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Joy in the Suffering

I didn’t think it would be as hard as it was, but it tugged on my heart heavy, even seven years later. I recently recorded a podcast episode about how to grieve through the holidays, and I shared some ideas on how to honor your baby in Heaven (Episode 13 of Cradled in Hope if you want to listen).

In the episode, I shared that some of my bereaved mom friends have an annual tradition of going shopping for toys and clothes that would be for the age + gender of their baby in Heaven and donating them to a local children’s home or doing one of those angel trees where you choose a child and shop for them and bring it back to the tree. I’ve always admired my friends for this tradition but hadn’t done it myself. I thought it would make me too sad.

But this year I decided to try it, and yes it did make me sad, but it also brought some healing that I didn’t know I needed. I preach all the time to moms about giving themselves permission to grieve and creating space for grieving, but am I giving myself enough space to grieve, seven years later?

As I paced the aisles of Target searching for the perfect 7-year-old girl toys and clothes (ones that I thought Bridget would have liked and that I liked as a child, like my favorite Junie B. Jones books), I felt sorrow fill my soul. The grief of not raising a daughter. The gaping hole in my life and in our family.

I checked out and brought the items home and put them all in a laundry basket. They sat in our laundry room for a few days. Seeing them sitting there in our house, not to be used, but to be given away, wrecked me. I put them in the back of my car. Then one day after dropping my older son off at preschool, and my younger son in the back, I pulled up to the children’s home.

The lady met me at the donations parking spot. As I placed each item into her bin on a cart, I shared with her that these were donated in memory of my daughter who was stillborn seven years ago. I wasn’t sure how she would respond, but I just felt the need to tell her. To talk about Bridget and share why I had chosen the gifts I was donating.

As I was leaving, she said, “Bless your heart. Your daughter is an angel watching over our kids here.” I got back in my car, waved at her, and then the tears started flowing. Although I don’t believe Bridget is an actual angel (Scripture is to the contrary and that’s actually a good thing), I do believe that her life has a purpose. Her words hit my heart in a special way. I’m praying these gifts will bless the little girls who get to play with the toys or wear the clothes and they will know they are loved.

In my journey of grief and healing, I’m learning that sometimes doing the hard things are the good things. And sometimes it’s good to just be sad and to let the water pour from your heart. I miss my girl. I miss the life I thought I would have with her.

My heart will long all the days of my life for her, always aching and hurting and missing….and in a weird way, I’m okay with that. She has given me yet another reason to ever be focused on my Savior. Ever be fixated on Heaven. Not living for this world, but for the next one. Kingdom-focused, Heaven-bound, Serving-others, Joy-in-the-Suffering. Merry Christmas, Bridget.

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