Thursday, March 7, 2019

The Grief & Hope I Experienced After My Son's Neonatal Death

Losing Cade to Neonatal Death

Five months ago, on October 8, 2018, I lost my third son, Cade Oliver Cole, to neonatal death. I was 20 weeks pregnant when I went in for a typical midwife appointment. I expected to be in and out in 20 minutes. Instead, we spent nearly that long searching for a heartbeat that wasn't there. The next day I went into the hospital to be induced, and early in the morning on October 10, 2018 I delivered my stillborn son.

About a month after delivering him, I started typing up a post about the many feelings I was experiencing, but I never had the strength edit and publish it. But now that some time has passed, the feelings aren't as overwhelming and scary.

Below is the original post I wrote, with a few very minor edits.
Please excuse some of the poor grammar and awkward sentences. I considered cleaning it up a bit, but I decided against it because I felt that would take away from the authenticity of it. In all honesty, this is essentially a journal entry. So without further ado -


Thoughts I typed up on November 2, 2018 - 23 days after Cade's Stillbirth

I’m so grateful for the ample support we have received and have been surrounded by. 

I think it’s important to admit my weaknesses because I do not want to come off as a liar or hypocrite, so I reluctantly admit my intense and ongoing struggle with depression, which has no doubt been amplified by postpartum hormones. 

In sifting through my many emotions, I have discovered some pretty glorious things. I am sad that I never get to see my Cade take a breath. I wish I could experience the joy of nursing him like I did with my other two boys. I feel like my family is missing a child. When my boys play, I feel like we should be anticipating a third boy to compound the rough and tumble play. I see other big brothers playing with their baby brothers and I grieve the fact that my JT will never get to do that with Cade, at least not this side of heaven. Axel, my middle child, has missed out on getting to be the big brother during his “terrible twos.” I am painfully aware of everything I and my family do not get to experience with Cade. 

Yet I am not overwhelming heartbroken from it. And the reason for this is that my hope is so much more glorious. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes the feelings of sadness are stronger than the feelings of hope. But that’s the amazing thing about hope - it is not rooted in feelings. I know the sadness will fade, as it has already begun to do. Hope remains, and only gets to grow stronger. My hope is this: I have a child in heaven with Jesus. I actually often feel really guilty for looking forward to meeting Cade more than Jesus. That’s probably not very “Christian of me” to say, but it’s the truth of how I feel in this current season. 

I don’t get to pray to Cade, which is a strangely huge struggle I didn’t anticipate experiencing. I believe it is VERY unbiblical to pray to the dead, but it is incredibly tempting to do so when a loved one has passed. I do get to pray to Jesus about Cade. I do ask Jesus to tell Cade I love him. I haven’t looked into how biblical that is, but I do it anyway. 

I like to think of Cade and Jesus watching over us together. More of my hope comes when I think of how truly depressing things are in my circumstances. I get overwhelmed with negativity and anxiety. Just a few examples of the fearful thoughts I entertain on a daily basis (which I am also taking steps to combat) - “I have no hope of my family’s finances improving,” “we will always be wanting for deep, open friendships,” “my marriage has no hope of improving,” “my children will only grow up to resent me for being such a selfishly depressed mother…” among others. 

The hope I experience with Cade is that he will never experience our family’s struggles. I have confidence that he has all the fulfilling friendships heaven provides. He will never see Cameron and me fight. I don’t have to fear his resentment from my motherly failures because he will never experience them. He only experiences complete and utter joy, peace and fulfillment. He is not wanting for anything. And he is my child. He is my flesh and blood connection to heaven. Though I never got to see his personality develop, I still have someone I love experiencing heaven. I can’t imagine things he would say to me in the same way one can imagine the things an older loved one that has passed away would say. But I like to imagine him saying something like “Mom, it’s great over here. You can stop worrying about everything that’s going wrong over there because before you know it, you’ll be here with me and Jesus, and it’s awesome!”

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Trusting Jesus Through the Grief & Moving Forward

At the time I wrote this, I experienced despair almost daily. It was a bit of a roller coaster for the next few months. I tried to distract myself with other responsibilities. Later In November I believed I was completely past the deep sadness. Then some loved ones announced their pregnancy at Thanksgiving dinner, and I had a breakdown! I was shocked that their pregnancy announcement triggered such sadness for me. When I heard that, all I could think about was the fact that I couldn't feel Cade kicking and moving around like I should. I was devastated all over again.

Fortunately, Christmas was a totally different experience. God used a financial gift from some beloved friends to provide us with a joyful Christmas focused on giving and blessings our loved ones.   I thank God for granting us joy the Christmas after Cade's death instead of sadness.

As the new year came around, I became sad again as I anticipated Cade's due date - February 17th, 2019. The 2 weeks leading up to his due date were pretty rough for me emotionally. I felt really confused. I felt like I should be focused on preparing my body for labor - walking, doing simple exercises to get him in the correct position, practice breathing, etc. Because I didn't have the goal to work forward, I felt lost.

However, February 17th was a pretty uneventful day. Cameron and I talked about getting a birthday cake or something simple to commemorate the day, but we ended up doing nothing. I stayed home from church, and it ended up being just a lazy Sunday at home. Yet I'm strangely okay with that.

It's now been just over two and a half weeks since his due date. At this point, the main time I ever think about Cade is during our nighttime prayers with the boys. Most nights before putting JT and Axel to bed, we read them a Bible story from their preschool Bible and pray together for family and friends. We almost always thank God for baby Cade and ask Him to tell Cade that we love and miss him.

I don't have guilt for not thinking about Cade as often because I know that guilt would not benefit anyone. It was comforting to read a similar experience from C.S. Lewis in his work A Grief Observed, when he wrote about his grief over his wife's death.

I have confidence Cade is in heaven with Jesus, loving his eternal life. One reason for my confidence in this is from reading the book Safe in the Arms of God by John MacArthur. He wrote out many strong arguments for the Bible referring to babies and children as "innocents" protected from God's wrath.

Despite the ample support and prayers I have been surrounded by with church, family and friends, it still is a bit of a lonely road. In the moments I am missing Cade the most, no one is experiencing the same emotion in that same moment. So it feels lonely.

Don't misunderstand me though, I am incredibly grateful for the many people who loved on me. I know there are many mamas out there who lost a child with no one to comfort them or walk with them. If you are one of those precious moms, my heart goes out to you and I'm saying a prayer as I write this that God makes His presence known to you in such a way that it outshines any feelings of loneliness and abandonment.

Let me end this post with a Scripture describing heaven; though it feels so far away, it is a very real place. Any loved ones who have passed that were innocents and believers are currently dwelling there! And we get to look forward to seeing them again!

Revelation 21:3-4
And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”


10 comments :

  1. Sarah, I'm so sorry for the loss of baby Cade. My mother lost a baby when I was a little girl and she still grieves for him when his birthday nears. It comforts her knowing he's only experienced Jesus and that she'll see him again on the other side of heaven. May your times of hope begin to soften the edge of your grief in this difficult time. Peace and grace, Tammy

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    1. Thank you for your sweet words Tammy. I like to think about Cade and little brother enjoying heaven together with Jesus. I imagine the grief will never fully disappear this side of heaven. God bless you!

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  2. Thanks you for sharing, this was very brave.

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  3. Sarah, I am so sorry for your loss, and have no words adequate for the job, but am grateful for this offering of your experience for the encouragement of others who may be walking the same hard road.

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    1. Those words were perfect Michele. That was my hope in sharing this post. There is a strange comfort in being able to relate to others in loss. Thank you for your encouragement!

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  4. Oh Sarah this is a great post! I am so sorry for your loss. C.S. Lewis' A Grief Observed is a great read! I feel like everything I've ever been through is in preparation for what God has for me today, and in the future. I think you'll find this event in your life will be the same. You'll be able to reach out to girls just like yourself that have lost a child. It's one of the things that makes you special. Thanks for linking up at InstaEncouragements today.

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    1. Thank you for your kind words Patsy! I'm already amazed at the blessings God has granted me over the last 5 months, and I'm definitely hopeful for the future. Thank you for letting me join your linkup!

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  5. Sarah, thank you for sharing so openly. I won't pretend to know how you feel. Everyone suffers and grieves differently. But in reading what you've written here, I do think you're giving others a clearer picture of what grief can look like, and describing some very real aspects that many people wouldn't think about or would quickly overlook.

    As each month passes, I long for Heaven more, and I think that's the one thing I can thank Him for in the midst of difficulties. It helps me to have an eternal mindset rather than being consumed by the things of this world.

    I thank God for His provision for you through those who love your family. What a blessing! And for the hope He's given you. He is the hope that does not disappoint.

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    1. You are so sweet Jana! And your comment really uplifts me. It's comforting seeing other Christians who long for heaven, to know the beautiful reality of it. Today I had a conversation with some friends who struggle with the whole unknown aspect of heaven, almost fearing what life will be like after death. I'm so grateful that God is gracious to me to grant me the confidence that the joy we will experience in heaven is so worth looking forward to!

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