Embracing Lament: Part 3 – Navigating Infertility and Perinatal Loss as Profound Lessons in Grief and Healing

Introduction

Have you ever experienced joy in suffering? Joy in suffering is not experienced by ignoring deep pain, or even succumbing to helplessness (i.e., “it is what it is”), but rather, the willingness to fully embrace the process of grief and lament.  A profound passion for finding purpose in the pain arises when sharing the process of lament, as I’ve witnessed numerous clients fully embrace this experience. It guides them toward a beautiful steadiness of heart as they navigate their healing journey. In the second part of this series, I provided an introduction and Step 1 to the process of lament which is to Turn. For the remainder of this blog series, I’d like to focus on the subsequent steps of the lamentation process which are the following: Complaint, Ask, Trust. 

Step 2: Complaint

The first step I will discuss is that of bringing a complaint.  This process has to do with identifying the pain or heartbreak that is causing lament and putting that pain into words.   What is a complaint and why is it vital to the lamenting process? “A complaint gives voice to the hard questions” (1, p. 47). The word complaint typically carries negative undertones, but according to Vroegop (1), “without a complaint, there would be no lament” (p. 43). We all harbor questions but voicing them may be a new experience to one who is suffering. In the perinatal world, these questions can often look like: Why did this happen? Why is this my story? Why can I not get pregnant? Why could I not meet my child? Wright (3), renowned grief specialist and author states, “why is not just a question – it’s a heart wrenching cry of protest” (p. 28). Complaint is the protest of one’s pain as he/she grieves the loss of a reproductive story (mentioned in blog 1) or the loss of a baby. 

I love how Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)  gives insight to the concept of complaint with the concept of radical acceptance. Radical acceptance is about accepting reality as it is because denying reality doesn’t change reality. It’s okay if your reality is full of questions right now. The voice of one’s complaint is acknowledging the true reality of your grief experience associated with infertility and pregnancy loss. While it’s important not to skip the step of voicing honest complaints, it’s equally important not to become stagnant in this phase because “left unchecked, it could create a self-focused emotional spiral” (1, p. 51). A complaint serves as a pathway to another objective and is the “turning point of lament” (1, p. 54). 

Step 3: Ask

Without a complaint, we are unable to move into the next step which is to Ask. Asking is about putting your deep heartfelt request into words.  According to Vroegop (1), this step “involves confidently calling upon God to act in accordance with his character” (p. 57).  A complaint must be present to experience the richness of lament and the process of asking has to do with the belief that your request can be answered despite the pain of deferred hope.   Asking God for help amid deep sorrow also serves as a reminder to our hearts that He is trustworthy. 

If you look to scripture, you notice how the Psalmist outlines this very shift repeatedly. In the book of Psalms, complaint is present in the verses and the questions concerning what God is doing or how this is happening are often unanswered. In response, the Psalmist often exclaims he/she knows what is true about God with faith that believes in what is not seen. 

Vroegop (1) states that asking, “marks the place in the journey where pain and belief coexist …and part of the grace of lament is the way it invites us to pray boldly even when we are bruised badly” (p. 59).  The lament process gives voice to the honest, raw questions of a wounded heart, while also leading us to tether our hearts to God amid the unknowns. As you know, the perinatal world encompasses numerous unknowns, especially upon experiencing a reproductive trauma.  Vroegop (1) highlights how hope is not always due to the change in circumstances; instead, one experiences hope from knowing what is true regardless of the circumstances faced (p. 11). 

Step 4: Trust

Finally, we will discuss the concept of Trust in the lament process. The place of trust is where the process of lament leads us as a final destination.  When it pertains to the perinatal world and reproductive trauma, deep longing and loss reside. These longings for family growth or for emotional/physical healing after loss are common and important to acknowledge. Vroegop (1) adds, “trust is believing what you know to be true even though the facts of suffering might call that belief into question. Lament keeps us turning toward trust by giving us language to step into the wilderness between our painful reality and our hopeful longings” (77). As you turn to prayer, offer honest complaint, and ask boldly, it leads the griever to a beautiful place of trust in God’s character knowing He has something for you in this and not just after the trauma. According to Wolfelt (2), “mourning is a spiritual journey of the heart and soul. Miscarriage can give rise to profound spiritual yearnings and chaos” (p. 152). For those waiting to become parents, embracing lament is how we wait. For those who experienced a reproductive trauma, lament is how we endure and trust (p. 74). 

Conclusion:

Grief can certainly be our teaching ground if we allow it to be. As we embrace the process of lament, it provides a pathway for our deep emotions to be acknowledged and leads us to a place of trust. But take note, this process is not a single event. Vroegop (1) adds, “life isn’t that simple. Grief is not that tame. Instead, we must enter into lament over and over so it can keep leading us to trust” (p. 74).  My hope and prayer for you as we finish this blog series is for you to grant yourself permission to grieve, to speak to the hard questions in pain, ask boldly as you recount God’s character, and to “keep trusting the One who keeps you trusting” (1, p. 85) as you move towards healing in your perinatal journey.

References

  1. Vroegop, M. (2019). Dark clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the grace of lament. Crossway
  2. Wolfelt, A. (2015). Healing your grieving heart after miscarriage: 100 practical ideas for parents and families. No Publisher. 
  3. Wright, H. N. (2004). Experiencing grief. Broadman & Holman. 

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