Saturday, 28 August 2010

Embracing grief and loss

It started with an invitation. I had attended the White Butterfly reflection service in May and now an invitation was being extended to me by the White Butterfly Team to attend a retreat.
But it wasn't just an invitation from the White Butterfly Team. It was an invitation from my King. I felt like the character Mack in the fiction book "The Shack" when he received an invitation to go to the shack. I didn't want to go and face all the emotions that come with grief and loss, but I knew that I had to go. I knew that the invitation was from God and that I would meet Him there, and He would be walking me through the pain.
It was bittersweet packing for the retreat. On one hand I was excited for a little bit of time to get away from my everyday life and stay overnight at a 5-star lodge in the hinterland. I was looking forward to not preparing meals and not attending to children. I was looking forward to having some 'girl' time. But what I was not looking forward to was feeling the emotions that come with grief and loss. Loss of a child that you have never held and others have never seen is different to other losses. My father died when I was 17 years of age, and the grief that I felt on losing my dad is very different to the loss of a child that you have never met physically. People will talk about the loss of my father, but the loss of my child through miscarriage can make people feel uncomfortable and awkward. So I am a little apprehensive to share with others about my loss. People seem to think you will just 'get over it' especially since I went on to have 3 children after the miscarriage.
The retreat was beautiful and terrible all wrapped into one. As we Engaged, Embraced, Explored, Exhaled and were Equipped, an array of emotions filled each session. We were immersed in a nurturing and safe environment and lavished with gifts. We were loved on by the facilitators, by each other and by Him. As we as a group were able to hit pause on our life and reflect on our loss, our emotions flowed from deep within. But He was present in each and every session.

As I allowed myself to feel the grief after one particular session, I wanted to run away. I thought of packing up my things, jumping in the car and driving away.This was my usual coping mechanism whenever I felt life was too hard. I remember when my father took his last breath in the hospital room, while my mother and siblings stayed, I ran. I ran down the stairs of the fire escape and out of the hospital building. It was too my much for my young tender heart to take. But I stayed at the retreat. I am now at a place where I trust Him with my pain and know that joy will come as I sow in tears.
Psalm 126:5 ~Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy.
The fact that I was in a room full of women who had experienced the same loss as me comforted me. I knew that these women understood the emotions I felt. They had walked the same path. The stories and circumstances may have been different, but the feelings of loss were the same. No longer did I feel alone in my journey, as we reflected on our loss together. These women understood.

The Holy Spirit revealed to me some issues He wanted to work on with me. During the retreat in one session, we did an exercise where we were asked to put our 'Personal History of Loss' on a time line from the ages of birth - 20 years. The facilitator explained that how we learn to cope with loss during our childhood and adolescence, is how we cope with loss as an adult. As I looked down the list I noticed 'Changes: i.e. moving home/' It was then that I realised that I had trivialised so much loss during my childhood and adolescence.

I had moved town 7 times between the ages of 0-21 years and I had moved countries once. During this time I had to leave an old school for a new school and leave old friends to make new ones. All the time I was facing rejection and having to establish new relationships over and over again. I had also been sent to boarding school at the age of 12 years of age and with this came the breakdown of my relationship with my mother and feelings of abandonment. The separation from my parents was another loss I had experienced. And then the bombshell of losing my Dad during this time period had hit me as well.

Here I was thinking that I had had a pretty normal childhood. There was no abuse or divorce or hardship of poverty. But on looking at all my 'tabs' on my timeline, I realised that my childhood was far from normal. There was no stability. There were no long term relationships with others outside of my immediate family. In fact, I had experienced a lot of loss. And that is why I ran from pain, because I had experienced so much of it during my early developing years. It is something that I am considering seeking professional counselling for. I want to be whole in all areas. And since this has been revealed to me, I want it be addressed. I can see now how it has been effecting my relationships in adulthood.

One exercise we did that was very powerful for me was that we wrote our feelings guilt and shame down. Then we wrote down who we needed to forgive, and what we needed forgiveness for. We placed these in an envelope and then exchanged the envelope for a little cardboard treasure box. When we opened the box, there was a card inside with the words:

When only Love
could make a way
 I gave My life
 in a
Beautiful Exchange.
In that moment I felt that it was too good to be true. In that moment I felt free of my guilt and shame. I felt forgiven and I was able to forgive. In that moment I felt free.  In that moment I felt like it was so easy to exchange these things. But this is what He died for. This is grace. I did not deserve these things to be exchanged. But this is what He died for. He gave His life for mine in a Beautiful Exchange. This is grace and His name is Jesus.
"The Lord has put his Spirit in me, because he appointed me to tell the Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to tell the captives they are free
and to tell the blind that they can see again. — Isaiah 61:1
God sent me to free those who have been treated unfairly — Isaiah 58:6
and to announce the time when the Lord will show his kindness." — Isaiah 61:2
Jesus closed the book, gave it back to the assistant, and sat down. Everyone in the synagogue was watching Jesus closely. He began to say to them, "While you heard these words just now, they were coming true!"  (Luke 4:18-21)
Grief is messy and I joked with the girls how I wish I could come to the retreat, deal with my grief and loss and the pain that goes with it and then move on. I wanted to package it all up and have it dealt with never to open the box again. But unfortunately, that's not how it works. Grief is a process. Grief is a journey. But I am no longer running away from it. I am taking His hand and He is walking me through it. He is healing my broken heart. He is setting me free.

Still taking lessons from the King,


  1. Jo, thank you again for such an open hearted post!
    I am so glad to hear of your journey of healing...God is good!
    I did hear of that book of Chris Pringle and am yet to read it.
    I miscarried my first child at 10 weeks (the fact I got pregnant when it was medically impossible was s miracle, so I went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows in the space of a few weeks). Anyway, not sure if you've heard of a book called "praying for your unborn child" by F and J Macnutt. In it they suggested praying and asking God to reveal the sex of the baby to you etc. Which we did and it was a wonderful healing experience of naming and letting go etc. I then went on to have a girl and then two subsequent very early miscarriages. One of them the sex was confirmed by a vision one girl at church had:) God is so good isn't He! You're right though, grief and loss is something that we have to work through and can't neatly package up and put away. I still get teary when I think of those children up in heaven that I long to see one day:)
    I also found interesting the fact that how we deal with grief and pain in the first twenty years of our life is how we deal with it as adults! hmmm...some food for thought for me....
    Thanks as always!

  2. Well done for taking the brave steps: attending the retreat. Lack of stability is a big one during those young years of our lives, especially the moving over and over again that you went through. It is such a healthy and healing exercise to recognise certain points and circumstances in your life, that caused emotional pain and/or setbacks. It is only in the facing of these things that He can reach through and heal us.

    I know it is painful, but as the old saying goes, 'no pain, no gain.' The path to freedom and wholeness is one that requires strength and trust in Him, faith and grace.

    I'm so glad you are walking side by side with Him. He will get you there...totally!

  3. Beautiful post Jo!
    Thankyou for sharing your heart!! I too have lost a baby in early pregnancy. I am so glad that He is in heaven with Yeshua but I wish I had been able to hold him here on earth.
    I am so glad that you were able to go to this retreat, it sounds like a very beautiful sacred time!
    Luv Donna

  4. Thank you for sharing, Jo. I can only imagine the pain of losing a child. I'm so glad you've been able to go to these white butterfly events and be with others who understand. This retreat sounds so it would help in dealing with so much. Peace to you. ..And I pray you continue to experience healing in each of these areas. <3

  5. A beautiful post Jo! Love it! You've helped in identifying the cause of my "flight" tendencies. We moved around a few times in the first 9 years of my life, then after that my younger brother was born, which affected my position with my mother immensely. Tuesday is going to be an intense session with my counsellor as I now know I have to tackle head on the issues that you've identified above - loss, rejection, abandonment, etc. Thank you for such a open and loving post. Xoxo

  6. what a special weekend and how brave of you to go!! Glad it was so healing for you as you continue to walk your journey :-)

  7. hello jo,
    I found your FB page today on brave girls' club. your words of inspiration are spoken with such tenderness that i was drawn in, immediately. happy to have come across your blog and enjoyed reading about this inner journey and how you began your path to healing.

    thank you for the gentle encouragement you give to your readers and for sharing your pain, your truth and your love!

    - vicki xo


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Jo Princess Warrior xo