Sharing the Burden

I have been doing a lot of thinking over the last week. After all, what else is there to do when you’re up feeding your child in the dark for a few hours every night? As I mentioned in my very first post, one reason I have entered the blogging world is to motivate myself to continue writing, even during these busy, early months of motherhood. When I have recurring thoughts, I often begin “writing” in my head. And if I don’t get my thoughts down on paper soon after, I seem to lose the words. So, this post is simply an expression of my recent late-night ponderings. I can’t guarantee that anything I write is worth reading, but writing is therapeutic for me and an activity I must actively engage in if I want to prevent my writing skills from rusting.

Over the last three weeks, there have been some moments while holding Carter that I still have a hard time believing he is mine. On several occasions, I have been overcome with gratitude, and I hope that I will not quickly take him for granted. In all of our joy, I have not forgotten the parenthood trials that others are presently facing. One courageous couple, Boothe and Conor Farley (fellow Auburn grads), lost their baby girl a few months ago to a chromosomal disease called Trisomy-18. Copeland Fair was on this earth for a mere eight days but left an imprint on the hearts of thousands that will last for eternity. When I check on Carter late at night to make sure he’s still breathing, I frequently feel a twinge of sorrow as I try to imagine how the Farleys were able to endure Copeland’s blue spells and eventually let her go. I continue to read Boothe’s blog and pray for her family as they mourn the loss of their sweet girl and look to God for the next step.

Another couple, Danny and Emily Giffin, just took their son home after a 6 week stay in NICU. Danny was in seminary with me, and baby Britton was due just four days after Carter. After a placental abruption, emergency c-section, and two resuscitations, Britton miraculously survived and escaped severe brain damage despite his heart having stopped for more than eight minutes. For the first week of Britton’s life, his parents were not even able to hold him. I can barely stand to put Carter down. I can't imagine not being able to cuddle with him, particularly in those first few days of his life. Thankfully, Britton beat the odds, surprised the medical staff, and is a living example of a true miracle! Challenges may lie ahead for the Giffin family, but God has clearly equipped them to handle whatever arises.

Finally, a sorority sister from Auburn, Rachel Rikard, was diagnosed last month with non-Hodgkin’s B-cell lymphoma, just two days after giving birth to her daughter, Claire. She is now undergoing chemotherapy treatments. Rachel is handling the treatments well, and the tumor has shrunk tremendously. However, I can only imagine how challenging it must be to balance motherhood and the effects of chemotherapy.

In each of these situations, the individuals have weighed on my heart. I have struggled to know what to say to offer encouragement or hope. My heart has ached for them, and I have shed tears on several occasions in response to the difficulties they face. Words seem inadequate to express my sorrow for their trials, my hope for their futures, and my admiration for their transparency and their faith. But if there is anything I learned from my own difficulties of losing two babies through miscarriages, it has been a new approach to ministry and a changed response to others’ trials through simple expression of sorrow and validation of feelings.

Following the loss of our babies, well-meaning individuals offered words that seemed far from comforting. Trite consolations such as “you’ll have a baby someday” or “it’s all in God’s timing” were well-intentioned but ill-received. I felt like people were minimizing our loss rather than validating the depth of our pain. As a result, I felt alone in my circumstances. One of the most comforting comments I received was an honest and simplistic confession: “Kelley, I don’t know what to say. I am just so sorry.” I have gradually realized that our culture tends to avoid pain. We push people to move forward before they can process their emotions or circumstances. Particularly in Christian circles, people throw around Bible verses as if they are a fix-all. Just hear the Word, and it will solve all your problems. The reality is that God’s word offers truth, perspective, and hope, but it does not eliminate pain or suffering. Authentic Christianity isn’t covering up our wounds with proverbial band-aids but allowing a hurting, unbelieving world to witness the rawness of our pain and the restorative power of a compassionate, loving God.

In reading Boothe Blanton Farley’s blog, I believe she touched the most people when she was vulnerable and transparent with her anger and pain. The responses from those who validated her feelings were refreshing, and I would venture to say, most comforting. Scripture and positive thoughts are no doubt helpful and uplifting, but they should never be offered without careful thought and sensitivity to the timing and circumstances. Authenticity on both sides seems to facilitate deeper healing because the individuals refuse to glaze over the pain.

We all have trials we are currently facing or desires left unfulfilled. It’s easy to tell each other to "simply have faith." When words don’t come easily, we reach for the traditional consolations, believing that those over-used words are at least better than saying nothing at all.

Being real and authentic is not easy. But it reveals the strength that comes from helping each other share the burden. Contrary to popular Christian assertions, desire or pain is not weakness. Faith is not a substitute for desire but rather a complement. It is the two dynamics working together that allow us to persevere and grow in faith and holiness. In validating each other's pain or desires, we experience vulnerability that eventually leads to freedom. And as Paul teaches in 1 Peter 1:7, it's the endurance of longing, not the avoidance of our hearts' suffering, that has the opportunity to prove our faith genuine.

*Please consider lifting up in prayer the families mentioned. You can read their stories on the blogs and site below:

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Anonymous said...

I understand your post completely, however I feel that those who reached out to you during your losses were truly sharing the pain with you. Our words weren't going to heal your pain, fix the problem or keep you from feeling alone. No one has the answer or the perfect thing to say that will magically help. God does. They were simply to show you that they cared for you. "ill-received" means that you made the choice not to receive those people's best efforts at helping you cope. No one was minimizing your loss and avoiding the depth of your pain. Some people may not understand how it feels to lose an unborn child, just as you may not understand the pain that goes along with losing a husband, parent or sibling, but that does not at all mean that it's being minimized. I'm sorry you felt this way, feeling alone is one of the worst and darkest feelings in the world, but I hope that you can see the light in your friends' over-used words, and be thankful that they even acknowledged your pain.

Kelley Brown said...

Thank you for your post. I agree wholeheartedly that friends had all of the best intentions. I have done the same thing by just trying to give a "quick fix" to others, and I simply wanted to encourage all of us to validate each other's trials. I had interviewed several people last fall for an article on grief, and many stated that people tried to just gloss over the situation. I am certainly grateful for all who reached out to my husband and me during our loss.

Jill said...

I so appreciate your authenticity, Kelley, and your willingness to share what God is doing in your life through motherhood. My favorite thing you said (you are such a writer!) was, "Authentic Christianity isn’t covering up our wounds with proverbial band-aids but allowing a hurting, unbelieving world to witness the rawness of our pain and the restorative power of a compassionate, loving God." In a study I'm doing on the life of Christ, I'm seeing that truth time and time again. Just keep gazing upward! Love to you, Dear!

Kristy said...

I was going to comment on the same sentence phrasing that Jill did. I smiled when I read it because you wrote it. :)

Anonymous said...


We just learned of your blog last night. Congratulations on Connor and the joys of parenthood. Thank you for your prayers for Britton--they have ministered to us greatly. Your post brought back many reflections as we endured two miscarriages as well. We look forward to the day Britton and Conner can meet.

Danny & Emily Giffen

Anonymous said...

oops...I meant Carter. Need more sleep!!