miscarriage – a unique grief


If you’ve ever had a miscarriage, or intimately known someone who has, you’ll know it brings a unique type of grief. 

Discovering you’re pregnant is a giddying experience. The combination of hormones and hope; anticipation and mild panic brings a range of emotions and there’s a sudden rush to a reimagining of your future from that moment forward. In 9 months I’ll be a mother, in 6 years I’ll be a school mum, in 14 years I’ll have a teenager, in 20+ years I might have raised the next Prime Minister or the scientist who’ll cure cancer or a heart that will embrace the broken and the marginalised; or my best friend. 

The early stages of pregnancy do strange things to your body – growing a tiny human will do that. For me, it meant nausea that reduced my appetite – turning me into a perpetual grazer and a weariness that settled on me and wouldn’t shake no matter how much I rested or slept. 

The news of a miscarriage is so clinical. It’s just a black blob on the ultrasound. The potential for life has ended. Almost as quickly as possibility has been conceived it is dead. The whiplash of emotions can be profound. (read more here)

If you listen to the stories of miscarriage the grief is often marked by an isolation or loneliness. So often both the pregnancy and miscarriage happen even before an announcement is made and so it is intensely private. Many times the celebrations and excitement have been held within a tight circle of family and friends – heeding popular advice to wait until the first trimester is reached and the chances of the pregnancy reaching full term become greater. But these things can contribute to others not engaging as personally in the loss when they haven’t had opportunity to connect with the joy and potential. 

For some, like me, the oft assured temporary ‘set back’ of loss – waiting for new timing, second chances – turns into long term childlessness. The miscarriage becomes a brief flirtation with the experience of parenthood. A promise whispered, but silenced. 

For others who are fortunate to conceive again and meet their little one – the grief mingles strangely with joy. Perhaps due dates are forgotten as birth dates get celebrated. Perhaps there is a struggle to hold the public celebration of new life in tension with the seeming disregard for lost life. One so much more tangible than the other. 

When I reflect on my own journey and hear the stories of others’ I am struck by the common thread of unspoken or forgotten grief. I am constantly surprised by the eagerness to share their experience, to speak of the loss, to name their expectations, to recall the deep sadness; to question and doubt. So many words waiting to find ears and hearts to land on. 

So I’m led again to share these thoughts and ponderings. Maybe they spark a familiar feeling. Maybe they serve as an invitation. Maybe they touch an ache harboured deeply in a heart. Maybe they serve as unknowing preparation. Maybe they help. 

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I can’t believe I don’t have a baby 


I’m over 40 and I’m Single and childless …and I just can’t believe it. 

Sometimes I am hopeful that might change, sometimes I’m quite at peace and content if it doesn’t, sometimes I’m overwhelmed with the grief and sadness of it – but mostly, I just can’t believe it. 

I just can’t understand how this is the way my life has gone! All I’ve ever wanted to be is a wife and mother. Instead, I continue to experience so many other amazing things that I didn’t expect, or even imagine would be part of my life. I have so many other roles – a friend, an Aunty, a Pastor, an author, a speaker, a leader, a traveller – I love so much about my life. But I just can’t believe I’m not a mum. 

I love babies. I love children. They seem to love me (well most of them). They run to give me hugs, they fall asleep in my arms; they each have their special nicknames, hugs and traditions. I have a well-developed ability to sleep literally anywhere (including standing up – true story) at any time which I am sure would be a handy skill to have as a sleep-deprived new mum. I have a full heart and an empty home.

I am supremely confident of God’s nearness and His love. He leads me, He defends me, He grows me in wisdom and in His grace. He comforts me. He blesses me abundantly. While I completely trust His plans and purposes for my life, I don’t completely understand them. I’m sure He knows what I long for. 

I can’t believe I don’t have a baby. 

My Singleness doesn’t feel like it has an end date. I can marry at any time – and I hold the deep hope that I will on an open hand. There’s a biological reality to my capacity to conceive and carry a child on which the window is rapidly closing, or may have already closed. 

I can’t believe I’m not a mum. 

I think it’s okay to say that out loud. I feel like it’s healthy to express that in context to a greater sense of contentment and peace. Because the sense of disbelief is actually the feeling that rises most regularly. Sometimes it’s so strong it physically arrests me and I literally stop what I’m doing and shake my head – I’m sure I have a confused expression on my face. 

And then? Well, then I take the next step forward into whatever else is happening and whatever else is coming. 

I WILL celebrate Mother’s Day


This Sunday would have been my 14th Mother’s Day. An early term miscarriage saw the hope of that ignited and then grieved (& grieved again, differently, surprisingly; sporadically over the years). 

I still find it hard to believe that I’m not a mother. As I move deeper into my forties I am forced more often to face the biological realities but for the most part I’ve just lived with an expectation that (husband &) children would be part of my world. 

And then comes Mother’s Day. 

In many ways it’s a day that represents the hopes and dreams that are deep in my heart and the grief that those are unrealised. There’s a wistfulness; a longing that is undeniably present. Envy and jealousy rear their heads. I wish for the hand drawn cards, the dodgy school stall gifts, the crumbs in the bed from a delivered breakfast. And even more than that, just the day to pause and whisper in my heart “I am a mother” and celebrate all that it would mean for me to be that. 

The reality of Mother’s Day is that it’s a hard day for many. Those grieving the loss of their own mothers – to death or broken relationship, struggling with infertility, facing difficult family dynamics, processing illness (etc) often approach Mother’s Day with fear, anxiety or an overwhelming desire to hide away and avoid. 

But here’s the decision I’ve made and make again this weekend. I WILL celebrate Mother’s Day. 

Of course, I will celebrate my Mother (who I am abundantly grateful for) but I will also celebrate my friends who are mothers. Because I love them and I love that they have produced mini-thems and I want to champion them in this infinitely important role. I will help lead our church in honouring our mums and encourage them with the full resource of the church to keep Mum-ing well. This Sunday, we will cheer for all the women in our church who “mother” us – with their love and care, their modelling of Christian womanhood, their role in the lives of women and girls (& guys alike) needing the investment and wisdom they offer. 

I know some will disagree with me but I don’t think we ought to care for our non-mothers or those grieving in our midst by not celebrating those who are mothers. I believe the idea that we might not acknowledge mothers in deference to those who are wounded and hurting isn’t what family (in its broadest sense) is meant to look like. 

Rejoice with those who rejoice. Mourn with those who mourn. Rom 12:15

Do we not celebrate someone who graduated from university because not everyone has? Do we not high five someone who ran a marathon because not everyone has? Do we not congratulate someone on their 90th birthday because not everyone lives to celebrate theirs? No. That would be crazy. Families are full of people with a diverse range of experiences – both positive and negative – and one of the things that makes us family is our ability to journey the breadth of those experiences with one another. Where we carry one another in our grief and difficulty and we multiply joy by celebrating one another’s successes and wins.

Our tendency toward comparison and the associated emotional processing means that a day like Mother’s Day can make us feel more of the grief and heart-sickness of longing and loss – but our reality is actually unchanged from this Sunday to the next. In reality I am just as likely to feel the pang of jealousy watching a mum with her child at a cafe this afternoon as I am to feel it while the mothers stand to be acknowledged on Mother’s Day at church. 

I don’t mean to diminish the significance of the day – I just dearly hope to bring some perspective that might free us to more genuinely celebrate others as we ought. 

So, let’s celebrate our mums this weekend because they are worth celebrating. Let’s be sensitive to those who will struggle with this day (hot tip – don’t assume anything – ask lots of questions to help you best connect with someone for whom Mother’s Day may – or may not – be difficult. Let them direct you.) Let’s see this day as one of many in the life and journey of our family – where everyone gets a turn to be celebrated and those who need the extra love and support find that amongst us too. 

Drawer of Dreams 

There’s a drawer at the bottom of my side table that I haven’t opened in years … but I know its contents by heart. 

There are several white newborn-sized onesies. A rattle in the shape of a plush teddy from my mum. Six pairs of tiny white socks. Two bibs, one grow suit, a calendar, a book of poetry and the book “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”. 

I was at the doctors for a routine check up – over 13 years ago – when I off-handedly mentioned some symptoms I’d been experiencing; nausea, breast tenderness and fatigue. Trying desperately to contain her mocking, the doctor patiently joined the dots for me. She suggested a urine test which revealed I was pregnant. 

Only just. But just enough. 

I know it’s not commonly considered prudent to tell anyone too early but I excitedly shared the news with my family. Later that week while spending time with my mum, we couldn’t resist popping into a couple of stores. We excitedly made our clandestine purchases and the secret stash was hidden away … just as those little cells were hidden in my body and already growing in my heart. 

A week later I experienced some “spotting”. An ultrasound revealed normal growth for the stage we were at but it was too early for a heartbeat to be detected. I was told to come back a week later and I lay on the sonographer’s table with excited anticipation …only to be brusquely told that the baby had not grown beyond the small sack that was evident the week before. 

“There’s nothing there.” 

That’s exactly what he said. 

“There’s nothing there.”

Two weeks later as I lay on a hospital gurney in recovery, the first thing I did as I came out from under the anaesthesic was to touch my hand to my stomach. It felt hollow and empty. I wept. There really was nothing there. 

So now those items lie hidden in my drawer. Rarely touched. Not required. 

I don’t know what to do with them. 

Initially I couldn’t much bear to look at them. Then they moved in my mind to “just waiting”. Waiting for God’s timing. For second chances. But my status has changed and many years have passed.

Sometimes I’ve wondered about giving them to someone else. A close friend who is pregnant; a welcome gift for a precious new bundle. But I hesitate – would that be weird? 

Maybe I should box them up: squirrel them away in a dusty corner of my garage? I’m not sure how I’d feel to come across them again some day in the future. And besides, what would I do with them then?

But can I just throw them out? What does that mean? It seems such a waste. It seems so …resigned. 

It feels like these physical things and the conundrum of what to do with them are a metaphor for the dreams they represent. 

What do I do with the desire to have a husband and a baby? What does “waiting on God” look like? When is it time to “throw out” the dream? When should I, and indeed how do I, give up the hope or grieve the loss? 

It is hard to want something so badly that is so far out of reach or my own control. It’s hard to hold in tension a complete surrender to God’s perfect will and plans with a perfectly natural desire and, for me, a deeply held hope. 

I guess it’s ok to have the little drawer of things – out of sight, largely out of mind – it’s not a “shrine”; it isn’t in the way of anything else. And I wonder if that’s not the same way God would have me hold the dream itself? Tucked away in a little part of my heart and mind – not consuming or impeding; not stopping me from embracing the fullness of the plans and purposes He might have for me aside from the gift of my own family. 

“12 thoughts of Christmas” #6: Things are Different Now

Like millions of others, my heart has broken watching the news reports and hearing the stories out of the horrific school shooting in Connecticut, USA. Amongst many other things I’ve processed in the wake of this tragic event, I have found myself thinking about what Christmas will look like for those families. My heart and mind can’t really wrap themselves around all that would be impacted by such trauma and such intense grief and loss.

The reality for many families is that Christmas could look a lot different for you this year than it did last year. You may have moved house or town. You might have experienced loss through the death of a family member or friend. You might have aged parents who are now in care, a sick loved one who is hospital bound, relatives that are overseas or interstate, a relationship that has ended. So much could be different about this Christmas – and if that’s the case for you, it’s a good idea to identify that and process it in intentional and inclusive ways.

People will react to change in a whole raft of different ways. It depends on personality, resilience, emotional maturity, levels of support (perceived or real) and all manner of other factors. Children will also react to change in unique ways but are often impeded in their processing by their capacity to identify and articulate emotions, feelings, fears or thoughts. Some suggestions for self-reflection and/or discussion.

  • Consider what has changed in your family since last Christmas and acknowledge that together. Even if something changed 11 ½ months ago, it may still alter the landscape of your Christmas gathering.
  • Discuss the part that person or situation played in the way you celebrated Christmas last year. Perhaps you had cousins spend the day with you that are now living interstate and won’t be here. Or maybe you lived in a different house that lent itself to certain decorations or activities. Maybe someone who has passed away had a special job at Christmas – they manned the BBQ or handed out the presents, they brought the fruit salad or they led the family Carol singing session.
  • Make a plan for how you will handle that particular difference. Decide in advance who will take on the role or how you will change your celebrations to cope without it being done. Communicate the plan clearly with all who are impacted.
  • Identify the emotions that are attached to the change. Obvious ones would include sadness and grief – but there could be anger, guilt, loneliness, fear, insecurity, hopelessness etc – possibly even relief or happiness. Giving permission for people to feel what they are feeling is a gift that can often bring great release and healing.
  • Be intentional about honouring what HAS been whilst celebrating all that is. New situations, new friends and family to celebrate with, new physical environments all lend themselves to exciting opportunities to add new traditions and memories to your Christmas gathering.
  • Remember that while much may have changed in your life, God has not! He is the same God yesterday, today and forever. He sees everything, knows everything, is not surprised by anything and offers us infinite love, grace and compassion as we process our way through a broken world. Immanuel – God is with us!

When the tough times come

Recently I spoke with a 29 year old woman. She is married with a young family and is wrestling with very real faith/theological issues. When she looks back on her life and the hurts and hurdles she’s faced, she wonders where God was during those times.

It’s an all too familiar question – among many believers, for non-Christians, for those walking away from Christian community and faith – ‘where was/is God in my suffering?’

My own life journey is spotted with moments of deep personal tragedy and trial: my parents’ divorce, the deaths of my Grandparents, life in a difficult blended family, a destructive and broken marriage, a miscarriage – times of intense grief and loss, great disappointment and hurt.

It was around the time of my maternal Grandparents’ deaths (they were killed together in a car accident when I was 11) that I first recall learning the verse from Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. My parents spoke it to us – we even knew a song about it that we would sing around the house. In ALL THINGS God works for the GOOD of those who love Him. All things, all times, always and all ways. We believed it. And so we entered a period of grief and loss with an expectancy that God was at work for good amongst it. We anticipated seeing Him working a tragic situation for His glory and we were not disappointed.

Years later, in the grip of a painful divorce the same truth rang in my heart. God is working for good. Somewhere in the mess, hurt, disappointment and fear His light is shining, His love is prevailing, His purposes are unfolding, His will is coming to pass. I looked for it. I expected it. And I saw God bring the most incredible healing, beauty and redemption – not only in my own life but, by His grace, in the lives of others too.

God works all things together for good.

It’s not a quick fix remedy. Hurt will come. Hardships befall everyone. We experience the darkest nights and the deepest of pains.

It’s about having a belief that nothing in God’s economy is ever wasted. The knowledge that even if we don’t see it with our own eyes or fully understand it in our life time – He is constantly at work for good in all things.

Just a thought …

Back to the woman I was talking with. I completely trust that God will help her to see that He has been working for good in her life – even when she thought she was alone. But I am grateful that I knew going IN to suffering that God would be there.

As parents and leaders we have the chance to instil such a belief in our young people.

Contrary to the cultural expectation of Gen Z – life will not always be easy. There is a real and present enemy, in a world set for decay – bad things will happen to ‘good’ people – we can expect that.

But ALWAYS God is working for our good. We can help our children develop the skill of seeing His activity in amongst great sadness and confusion. We can lay a firm foundation; a surety in the love of God expressed most potently in Jesus, an understanding that we will face big and small challenges in our lifetimes but that our God is bigger still. We can share with them the stories of His faithfulness in difficult times. We can grow in them an expectation that in the deepest of hurts and the greatest of losses God is at work to bring about his will and purposes. What an incredible opportunity!!