When you are sad, cry.

On the drive home this morning, I decided not to turn on the radio. I wanted to cry, instead, and I didn’t want to be distracted.

We’re fine. Thank God, we’re not dealing with floods and sinkholes and wild boars and floating fire ants, and we’re not refugees or victims of famine. I’m just sad because, among other reasons, I left my five-year-old off at kindergarten for the first time. In her excitement, she ran too fast, tripped, and scraped her knee. With a bloody cut and a hole in her tights, she suddenly lost courage, and so did I; so we clung to each other a little longer than I planned. It’s a tiny, manageable loss, this child heading off to school. But I did want to cry on the way home.

We sometimes want to erase grief immediately, to send an emergency brigade out with a firehose to wash things clean. When a mother miscarries, for instance, she may report to her doctor that she cries, feels sad, and is having a hard time sleeping. I’m not talking about months down the road; I’m talking about grieving immediately after the death of a child. Of course she feels sad. But a doctor’s response is often, “You are depressed. Let me write you a prescription so you feel better.”

Let me be clear. When grief and sorrow are debilitating, antidepressants are a godsend. If sorrow lasts too long and has too much power, it can become paralyzing depression, which roots itself deep in your psyche and separates you from living a full life. I have been on antidepressants myself, and so have some of my family members. Some people castigate mental health drugs as artificial or as a mere band-aid, but in many cases, they can truly heal and restore us to health, to our true selves.

But grief and sorrow are not in themselves pathological. They are, in fact, the only appropriate responses to death, to grief, to separation. I forget the context, but Florence King once skewered oafish do-gooders who couldn’t even wait for the blood to stop flowing before they lept in howling, “Let the healing begin!” There’s nothing healthy about trying to erase grief before it can even declare itself.

That’s why I didn’t want to be distracted by the radio this morning, even though I knew it would stave off tears. Distractions don’t heal grief; they merely chase it into hiding, where it eventually morphs into something uglier, and harder to live with than tears.

We are afraid of grief, and rightly so; but we should also be afraid of losing the ability to feel, and the ability to understand ourselves. When we chase grief away the moment it appears, we are deliberately blinding ourselves to some true part of our own lives. No good can come of that. When we don’t know ourselves, we aren’t free.

Maybe it’s easy for me to say so, while my sorrows are small. But I take my cue from the Psalms, where people with big sorrows also felt free to pour them out without reserve. They wanted the healing to begin, yes, but not before they had their say:

“Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?
    Look around and see.
Is any suffering like my suffering
    that was inflicted on me,
that the Lord brought on me
    in the day of his fierce anger?

13 “From on high he sent fire,
    sent it down into my bones.
He spread a net for my feet
    and turned me back.
He made me desolate,
    faint all the day long.

[…]

16 “This is why I weep
    and my eyes overflow with tears.
No one is near to comfort me,
    no one to restore my spirit.
My children are destitute
    because the enemy has prevailed.”

It is good to sit with sorrow for a while. I know it’s not a new idea, and not a ground-shaking one, but maybe you need to hear it today. If you are sad, let yourself cry. If someone you love is sad, don’t try to steamroll them into healing right away. Sorrow has its place, and sorrow will have its due.

I so imperfect

resentful

You can start over even if you’re not sure God loves you. You can start oven even if you’re not sure He should.

And you don’t have to run. You can shamble over resentfully. You can sidle in doubtfully. You can skulk in with fear, doubt, despair, or even rage. As long as you go because you’re acknowledging that things are not good as they are, then that is good enough. It may not feel like it is enough, but that is what Christ has promised.

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly.

Image: photo credit: trepelu toes (detail) via photopin (license)

Not lost forever: Miscarriage, grief, and hope

felt-baby

We have reason to hope that even those little, innocent ones who never had eyes to see the light of day or the waters of baptism will be welcomed into heaven as well, not smuggled in the pockets of a low-ranking god, but recognised and called by name back home by their Father who made them.

Still, we are human. It is not wrong to look for physical reminders of abstract truths.

Read the rest of my latest for the Catholic Weekly.

A long Holy Saturday

Last night, I was cold and couldn’t sleep, so I snuggled up against my husband, who is always warm. When I’m pregnant, I like to press my belly against him so that we can all be warm all together, me and him and the baby.  “Here you go, little guy.  This is your daddy.  You will like him.”  Then, last night, I remembered that there is no baby.

There is no wild anguish here. I’m just tired, and bewildered.  I was so busy for those seven weeks, I sometimes forgot I was even pregnant, even though we wanted, tried for a baby. I hadn’t gotten around to even looking up what the little one was up to, week to week.  But I worked deliberately to make him real, when I remembered he was real:  I asked God to bless him.  I thanked God for him. I talked to him, and gave him a little happy pat when I remembered he was there.

Here is the thing that really hurts. I never saw the baby. I don’t know where he went.  I lost track of his body as I bled, and now he is gone.  Those are the worst nightmares:  the wave comes, the darkness falls, the crowd sweeps by, and your child is gone.  Where did he go?  Why didn’t I hold on tighter?  My husband would have gone and dug up the frozen ground to bury the body, but there is nothing to bury.  He has been washed away, and I don’t even know when.  Maybe he died weeks ago, when he was too little to be seen.  Maybe I was happily patting someone who was already gone.

It wouldn’t change anything if I could have buried him. But I wish I could have done it.

I’m trying to hear the voice of the angel — the one who stands waiting outside the tomb to explain the situation, so that when you go to take care of the body and find it gone, you will know that there haven’t been wild animals or grave robbers or some trickery or indignity.  You haven’t lost the body; the body has life.  He is not here, but he is not gone.  Don’t worry!  This is a good thing.  You cannot have his body, but you have not lost him.

I’m in a long Holy Saturday.  A bewildering time.  God promised joy, He promised resurrection, but in the mean time, what are we supposed to do?  It is hard when the ones we love hide from us.  They don’t need our care.

I want the baby to have eternal life.  And I want him back.