Allowing Ourselves and Others to Grieve

Today’s post is written in reflection upon some of the responses my Des Moines Moms Blog post received yesterday. (If you haven’t read that post, “A Scar That Remains: Living with the Emotional Pain of Unplanned Cesarean,” you may want to take a moment to now….)

In that post, I publicly acknowledged for the first time that the unplanned cesarean which brought my beloved son safely into this world is still a source of (secret) grief to me. I have spent the past seven years attempting to hide a scar that hasn’t completely faded and that maybe never will.

I have been afraid to admit its existence because I wasn’t sure if it was “right” for it to be there. Are my feelings of regret and disappointment justified? I thought. After all, my perfectly healthy son was delivered safely to me, wasn’t he? And he and his three younger sisters are all alive and well and filling my heart with joy every day, aren’t they? And besides, what’s so terrible about unplanned Cesarean, anyway?

These are the questions that left me feeling guilty for my feelings and therefore unable to acknowledge them… for seven years. And when I finally found the courage to face my feelings–inexplicable as they may be–I was met by just the same objections from some others which I had battled from myself.

I’m okay with that. As a blogger, I open myself up to certain criticisms or misunderstandings because… let’s face it… people don’t always see eye to eye.

But it got me to thinking. Why is it that we have a problem with letting other people have feelings? Why do we feel the need to compare our griefs, calling only the greatest of them permissible and justified?

Have I limited the “rights” of others to feel hurt and disappointment? I know that I have, though inadvertently. My natural tendency is to be an encourager–a perspective-changer. But I’m learning that sometimes what a hurting person needs is simply for others to see her perspective… and to be okay with it.

I’m not suggesting that we allow ourselves or others to wallow in grief, and neither am I suggesting that there isn’t a time and a place for perspective-changing encouragement. (I am the eternal optimist and the author of “Eternal Outlook [with Angela],” after all.) But I do think that there is something very healing in the simple acknowledgment of the pain itself.

Let us not go down the road of comparing among ourselves. I know plenty of people who have experienced grief far more deep and far more consequential than that which I have confessed. But the difference in the degree doesn’t alter the reality of the existence. If we think that it does, then none of us has the right to grieve because Jesus has us all beat.

Grieving is okay. Ecclesiastes 3:4 tells us that there is “a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.” And grieving with the right perspective is even better.

“This is my comfort in my affliction, that [Y]our promise gives me life.” (Psalm 119:50, ESV)

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4, NASB)

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18, NASB)

“And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” (Isaiah 51:11, ESV)

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4, ESV)

Grief is a real and justifiable emotion that real people feel as a result of real experiences. We shouldn’t wallow in it, and we shouldn’t be consumed by it; but we do need to feel it and to properly deal with it. And we need to allow others to do the same.

8 Comments

  1. Abagail says:

    Angela,
        Beautifully written! It is important for us to be willing to allow others to share their hearts. Sometimes we live so much in our own pain and grief we miss the opportunity to minister to others regarding theirs! Thankfully if we allow Him God can use our pain and suffering for His glory! Your post ministered to my heart. My grief is over other issues in my life that are sometimes hard to talk about because overall I am blessed and according to many I shouldn’t complain. That doesn’t mean the pain over the issues isn’t real!
    Blessings, Abagail

    1. Abagail, thank you for your comment, and thank you for “hearing” me well. It sounds like you can relate to what I shared. It’s nice to know we’re not alone, huh? :-) I pray that God will teach and comfort you as you work through your pain.

  2. Kimberly says:

    You are so brave to put yourself out there.  I saw some of the comments from yesterday and thought you might appreciate reading this post I saw this morning http://www.incourage.me/2013/03/why-i-might-get-hurt-doesnt-have-to-stop-you.html

    1. Kimberly, thanks for sharing that link! It’s so true that we shouldn’t let the possibility of getting hurt stop us from doing the right thing. Vulnerability is a dangerous but beautiful thing. :-)

  3. shoefs says:

    I can totally relate since my second and third c-sections were forced on me because I had a previous c-section. Sometimes when I think about it, I get angry…with my doctor for inducing my first, with myself for allowing an induction, with the hospital for not allowing VBACs. I feel cheated of a wonderful experience. I wish I could just let it go, but that is more easily said than done. I guess the only thing I “liked” about being forced to have repeat c-sections is that I got to choose their birthdays.

    1. @shoefs Stef, I totally understand how you feel. Totally. And I’m sorry for you. The type of grief you and I feel may not make sense to others, but it is very real to us, isn’t it. I pray that you will be able to continue to work through your feelings and that, over time, your “scars” will continue to fade. Someone named “janrain98765” left a most beautifully sensitive and encouraging comment this morning on my DMMB post. I think it might minister to you as much as it did to me. Read it here: http://desmoinesmomsblog.com/a-scar-that-remains-living-with-the-emotional-pain-of-unplanned-cesarean/

      1. shoefs says:

        @Angela Squires I read that before posting here. It was very well written and helped me feel better, but it’s still hard to not play the “what ifs” through my mind. I don’t think I’ll ever get over it, just learn to live with it. I may have to bookmark that post and go read that response when I get upset about it. :)

        1. @shoefs  @Angela
           You’re right, Stef, you may never completely “get over it.” But like I said in the original post, “Maybe it’s okay to have a scar that remains.” It may never completely heal, but we can hope that the process of healing will continue. Good idea on bookmarking the post. Maybe that’s something I should do, too. :-) I appreciate you being willing to share your feelings here. I will pray for you.