After five years of trying to conceive, we just found out our first attempt at IVF has failed. We are at our wits’ end. So tired of being disappointed.
Infertility is a unique sort of grief. Mourning for something that was never really there, or was just there for a moment. Strange as this is, it is grieving. Full on despair.
A friend recently told us that grief is love with nowhere to go. That is very poetic and it hit home for me. It describes how I am feeling very well. But the more I think about that statement, it describes how grief feels but not necessarily what grief really is.
In the midst of our storm, here are some thoughts on the nature of grief.
For me, in this particular instance and season, grief is about uncertainty. It is about confusion and the pain of absence. Of not getting what we want and not understanding why.
There is something about grief that is tied to love.
Love itself is such a mystery. We spend a lot of time talking to college students about the love we share in our marriage. It gets increasingly hard to describe. Hard to understand even. And certainly impossible to replicate. There is not a formula for it.
And that is part of what makes it beautiful. It is a mystery, the love we share together. A beautiful mystery. The kind of mystery you want to lean into.
Grief, I think, is the kind of mystery you want to lean away from.
We see evidence of this all the time. Grief hurts. And to try to stop the hurt, we talk about giving up. Is it time to call it? Have we done all we can do? Well-meaning friends and family try to ease the pain by promising us it will happen eventually, that they truly “believe” it is coming soon, etc. These are all attempts to alleviate the mystery. No need to grieve if there is certainty to be claimed. Or, at least, less of a reason.
What do you do with unwanted mystery? Something you just don’t get. Something that hurts. A dark tunnel you are not sure there is a way out of. Dark, not because it is evil, but simply because it is unclear.
Are we ever going to have kids?
Can we be happy for the rest of our lives without kids?
When is it time to get off the carousel, when we have tried everything, and just let the chips fall?
The answers are uncertain.
There is a great verse in The Bible we are often pointed to. One that says we ought to “believe and not doubt”. I think we sometimes confuse the difference between doubt and uncertainty. We think not knowing, not being sure, is some sign of a lack of faith. Seems pretty clear to me, the only way to have faith is to be simultaneously uncertain.
The “doubt” in that verse is not about circumstances but about trusting God. We have never wavered in trusting God to be God, that he loves us and cares for us and is with us. But we are uncertain about whether or not we will ever have kids. And those are two different things.
I think allowing the two to coexist is the key to grieving well. Although, most are afraid it exacerbates the fear. I think it relieves it. Our circumstances can be uncertain and our faith in God firm. I think those two things actually go quite hand in hand.
If grief is unwanted mystery, it has to be distinguished from wanted mystery. The kind of thrill when we expect a surprise. The kind of mystery that comes across when I am trying to describe our marriage.
Grief is the other side of the coin. The word that comes to mind is misery. To sit in this cloud of unwanted mystery. To know I am not God and cannot do much to control the circumstances around me. To believe there is a good God sitting with me but not understand what he is doing and why. Yet trust him. It is a strange place to be. A miserable place.
Here is the key to the whole thing, though. I would rather be in that place than in a place of unreality. Said another way: I would rather lean into the truth of unwanted mystery than create unreal certainty. Living apart from reality is no solution.
Here we are: angry, confused. Hurting. Grieving. We are also hoping, which feels so dangerous. Hope is wanted mystery. How quickly it can turn.
We are also trusting. Not that the mystery will end. Not that we will get what we want. But, insanely, that God is good in all things. And works all things for our good. There is an opportunity in grief. A chance to worship and to grow. Something uniquely found in this level of unwanted mystery. We are supremely pissed off about it, but it is an opportunity none the less.
And we will grieve and grow. We will hope and be uncertain. We will avoid doubt while acknowledging reality. And we will find a way to love. And to worship. It is all any of us can ever do.