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!

Comments

  1. I agree with you Matt our Family and Friends were brilliant, it helps so much..

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  2. I wholeheartedly agree with you my friend. I had a miscarriage of twins when we lived in Bristol. Ross was in leadership at the church. Our pain was raw and real and followed on from the death of my father 2 months before. It was an incredibly difficult time. The church family were fantastic. So loving and supportive. People who I would never have known had suffered the same thing, came to offer their love and support. I talk often about about that time in a completely open way, allowing others to know that part of my life and feel able to share themselves. Over the years I know it has helped people to deal with their own pain because of the openness and vulnerability of my own.
    Jesus is the great healer and although the loss is ever present...even 10 years later, the pain is not raw anymore. The people that may have been helped and encouraged by my story are my focus.
    I am praying for you guys, that the Healer will be close to you as you get through this difficult time, both physically and emotionally, drawing you close and holding you tight.
    Be encouraged that He knows your pain and He will use your openness as a testimony to others.
    With much love, Joy.

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  3. Powerful. Praying that the Lord helps many through your openness and continues to heal and strengthen you.

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  4. Brilliantly put and thank you for sharing. Although we have shared our experiences with others since, we never shared our grief when we went though miscarriages before Allie and honestly wish we had as it is so hard to deal with on your own. Please be assured of our support and prayers for both of you at this time and onwards.

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  5. I have read your post, Matt, and offer sincere condolences to you and your wife. It is a heartbreaking thing to go through, and I admire the way you have openly shared your loss. My daughter lost 5 babies on the way to having two beautiful girls (now aged 4 and 7). She and her husband Andy turned their grief into something positive and now run a support charity for those who have lost a baby during pregnancy, at birth or early infancy (Saying Goodbye). In your position, I am certain that your healed selves will be able to offer appropriate help and comfort to church / non-church people who suffer similarly.

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