We make many choices. And many are made for us. We chose to try to get pregnant. We didn't choose which egg and sperm would create our baby. God chose to bless us with Chloe. We didn't choose for her to have severe Down Syndrome. We didn't choose to have her die in the womb. We don't have a choice about our circumstances. But we have a choice in how we respond to our circumstances.
If someone told me that the first few weeks after our loss I would have wanted to punch them. But it is true. And I'm glad that I'm in a place where I understand that fact. I'm even more thankful that God has given me the strength to make good choices and be strong in situations that have been difficult. It is truly His power, not mine, that has enabled me to get through the last few months.
We have a choice about our attitude and our perspective. We have a choice to heal or to hide from our pain. This choice came to my attention during our Empty Arms Support Group meeting last week. One of the moms shared how difficult it is to be at her childrens events when she is still hurting. She said, "I don't have a choice." She has to care for her living children by going to their school events and social occasions. Another mom mentioned that she does have a choice. She could choose not to be there for her living children. She could hide in the house for the rest of her life and keep her children with her. She has a choice, and she is making a choice by being a good mom to her children in the midst of her grief. It really hit me when she said we DO have a choice. I hadn't really considered it before.
When my mom died I didn't know how to grieve. I didn't really know that I had a choice, because I didn't know there were other options. I didn't know about support groups or anyone else who had lost a parent. So, I chose what was in front of me because I didn't know what else to do. I just went on with life without addressing the loss or the pain. And I found that doesn't work. It keeps us stuck emotionally if we don't deal with our "stuff." And we end up with a lot of people who are emotionally still children but in adult bodies.
This time around, intellectually, I guess I knew that I had a choice. I could choose to hide from my grief. Pretend the last few months never really happened and just move on with life. I could choose to numb the pain with alcohol or pills. There are a lot of options. But those choices don't have any chance of a happy ending. They just postpone the pain and create more problems. And those choices would keep me from the things I really want in life. They are options, but I choose to do something else.
My choice is to walk through the pain. To feel it. To talk about it. To acknowledge it. Even when it feels like it is so heavy and painful that I could literally split in two. Because if I don't I will lose even more. I've already lost my daughter. I don't want to lose years of my life hiding from reality. I don't want to lose relationships because I'm more committed to my pain and loss than I am to my blessings and provisions. My choice is to live. Chloe didn't have that choice. But her Dad and I do, and we owe her a life well lived. In honor of her. It would be even more of a waste if our friends and family lost Jose' and I along with Chloe.
This really hit home for me when I talked with a friend about a similar situation. Someone in her life experienced a loss like ours and the woman made a different choice. She chose to numb her pain with pills. She didn't grieve the loss of her baby, she chose to "check out" of life. She numbs her pain and is in a constant fog because of the drugs. She doesn't feel the pain, she probably doesn't feel much of anything. She isn't even the same person. Her friends and family lost her when she lost her baby. It breaks my heart. We have a choice. I wish she had made a different choice. But, the choice is ours alone to make.
On Sunday, Jose' and I were in the prayer room and someone came for prayer for her new baby. We had been pregnant at the same time, but I don't think she remembered that and she didn't remember our loss either. I was a little nervous about my ability to pray for her without breaking down so I asked another couple to pray for them. I made a choice.
Then a teenage girl came in for prayer. There was no one else available so I sat down with her and asked her how I could pray for her. When she told me she was four months pregnant and terrified I was taken aback. Not because she was pregnant and unwed, but because I was surprised that God would choose to have me pray for someone under these circumstances so soon after our loss. Did He chose to have me pray for her or did He choose for me to pray with the first couple but I said "no"? I don't know the answer.
Because of my choice with the first opportunity to pray, my choices were kind of limited at this point. I don't believe in coincidence so I knew that God had a reason for this scared young woman to come for prayer and that God would be with me as I prayed for her. So, I silently prayed "Help me Lord," caught my breath and then prayed for her. Truly, half the time I didn't know what I was saying. God was with us both in that room. He gave me the words to support, comfort and encourage her. She doesn't know my story and she probably never will. But I hope to see her again and that she has a healthy baby that she will dedicate to the Lord. I hope that she will make the best choices she can. We all have a choice. Not that it is easy. But I think the benefits of making the best choices out way the challenges.
Later that day I was thinking about the entire experience. "Why Lord? Why me? Why now? Don't you think it is a little early for this type of challenge?" I don't have answers for any of the questions. But I was reminded about "choices." I had a choice, I could have said no. In fact, I did say no to the first opportunity to pray. And with this young girl, I still could have said, "I can't pray for you, let me tell you what just happened to me". I could have broken down and started crying and made it more about me than her. I had a choice. But what good would that have been? It wouldn't have helped her and it wouldn't have been good for me.
I didn't choose the road we are on. But I can choose how I make the trip. I don't plan to skip down the road smiling like nothing happened. But I do plan to move forward. And when there are flowers to smell and enjoy on the way, I plan to enjoy them as often as I remember to stop and take the time. And if there are people that need help along the way, I would like to be able to help them. That means that I have to work through my own "stuff." If I don't, I won't be of any use to others.
People are watching. What do they see? I can't live my life worrying about what other people think of me. But it is good to be aware. What message does my life communicate? They will notice how I choose to live my life. My niece and nephew will notice. My friends will notice. Colleagues will notice. And what will they see?
I want them to see someone who is real. Not perfect. Not "together" all the time. But someone who recognizes that life is hard. But life is also good. And that God is good all the time. Someone that doesn't have all the answers, but isn't afraid to ask the questions. Someone that struggles with giving up control, but is learning and growing each year. Someone that is moving forward. Someone that makes mistakes, but doesn't give up. Someone with hope and a future. Someone who tries to make the "best" choice as often as possible.
We all make choices. And everyone has an audience that is watching how they live. They probably won't ever tell you, but they notice. I know because we have heard so many comments from people who have walked this journey with us and have shared their observations of how we have handled our challenges.
And that woman that came in for prayer was watching too. She didn't know what to expect. She was scared and uncertain and in need. And my reaction sent a message to her about who she was. If I chose to focus on my pain, I couldn't have been there to help her with hers. Putting my pain aside for a few minutes was the best gift I could give her. And the only reason I could put my pain aside for a few minutes is because of the healing that has taken place. The first few weeks the pain was huge and raw and I would never have been able to support someone else. But God has been working in me and healing my pain. I've been doing the grief work that needs to happen to heal and move forward. And only through that healing can I be of help to others. And I choose to do the work so that I might be able to help others.
Choices. In some ways, I guess they are more important than circumstances. For someone that likes control, I suppose it is nice to know that we are in control of something. I am in control of how I choose to live my life and respond or react to what happens. I won't always make the right choice, but I'm thankful there are second chances and that we have the choice to learn from our mistakes.
I choose to live. I choose to honor Chloe's life by sharing her story and being a light to others who are hurting. I choose to continue through the grief process until I'm at the end. I choose to remember my little girl. I choose to have the courage to try to give her a brother or a sister even though the thought scares me at times. I choose to move forward. Remembering the past, with hope for the future.
I choose to live the life I've been given.
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