The Measure of Heartache

Unequal weights and unequal measures are both alike an abomination to the Lord.

Proverbs 20:10


“I had a four week miscarriage, and I am completely devastated. I don’t think that I can go on.”

“I have lost four children to miscarriage, but I am confident that God is in control, and it will all work out for my good in the end.”

“I have had nearly a dozen miscarriages and a stillbirth. I don’t have even one child to show for all of the grief.”

“I have two living children, but I desperately want another. My doctor said that I am unable to conceive anymore. I just feel incomplete.”

“I lost my first baby to a 14 week miscarriage. I have two rainbow babies and another on the way, but I just cannot get past the pain of my loss.”

“I have had miscarriage after miscarriage. I have five living children, but I’m just not ready to give up yet.”


These are just a few of the comments that I have received over the past few years. As I was doing research and collecting stories for my book, I began to wonder how to measure heartache. Before my four miscarriages, I definitely would have used a different measure, but after my own experiences, combined with literally thousands of other women’s experiences, my perspective has changed.

It is so easy to make quick judgments based on these scenarios above; however, you don’t have the entire story. Everyone has a story, and no one can truly understand another person’s. You do not know that one of these ladies lost her father two days before her early ectopic pregnancy, which nearly took her life, making it impossible for her to attend the funeral. You do not know that the woman with five living children always had a dream of a large family, and she and her husband saved their money for years to purchase a large farmhouse, which now feels empty with her family of seven. You also do not know that the lady with four miscarriages and seeming impossible faith was abused as a child, has had cancer, several major surgeries, and is considered handicap. Funny how details change perspective and our judgment of others.

I quickly decided that heartache cannot be measured with conventional methods. A four week miscarriage is not a lesser loss than a 40 week stillbirth. In both cases, there was much more lost than a precious child. There was the loss of hopes, dreams, and desires. There was the loss of the initial thrill of those two pink lines, the excitement of sharing with family and friends, and the thoughts of “pink or blue?” There was the loss of shopping for cute baby clothes, decorating a nursery, and choosing a first name that sounded just perfect with the middle name (which you would use only in high octaves, when he was in big trouble). There was the loss of the first diaper change, the first bath, the first tooth, the first haircut, and the first boo-boo. There was the loss of hundreds of sloppy kisses and awkward hugs, millions of toothy grins, and those wonderful wobbly footsteps. The loss of birthday parties, holidays, and of course, a way-too-expensive wedding. We have all lost those things, and so much more when that tiny heartbeat stopped in our womb, or never even existed at all.

Maybe you already had a baby shower and a nursery set up. Maybe you had to have a funeral, say good-bye to, and see your child buried under layers of earth. Maybe you even had some bonding time with your child – minutes, hours, or even days of turmoil and emotional roller coasters, leaving you with sad memories and a void beyond understanding. Maybe these things give reason to consider your heartache to be more difficult than so many others, who didn’t have to “clean up” physical evidence of a child, gone to heaven too soon.

Consider the mother that must go into the hospital, have her child taken, in pieces from her womb, only to be thrown away as medical waste. There is no physical evidence left of a baby, nothing to put away or clean up. No pictures. No labor pains. No birth or death certificate. No little hat or tiny blanket. No teddy bear or little lamb. There is only an aching heart and empty arms. What is the proof of this life? How does this mom find closure? How does she grieve something that she cannot even prove existed? How does she heal? Maybe this allows her heartache to be measured as worse than another?

Consider the woman battling infertility. The one who longs for a child – even for a moment in time – in order to earn the coveted title of “Mother.” Think of the months of pregnancy tests, hopes shattered time after time, as the months turn into years. Seeing peers welcome baby after baby, seemingly without effort or, sometimes, even desire. Do you think that Mother’s Day is any less difficult for this precious woman?

Perspective. It is all in the perspective.

I can hardly see a woman in public, without wondering what her story is. I pass a young mother with two rambunctious toddlers, or a weary mom with a screaming baby, or a woman yelling at her children in the freezer section, and I wonder. What is her story? I see a pregnant lady waddling wearily across the parking lot, and I wonder. Does she know how blessed she is to have reached the end with a healthy baby? Does she know the risks that still lie ahead? Oh, how I wonder.

Perspective + Wonder = Grace.

Instead of simply measuring others against my limited experiences, I am able to imagine, sympathize, and even empathize with those around me. For a brief moment, I can make a choice to consider another more important than myself. I can reach out with a kind word, an understanding smile, a listening ear, and even, sometimes, a compassionate hug. I can choose to see other’s heartache with the eyes of grace.

Yes, our heartache is all unique. It is all different. But, it is all difficult. It all hurts. We must each grieve in our own way. Find healing through a journey all our own. The beauty comes when we are able to choose a path alongside others, who can encourage, comfort, and support us during the journey. Even more precious is finding those few companions who will exhort us and push us toward thankful, joyful, and victorious living, in the midst of our heartache. Those very few who will feed truth to our hearts and point us in a direction, which at the time may seem uncomfortable, but will ultimately lead us to higher ground, safer ground – building our faith, widening our capacity for growth, and expanding our volume to show compassion in turn. These few may seem uncaring, unsupportive, calloused, or lacking compassion, especially when heartache is fresh and wounds are raw, but if you take a moment, just a moment, to forget your pain and listen to their stories, you will often find these few are the very ones who have suffered the most.

Step back. Be still. Gain perspective. Show grace. Find a life worth living – a life filled with the joy that comes with the mourning.

But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding. 2 Corinthians 10:12b

Original material by Holly M. Besser, ©2014. May not be used or re-printed without permission. bp58p06-22-14


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