As we entered the one-room country church, my dad reached to steady my mom.
The explosion of color, the thick scent of lilies and the face of my grandfather
in a bronze casket had knocked her off balance.
At 9 years old, I was too young to fully understand what was happening, but I
could feel my mom’s anguish. The closer we got to the casket, the more violently
she wept. Her legs faltered under the weight of her grief. There was nothing I
could do to ease the pain.
Nearly 20 years passed before I again encountered such physically intense
grief from a loved one. This time, the deep pain came as my wife, Kerrie,
explained through tortured sobs over the phone that a medical lab had confirmed
that we were unable to have children. Once again, I could do nothing. I remember
thinking, It feels like someone died.
Grief is a real part of infertility. It may be heightened in miscarriages or
stillbirths, but it is just as real when a couple cannot conceive. The sorrow
Kerrie and I experienced the day we received our lab results was as deep as the
grief we would have felt if she had called to tell me her parents had passed
Scripture confirms the close connection between the two losses. Proverbs
30:15-16 tells us the grave and the barren woman are two things that are never
satisfied. The sense of loss from infertility will frequently resurface whenever
life situations — such as a menstrual cycle or the birth of a child to another
couple — trigger painful feelings of the opportunities lost.
Journey Through Pain
We must not be afraid to grieve and allow these responses to run their
course. We should, however, guard against allowing our heartache to slide into
Grief is complex and usually accompanied by a myriad of other emotions.
Because of its intricacy, grief can take considerable time to work through. The
“normal” length of mourning, however, is difficult to define.
During our grief journey, Kerrie and I found two crucial actions that allowed
us to mourn our loss without slipping into despair.
- We recognized grief as a process and identified where we were in
it.C.S. Lewis once wrote, “Sorrow . . . turns out to be not a
state but a process.” The key is to keep moving forward. When stymied by sorrow,
we risked slipping into despair.
We see evidence of this in the life of
Hannah (1 Samuel 1:7-11). Because of her infertility, Hannah plunged into a
state of hopelessness that lasted for years. Finally, she cried out to the Lord
and found new hope. It is critical to make choices that keep us from getting
permanently bogged down in mourning.
- We focused on the right things.Growing up, I was a
track sprinter. I learned to focus on what was in front of me and ignore the
runners in the lanes next to me and behind me. To win, I needed to fix my eyes
on the finish line. Grief can also be navigated more successfully by keeping
focused on the right things: Jesus and the race He has for us to run.
A Full Life
Physical barrenness is beyond our control, but Kerrie and I can take steps to
ensure we don’t suffer spiritual barrenness. By focusing on God, we can enjoy a
life that is neither “barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus
Christ” (2 Peter 1:8, KJV).
Even though we’ve been blessed with two wonderful adopted children, Kerrie
and I still experience feelings of loss and the sense that we’re missing out on
something. But ultimately, we realize God is on the throne, and we have decided
to focus on Him rather than our grief.
July, 2007 issue of Focus on the Family magazine. Copyright © 2007,
Brad Nelson. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by