Embracing Lament: Part 2 – Navigating Infertility and Perinatal Loss as Profound Lessons in Grief and Healing

“Suffering – at every level – is an opportunity to learn” (2, p. 90). What is your initial response to that quote?  I wanted nothing to do with this sentiment during my grief journey. It sounds inspiring, but it can only inspire amid pain. What if it’s true? Grief can be an incredible teaching tool for us personally, emotionally, and spiritually if we allow ourselves to lean into it. In the first blog of this series, I invited you into a greater awareness surrounding perinatal loss and trauma. The manner in which we approach grief can shape our grief experience and encourage us toward giving ourselves permission to grieve. Today, I’d like to focus on what may keep us from leaning into grief and how biblical lament impacts our growth in the grieving process. 

Grief Myths 

According to Sunita (1), “one of the most challenging aspects of life after miscarriage is the set of expectations we hold regarding how we ‘should’ be responding. Because pregnancy loss is so rarely discussed, we have limited understanding around what is ‘normal’ after it occurs” (p. 19). What is normal? Is it okay to feel the weight of the loss? Is it okay to acknowledge the occurrence and validate the impact it has upon the woman/family? All of these are questions you may be asking upon experiencing a reproductive trauma, and it is often because of myths that individuals become “stuck” in their grief. According to Sunita (1), these myths, (listed below) “halt the natural progression of the grieving process, which requires emotions to be freely expressed” (1, p. 19). 

  • Don’t feel bad.
  • You can just replace the loss.
  • Time heals all wounds.
  • Miscarriage grief is related to how long you have been pregnant.
  • Miscarriage grief is related to how long you have been trying to get pregnant.

As you can see, based upon these myths, it would be easy for a griever to fall into one of the grief camps mentioned in my first blog in this series: disenfranchised grief or incomplete grief. When an individual grabs hold of these myths, it’s easy to feel “unjustified” in grief or that time alone can heal. According to Wright (4), “facing your loss means you don’t attempt to postpone the pain, you don’t deny that it actually happened, and you don’t minimize your loss” (p. 45).  Remember, there are treasures to be discovered when we participate in our grief.  

Lament

Through the remainder of this blog post and continued in the last post in this series, I will focus on the process of lament.  Lament is what happens when we allow God to infiltrate our grief.   

 In the grief journey, experiencing spirituality through the process of lament can become our greatest asset.  Because we are holistic beings, our mind and body are not the only aspects of our being that are affected by our despairing emotions.  Our soul is also greatly affected by the impact of perinatal loss and infertility and spiritual connection through experience of lament  can bring healing to the pain experienced in the depth of our soul.  

What is Lament? 

According to Mark Vroegop (2), author of Dark Clouds Deep Mercy, lament is “a place to learn” (p. 91) and “creates a path through the messy wilderness of pain” (p. 84). It’s a framework given to us in Scripture, and although it is not a “simplistic formula” (p. 33) that leads to an answer, it is a “honest cry of a hurting heart wrestling with the paradox of pain and the promise of God’s goodness” (p. 26). It’s the space during your infertility journey, or grief in perinatal loss, where you desire to believe in God’s promises and character, while simultaneously expressing all the emotions associated with grief.  It’s walking the road of uncertainty, while experiencing a deep trust in God’s sovereignty and nearness to you along the journey. The process of lament encompasses four steps: turn, complain, ask, and trust.  The first step, turn, will be discussed in this article, while the last three will be detailed in the last article in this series.

Step 1: Turn

The first step in the process of lament is to turn.  Turning to God is often the most difficult thing an individual can do when they are in pain.  In fact, the journey through grief, particularly in the context of perinatal loss and infertility, is often marked by a profound sense of silence and spiritual withdrawal. This “silent grief” extends beyond the realm of just talking to people and can include a silent conversation with God. According to Vroegop (2) , “to learn how to lament, we must resolve to talk to God… prayerful lament is better than silence” (p. 31). The loss of connection with others and God can lead to a sense of overwhelming isolation (3). Dr. Karl Lehman (3) states that “experiences of pain need to go through a pain-processing pathway in our brains to fully metabolize and heal our wounds ” (p. 27).  Lehman (3) adds, “early in pain processing we mentally ask ourselves if we are able to perceive that someone is glad to be with us during our time of suffering” (p. 27).  This pathway highlights the importance of turning or connecting to another during moments of suffering which points to the first step of lament which is to turn to God, even during intense questions, as well as during confusion, sadness or grief. According to Vroegop (2), “your pain can be a path toward God if you’ll allow lament to be your new language” (p. 39). Turning to God is the process of reaching out for connection in order to start the process which will lead to healing.

Conclusion

Coping with infertility and pregnancy loss can be a challenging journey for the griever. While it encompasses a variety of unwelcomed, and often uncomfortable, emotions, the process of lament provides a beautiful framework for the wounded heart’s journey toward healing. According to Vroegop, “it is a process for our pain – lament is more than something that comes out of you. It is part of the process happening in you” (2). I look forward to the final blog post in this series, where I will outline the remaining steps of lament (complain, ask, and trust) and the beauty that may come from embracing the entire process.

 

References:

  1. PESI, Inc. & Osborn, S. (2021, February 25). Perinatal Loss: An Attachment-Informed Treatment Framework for Helping Clients Process and Heal from Pregnancy Loss. PESI, Inc. Retrieved July 29, 2023, from https://catalog.pesi.com/showtime/23614442?ClassroomTab=courseSchedule_23614402_12_147

  2. Vroegop, M. (2019). Dark clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the grace of lament. Crossway. 

  3. Wilder, E. J., Kang, A., Loppnow, J., & Loppnow, S. (2020). Joyful journey: Listening to immanuel. Presence and Practice. 

  4. Wright, H. N. (2004). Experiencing grief. Broadman & Holman. 

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