone when others were saved. I must cling to another hope. The promise of healing can feel fluid and nebulous, but my trust remains in the steadfast assurance of Emmanuel, the God-With-Us. Whether I am rejoicing at a loved one’s recovery or weeping over my lost baby, He is with me. It is the only hope I have.

So, I keep asking, seeking, knocking—I keep walking forward towards the promised joy. Grief is a companion on my journey, but not the director of my fate. Grief has swelled inside my heart and expanded it, but it has not broken me forever.

My husband tells me that Hope is a memory of the future; a desire that the things we once enjoyed and knew for certain will one day be true again. God is with me. God is the only hope I have.

_______________________

Tabitha
I’m Tabitha. I live on the wild West Coast of Vancouver Island with my husband, son, and half a dozen animals. I love feeding a crowd, but I hate cleaning the house. I read Harry Potter and justice theology. You’ll never catch me without a hot drink in my hand and a book in my purse.  You can find me on Instagram @tabithaterlunen.

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