A Mother Finds Hope and Joy in Her Journey of Grief

Chrystal Smallwood, who has lost three babies in pregnancy, shares some intimate moments of her grieving process:

A few years ago, Jeremy (husband) officiated a funeral for a tiny still born baby. The family asked if I would read a poem and some Scripture in the service. I did it, but it was hard. Really hard; gut-wrenching hard.

I wanted to help this family grieve and honor their wishes, and had decided that for an hour I could put myself aside and allow them their moment. I barely made it through the readings, using every bit of emotional strength I had.

In a strange way, it was an enormously redemptive moment. In a sense, I was able to put a face to my unborn and unseen children. I was what my own babies might have looked like. I was able to see a body to what had only been a memory.

When the service was over, and I had given my proper pastoral condolences, I quietly made my way out of the sanctuary. I found the door opposite from where the small crowd was congregating in the back of the room. I tried to be as unnoticed as possible while I exited. I headed toward Jeremy’s office.

I wanted, needed, to be alone.

I needed to mourn the loss of my own babies. To listen to the memories that were needing to speak at this moment.

My fresh tears needed the space and freedom to create their own path.  

I didn’t make it down the long hallway from the sanctuary to Jeremy’s office. The tears were coming faster, and far too powerfully for me to stop them.

I slipped into a classroom and closed the door behind me.

All of the emotions of never physically saying goodbye to my own babies met me that day; that moment.

I allowed the tears to flow.

I allowed the heartache to make its peace.

I allowed what tears and pain had resided in my heart to find a way out; to make their own exit from my heart. They deserved it. I deserved it. My babies deserved it.

That funeral day, having stood next to a tiny casket, listening to my husband pray a final blessing over a little life, and allowing my new tears to fall, I was finally able to say goodbye to my babies.

My momma’s heart kissed them goodbye.

One day I will meet my babies in heaven. I will hold them, and love them, and tell them there wasn’t a day that went by in which I did not think of them. I will tell them the stories of their sisters, and of camping at the farm in Vermont, and meeting Mickey Mouse and Cinderella.

One day I’ll hold my babies. I will listen to them, look into their eyes as I run my fingers through their hair. I’ll follow the shape of their eyebrows and cheekbones with my thumb as I hold their heads in my hand. I will count their fingers and toes and hang on every word they have to tell me.

I’ll tell them of all the times I imagined them in my arms, but mostly, I’ll hold them and love them and kiss them a million times. 

I’ll tell them how Jesus used them to teach me about Himself, and about how my heart still melts at the sight of baby toes and chubby legs.

One day I’ll hold my babies. One day I’ll touch their perfect untouched skin, and smell their perfect fresh smell, and tell them I never stopped loving them, that I never stopped thinking of them—that January, March and July don’t pass by the calendar without a silent birthday wish from my heart to theirs.

But maybe they already know.

Until that day comes, though, I know they are with One who is more loving than I, who created them exactly how He wanted them to be, and has a reason for every second they lived, no matter how infinitely short I think that life was.

Here on this earth, however, we have been gifted with two amazing young ladies. We do our best to raise them with gratitude and intentionality. We celebrate their lives every single day.

The conclusion is a fantastic part of the journey, and we haven’t arrived at it yet. But we know it’s coming. We know there is a last chapter. We know, we believe, that God has written that chapter, that in the end He will make sense of everything… God’s story for us doesn’t always make sense in the present.

But it will.

One day.

I could never have uttered those words in the midst of our loss… I can say them now because it has been many years. I’ve lived this story of grief and loss, but I’ve seen the other side, the side of restored hope and joy, the side of the story where I can look back and see God’s hand in the midst of it all. Most importantly, though, I met Jesus in the midst of it. I realize that it was He who walked alongside us every second of every day, and from it there surely is a testimony.