10 Years After Loss. Ways God used the death of our daughter...for our good.
In 2008, I didn’t want to become somebody whose grief stopped them from living life. I didn’t want to become the woman who talked constantly about her lost daughter, who bored everyone with the repetitiveness. Or who made my loss the only thing profound about me. But it’s hard to keep the deep sadness to yourself when you’ve held a chubby perfect 7-pound baby in your arms, with blue skin and darkened lips, whose life was taken completely unexpectedly from you. You want to tell everyone about your kid….
Before our first daughter, Grace Evangeline Young, passed from this world to the next, I had never truly experienced tragedy. I had THE most perfect childhood of anyone I knew — parents who loved each other (so rare!), sacrificed so much for us girls, who were constantly thinking how to make our every day more creative and beautiful. I was never yelled at, or neglected, never without compliments, encouragement, or conversation, never without enough food to eat, never without siblings as friends. I got to marry my high-school sweetheart, we never fought, I got to do freelance graphic design, wear pretty clothes, we were healthy and loved being together, we were living our smiling happily ever after. Things were just so EASY. I didn’t know anyone who had it as happy as us.
But when Grace died, things got hard. Awful. I didn’t want to keep living. Life had lost its fun. I wanted Jesus to come back and take me to see her.
Suddenly all the “happy” things in life seemed silly and surface, compared to the fact that our child had suffocated and died. That our only child was gone. That we’d been told we couldn’t get pregnant, and then when we did, we lost our miracle. Boy, I was angry.
How God Redeemed Our Tragedy
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” - Romans 8:28
If I could, would I go back to 2008 and tell 37-week pregnant me to go get induced with that baby, so nothing bad would happen to her? For many years after we lost her, I would have said, “Absolutely, yes.” But now, I wonder if God allowed her to die to add richness to our life and make us more like Jesus. Maybe God entirely meant us to endure a trial that allowed us to SEE Him.
Maybe our suffering was a gift.
That seems backwards, right? (I would have passionately hated you if you had tried to tell me that then.)
Had I never lost Grace, I wouldn’t have gotten to see my own need for God. He became the air I breathed and I got to see Him working in REAL ways. He led me to scriptures that directly applied to my moments, as if I could hear His voice. People said things to me that were so encouraging and deep, and sometimes totally out of character for them, that I knew it was God speaking through them. When I went to church a week after she died, and God gave me this ability to worship as if I was already in heaven. God’s peace was so evident, I wanted to look around and see if everyone else was feeling it too! I began having faith for a healthy baby despite miscarriage after miscarriage following Grace’s death, so much faith that I found joy in believing God could really do it.
I had never experienced His presence like that before, and it was STUNNING. Would I trade that in for a life of easiness and happiness?
When we got pregnant with Lochlan, and then went on to have third-trimester major bleeding with him and for five weeks of bed-rest thinking we were going to lose him too, I got the gift of perspective. I got the gift of knowing that God was still good, that He was still with me, even in the “valley of the shadow of death.” I had seen God move, I knew He was real, and I had been given the gift of faith in His ability to give us a living baby.
When Lochlan was born healthy and ALIVE, I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed for sweet joy, like only a mom who has lost a child can. A mom who has lost a baby sees new life with utter awe, as an honor that she doesn’t deserve, as evidence of a powerful Creator who can give and take away. I still cannot get over my amazement that I have real children today.
Lochlan was an intensely fussy infant round-the-clock, and motherhood felt nothing like what I had pictured it to be. And when I was deliriously tired and I got my first wrinkles at 28, I could still feel the miraculousness of having a living child. If I never got to sleep again, and died of exhaustion or some brain tumor, I still had gotten to bring life into the world, and look into the eyes of a baby who adored me.
And with the three babies that followed him in rapid succession, I felt like Job (from the Bible) gaining back his family that he’d lost. My children felt like a reward, our house was overflowing with babies, God had given us the desires of our heart. When you’ve been rescued from the pit of despair and been brought up into the daylight, there’s this thankfulness that never goes away. It’s like this second chance at life. You get to see everything as if you were 100 years old and full of regrets, but you get to re-live it right now.
Life has never gone back to “easy" since Grace died, and it probably won’t. Motherhood is the hardest, most raw part of my life, where God’s got the most work to do on me. I’m perpetually overwhelmed and don’t get breaks thanks to destructive toddlers and homeschooling and having my kids so close in age, but I’ve got this deep satisfaction with knowing that He’s real and every part of this life (even the “I’m at my breaking point” parts) is a gift. I don’t know if I would have seen the hard parts of motherhood as precious as I do, had we not lost Grace.
My kids know that their very existence is a miracle. We all talk about Grace almost every day, and I often find Felicity sneaking on my phone to listen to my recording of Grace’s story, always with tears in her eyes. They’re aware of the value of every single human life, no matter how small or how seemingly tiny the impact that soul made. They sense the fleeting nature of life, they sense God’s presence in our home, and they know the reality of heaven.
And I cherish little moments with every one of them, moments I would have ignored, if I hadn’t cried out so bitterly to God in desperation for moments just like those, after Grace died. Little fingers and little voices and little blue eyes aren’t just cute — they’re evidence of my faithful God!
“He settles the childless woman in her home as a happy mother of children.” - Psalm 113:9
My relationship with Jeff was deepened through our loss — where it could have been ruined, as many are with tragedy — there was a new vulnerability in both of us. We had seen each other raw and open. There was no more glossy exterior — we were fully real, totally weak, and completely needing one another to get through. I never felt like I needed to go see a counselor or therapist because I was able to verbalize everything I was feeling with Jeff who was going through it just as intensely (though differently) as I was.
My natural personality (ENTP) is not very “feeling” or very emotional. Before losing Grace, I sometimes lacked empathy for people who were dealing with depression or loss, because I didn’t understand how they couldn’t logically choose to move on with life. After losing Grace (and also after dealing with postpartum anxiety with a different pregnancy), I gained a newfound compassion for people who were struggling. I became less quick to judge, less quick to speak. Less likely to think I have all the answers.
But most of all, losing Grace made me a better daughter to the King of Kings, as I suddenly saw life as all for Him! His absolutely relentless unending love is pursuing us all, and He’s using every circumstance in our lives to point us to Him, to draw us to Him, to help us feel that love. Grace was His excellent creation, and I got to witness Him use her to give us a glimpse into His heart.
You can read more about Grace in the series starting at My Story of Grace: Part 1. The beginning.