Why we chose to go public with our grief
Miscarriage, still-birth and early infant death are not things we like to think about, let alone discuss openly and honestly. Sometimes grief and loss is unavoidably public with the death of a member of your congregation or a grandparent. Perhaps someone has been battling a terminal illness for a while. However, sometimes it is all too easy to bottle up the pain and sadness – especially when it is a loss to do with early pregnancy complications.
My wife and I have found it common practise amongst our friends that it is accepted in today’s culture not to tell anyone about your pregnancy until after the first scan at 3 months. Mainly due to the risk of complications, so no one will know if you have suffered a miscarriage if it were to happen in the early stages.
We decided right from the beginning that we would not do this. If we were pregnant, then we would let people know, regardless of the stage of pregnancy. Why should we hide our pain if something were to go wrong? Were we shielding others from the pain we might experience, or were we ashamed in some way that we had suffered this potential loss? Now I am not advocating that everyone should divulge their announcement of pregnancy immediately. It may be right for you not to do so, just as my wife and I felt that for us it was right to be open about it. You need to pray about it for yourself and see what Jesus tells you to do.
So, we made the decision early on. We had our first child without any complications, and she is now a happy and healthy 1 and ½ year old. Recently we started trying for a second child. A couple of weeks ago, my wife was experiencing abdominal pain and unexplained bleeding. Several visits to the doctors and referrals to the hospital consumed us in the subsequent week.
They discovered that my wife had an ectopic pregnancy. She was relieved that there were no signs of life as she had to be rushed in for emergency surgery that day to remove the fallopian tube, as this condition could cost her her life.
She had the surgery a week ago and is recovering well. Emotionally it is still very raw and painful at present, only having happened just over a week ago.
All through the process, we kept our church family updated with the news. Not because we wanted sympathy, but because we recognise that we are walking this journey of faith together. We are in this through the good and the bad.
Both my wife and I have leadership positions within the church. It is all too easy to hide behind the mask of ‘I'm a church leader – so of course my life is brilliant!’ No! Leaders need to share their humanity, their vulnerability and their pain with those whom they lead. If you are not prepared to model the behaviour you are expecting from those you lead, you aren't going to achieve the results you hope for. Sharing something personal and painful clothed in humility and vulnerability is part of the package for an authentic leader, not a sign of weakness.
As a result of going against our cultural norm of keeping quiet about my wife’s early pregnancy and miscarriage, we believe we have helped others in our church to see how being more open in times of hurt and grief can be such an amazingly healthy thing to do. We have been so supported, upheld in prayer and had many offers of practical support too over this difficult time.
We are the church, called to love one another. If no one knows you are hurting (yes, even if you are a church leader) no one will be able to help you.
So be encouraged. Share one another’s burdens. Let people in on times of grief and loss and experience the freedom and liberation that comes, even through the tears!