On the M.E.N.D.

A week or two ago one of my friends told me about a group called M.E.N.D. It is Mommies Enduring Neonatal Death and it’s a group for women who have suffered miscarriage, stillbirth, or early infant death. My friend asked me if I would go with her and my initial reaction was “No. I’m busy that night.” I really did already have something planned for that evening but I would have probably found an excuse not to go even if I didn’t. I have really struggled with the idea of grieving my loss. I try to tell myself that what happened was not a big deal. Even throughout my struggle with secondary infertility I haven’t felt like I’m allowed to feel sad about my circumstances. Part of that may be a cultural thing - I just haven’t ever spent a lot of time with people who really grieve “out loud.” And part of it was just that even though I have experienced pregnancy loss and secondary infertility I have seen women endure much more than I have and subconsciously I was afraid that those women might judge me for acting like my problem was as big as theirs.

Seriously, when I say all that out loud it sounds absurd. Any woman who has experienced pregnancy or infant loss has a right to grieve. And any woman who struggles with infertility has a right to feel the loss of the dreams they have for their family. So I’m not sure why I felt like I didn’t deserve to have those feelings. Anyway, it was only a matter of minutes before God pricked my heart. For one thing, my friend probably wouldn’t go if I didn’t - and didn’t she deserve to go? Secondly, I knew that I was still suppressing a lot of my feelings and probably needed a safe place to deal with them so that I could truly heal. I have spent almost a month asking God to use this circumstance for good and here He was offering me an opportunity to do just that. I messaged my friend back within an hour to tell her that I would go with her.

I didn’t know what to expect from the meeting. The only thing I know about support groups is what I have seen on TV and movies and I was afraid it would be this mess of blubbering people who expected me to hug them. (I’m not much of a hugger except with my family.) The morning of the meeting I was so tempted to change my mind. The only reason I didn’t back out was that my friend was counting on me for a ride to the meeting. On our way there that evening I determined that I wouldn’t share anything and I wouldn’t become emotional. I’m fine, I kept telling myself. I don’t need this. I can get through it on my own.

It turned out to be a small group this month. There were just six of us. That made things even more intimidating. Three of us were there for the first time. The leader, a sweet Christian lady, shared a few guidelines. The thing she said that really stood out to me was that we never assume that anyone’s pain is lesser than the pain of anyone else. Everyone has experienced loss and that is the pain we all share. As she shared the rest of the guidelines I felt my emotions start rising to the surface. I wanted to push them back down, but I couldn’t. We started by sharing who we were and giving a brief account of our loss. I summed my experience up in as few words as possible. And then as the others started sharing their experiences I started to feel safe. These women knew the pain I felt. The pain of this loss was an invisible bond that we all shared.

Throughout the course of the evening I was challenged in so many ways. I heard stories of bravery, stories of women who were much more alone that I was, and stories of women who had experienced multiple losses and I shared part of my own story. I also heard women thanking God for the short lives of their children and praising Him for the good He had done through their circumstances. So much of what God has been showing me was validated in those two hours. And I learned that a support group doesn’t just have to be a place where people cry and moan and whine about their problems. Instead, it’s a place of support. (Imagine that!) A place where we encourage and minister to others while they encourage and minister to us. I felt much better when I realized that not only was I there to get something, but that I was also there to give something.

By the time I left I felt a new kind of peace that I hadn’t felt before. Not just the peace of God’s presence, but a peace within myself that came from the validation that what I feel is normal and expected. I was able to start shedding a little bit of the armor I had built up around myself while I was with other women who truly understood. I was able to let go of the unrealistic expectations I had placed on myself and stop pretending that I was over it, at least for a little while.

I know that the healing process is sometimes slow, but that’s okay. I was realizing just today that if my body is expected to need six weeks to recover, my spirit will need even longer. But no matter what, my God will supply all my needs. He will never leave me or forsake me. He will show me great and mighty things if I just lean on Him and trust His plan for my life! And most of all, He wants to use me to be a "better blessing" to others who are going through the same thing!

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
- Proverbs 3:5-6


For more information on M.E.N.D. you can visit www.mend.org.

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