Truth be told: this session was a CHALLENGE. This is a grief I’ve not personally known, but I know that it is painful. I was deeply worried that the images I produced would be cliché, silly looking, or at their worst – triggering. Could I truly honor their grief and pain while also capturing their strength and joy? July 19th. Eight days after losing their first child, they met me at the top of Pilot Mountain to give me the opportunity to capture their moment. It was pretty toasty under the beating sun, but you hardly noticed because of the beauty of their moment. A moment of letting go. A moment of healing. A time of praying and trusting. Their way of learning to acclimate their life to the fresh grief they bore. So raw and vulnerable.
When I found out, I texted AND called her to make sure she was getting support. We cried together as she updated me and explained to me what happened. I didn’t have the words and I told her that. I gave her the room to tell me to stop talking if I said something insensitive or spoke about my own children too much (after realizing I couldn’t avoid them in conversation). Our children whether held in our arms or the arms of Jesus change us and reshape us. Our lives shift the moment they arrive, nestled in our womb.
People have called me brave and applauded my efforts and how I’ve supported my friend who is publicly grieving. I’ve been thanked for being so supportive by multiple people. And I have to be honest, I don’t get the applause and praise. I just don’t. I’m not unappreciative. I’m glad I’m making an impact. But, I don’t see my actions as a special or brave response. To me, I am responding as Jesus does. He grieves our loses and pain (John 11:34-35). Yes, a bereaved parent’s grief is way different than my own. But, it’s still grief. There are tears to be shed. There are hearts to be held. There is truth to be spoken. There is coffee/tea to be had. As a human who has experienced pain, I can do all of those things. And that is possible for me to do because He has comforted me in my grief and given me the capacity to do the same for anyone (2 Cor. 1:3-4). Literally, any affliction. We don’t have to experience something to provide comfort and support. At least not in Christ. In him, we can go to our neighbor in grief and be beside them offering comfort and support. (Talk about loving your neighbor as yourself.)
In our grief there is joy, change, growth, and a world of emotions. We are fully equipped to go to our neighbor and provide comfort in all of those things. We are sustained by a loving father who has given us this undeserving gift of comfort and joy in the storm. A joy that is our strength. A joy that reminds us of the hope we have. A comfort that is healing and loving. And of course, if you’re in a place of grieving or have suppressed your grief, you probably aren’t in a place to add on your neighbor’s grief and that is okay. God doesn’t ask us to do that. He wants you to come to him in your grief – suppressed or not – and receive his comfort and healing. It is at that point you are equipped to provide the same.
During this session, I gave them space to let balloons go as an act of trusting the Lord and releasing their baby to him. She explained to me the next day that they woke up in a much better place and expressed a sense of relief. Which I am so grateful for.
So, if you’re able – reach out. Even though it is hard and uncomfortable, just prayerfully reach out to your grieving neighbor. They need support and if they reject your offer, it’s okay. Everyone grieves differently and needs the space to do so. Prayers are wonderful. You can pray all day long if you want to. Especially if the person you’re weeping over isn’t up for company, across the world, or is a person you don’t even know. But, if your neighbor is within arms reach, don’t shy away and pray at home. Don’t stay behind your computer or phone screen sending digital condolences. Offer prayer and support right there. Be willing to go to their home and sit with them. Be willing to make them a meal. Follow up with them. If you haven’t heard from them in a while, check on them. You’ve been comforted by God so that you can go and do the same.