Life After Loss

It has been a hard year for a lot of us.  In my life, the really hard years don’t come around very often, but when they do they hit hard and they suck. If you know me, you probably know me as a really happy person. It usually takes a lot to get me down, but once I get there, I tend to stay. For me, the past year has been about heartbreak and healing. This is my story about learning what it really means to be rescued and learning how to pray through pain.

It seems that eventually everyone will experience something that inevitably divides their life into two things: before and after. For some this is a joyous event like a move or the birth of a child. For others its a monumental occasion like a graduation or the beginning of a new job. And for many this is a life-altering tragedy that forever alters and changes a person. Until the last year of my life, I’ve always lived in a world where happiness was just there. It was easy. Life was great, and I was usually the most joyful person in the room without even trying. Looking back, I realize that I’ve now lived through my greatest fear: pain. Because I’d never suffered, I’d never known that surviving something painful was possible, so it terrified me. Having never experienced pain, however, also meant never experiencing the sweetness of rescue.

On September 11th, 2013, I received a phone call in the middle of the morning from my husband, Taylor. He was on his way home after having his department eliminated as a part of a mass layoff. As we absorbed the shock of his sudden unemployment, we stood in the kitchen crying, knowing that we were saying goodbye to 8 years of incredible security and the lifetime of opportunities we had always imaged that his job would bring to us.  It was no secret. Until that day, Taylor’s future as a businessman had always been bright. We may have questioned other things, but we never questioned his job. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized just how much trust I’d placed in his position and in this job. For the first time in our marriage, the future seemed shaky. It scared me, but we had savings. It was new territory for us, but also a new adventure we told ourselves. Besides, we had bigger things going on – I was pregnant.

My husband wasted no time. He didn’t even change out of his suit and tie before retreating to his office to work on his resume and start making calls about another job. I wasn’t worried. Whenever he would come downstairs to see me anxiously sitting on the couch he would tell me, “We’re just fine! Just focus on the baby!” So I did. For the past few months everything had revolved around the coming baby anyway, but this day it became our rock. Everything might be falling apart, but we still have this joy. Until later that night when I discovered that the loss of Taylor’s job wouldn’t be the most shocking and devastating part of our day. We had also lost our first child.

Waking up the next morning I remember thinking it couldn’t be real. People don’t lose their jobs and have miscarriages all at once. That doesn’t happen. It’s just too hard and that’s too much for anyone to handle all at once. But it was real, and that was the first time in my entire life that I truly didn’t think I could get out of bed. I was forced out of bed though, by complications brought on by the miscarriage, which led to days in and out of the hospital and excruciating physical pain. I’d never experienced anything like it. But nothing compared to my emotional pain. I didn’t even know how much I loved, wanted, or needed that baby until we lost it.  I had never known devastation like this, and it killed Taylor to see me so heartbroken. This was the first time in my life I wasn’t just able to smile and go on. Having always been a bright, happy person, I felt like such a failure.

For as long as I can remember I’ve always believed in God. I’ve always prayed, and I’ve always understood that God was with me. I never really had to rely on him though. Until last September, I hadn’t actually lived through anything that forced me to my knees in despair.  I’d never hurt so badly that the only prayer I could utter was to simply whisper, “Jesus.” After my miscarriage, though, there was nothing else. My heart was empty of everything outside of my dependence on Him. Looking back now, I see this year as not only the most painful and difficult year of my life, but it is also the year where I was truly rescued. This was the year where I really learned to see God, to know the depth of his love and the extent to which I need him. This is also the year where I learned to pray in a new and different way and it has changed my life.

So many things make sense now. Though Taylor’s job loss seemed like a weight stacked against us, it was actually God graciously providing us with a month of time to be together and heal. I can’t imagine surviving that first month of grieving without Taylor to hold me and cry with me. We needed that time, because the six months that followed were tough. Really tough. Taylor got a job, but it was emotionally, physically, and mentally draining. It took a great toll on our marriage and on Taylor personally. While he traveled and worked long hours, I was alone. It was the most alone I’d ever felt. Months after the miscarriage I was still not ok. Not only was I experiencing health problems, my husband was exhausted and stressed beyond a healthy limit. I was praying every day for peace, but I was confused.

Taylor and I were at a breaking point. Something had to change. Finally, after seeking the counsel of Mike and Victoria Dodson, our good friends and mentors, we decided to change the way we prayed. We’d prayed for peace and calm, but what is that really? How do you gauge that answered prayer? Sure, some days I felt peace and calm, but other days I experienced despair, or rage, or bitterness. It was time to stop praying vaguely and hoping to feel better. It was time to confront whether or not we really trusted God to listen and answer our prayers – real prayers.

So we started praying and we got specific. We decided exactly what we wanted out of Taylor’s job. We prayed for a clear answer on whether or not he should leave his current job. We prayed for a new opportunity to present itself within a certain time frame. We prayed for a new job with an exact salary by an exact date.

We started praying not that I would get over the miscarriage, but that we would have a child. We looked into adoption and asked God for an answer – a pregnancy or no pregnancy by Memorial Day.

This was terrifying. What if God didn’t give Taylor a new job? What if God made clear that I wasn’t meant to have children?  I thought that the more specifically I prayed that the more let down I would be with “no” for an answer. I thought surely the more I asked for the more disappointed I would be. What if God didn’t answer me at all? My doubting fearful heart was exposed to me more over this period of time than ever before. I realize now, however, that praying in this way didn’t set me up for disappointment. Instead, it helped me know Him in a more intimate, trusting way that I ever thought possible. Suddenly I stopped being afraid of God answering me with “no,” because I knew that no matter what, his answer was his will and I could rest in that.

We started praying specifically in January and by March God had answered our prayers. Not just one of them. He answered every single one. The details were incredible. He left no questions. Taylor now has a new job – one that is so much better than we ever could have imagined, and by Memorial Day, I was 12 weeks pregnant with a healthy baby.

This isn’t just a story with a happy ending because we ended up getting everything we wanted. This is a story that continues every single day. We are still praying specifically and often God tells us no. Just last week I received a firm “no” in fact.  But I’ve found such peace and freedom even in the “no.” I was always afraid of praying for something and not getting it. I thought that would push me to doubt or to a crisis of faith. Instead it has pushed me into a place of knowing that when God says no it is because his plan is infinitely more beautiful and perfect that mine.

I would have never asked for Taylor to lose his job. I would never have understood that losing a baby could all be part of a bigger, better plan. I would never wish these things on anyone, but looking back I know that we weren’t alone and those things didn’t happen because of bad luck or chance. What we have been through has definitely eased my fear of experiencing suffering or pain. Do I welcome or hope for it? Definitely not. But I know now in a way that I never did before that God will carry me through anything. There is no tragedy that can befall me that he did not foresee or allow in order to shape me into the person he wants me to be. I am exactly where I am supposed to be according to his sovereign will, and with him by my side, in my heart, and hearing my prayers, I know that no matter what I will be okay.

Doug Serven