It's hard to believe that it's been five years since Bridget's due date of February 6, 2015. In some ways it feels like it was so recent and in other ways it feels like it was so long ago. I remember taking the picture above on the day of her actual due date, hands crossed over my empty belly, under my broken heart.
I can remember all of the emotions, the pain, the raw grief. My heart and mind were in deep anguish and I wondered how I would ever live the rest of my life without my daughter. Those days and weeks and months were incredibly painful.
I've come a long way in my grieving journey and the pain isn't as fresh and sharp. But it's there and days like today the pain of missing her still comes, now in dull throbs as I ache for the day I'll see her again in Heaven.
Today, as I sat at her grave, legs pulled underneath me on the ground, like I've done a thousand times, beautiful rays of sunshine poured in and lit up her flowers and my heart.
Though the winter air was still cool and crisp, this sunlight was just what my soul needed. The days of winter can be so dark and depressing, especially when your heart is downcast in grief. Months of secondary infertility preceding this day has lent itself to a long and difficult season of waiting.
As I watched the sun cast beams onto Bridget's grave and the babies headstones near her, I looked over to see fresh graves, little dirt mounds where the earth has been moved and a tiny casket has been laid within.
I remember after Bridget was born and buried, wondering what the future would like for her area of the cemetery known as the baby garden. It broke my heart to think of coming to visit her over the years and finding fresh graves and the area filling with more tiny headstones, many with only one date etched on top.
Each new mound breaks my heart a million times over for the family who has just entered into these treacherous waters of grief. And each one brings me back to my own grief, reliving those days of overwhelming sadness.
Earlier today while I was up working at Bridget's Cradles headquarters, I was able to meet with a local mom who lost her baby boy, Andrew, in November. As we got to know each other, we realized that our babies were buried in the same cemetery, very close to each other.
So later when I visited Bridget, I was able to visit sweet Andrew's grave and capture this picture of the sun as it shone down from behind the Jesus statue that sits at the center of this area of the cemetery. I said a prayer for his family and sent his momma the photo. Something about it felt so sacred.
As I sat there, God put a thought into my mind that I haven't been able to stop thinking about the rest of the day. "It's not what you lost, but what have you gained?"
I tell bereaved moms over and over again at our Hope Gatherings support groups that our losses are not permanent, only temporary. Our babies are alive in Heaven. And though it may seem I have "lost" Bridget on earth, I have gained a daughter for all of eternity.
But what else have I gained because of Bridget's short but impactful life? Other than Jesus Himself, no one has had a greater impact on my life than her!
A few things come to mind:
-a changed perspective and heart of compassion and empathy for others
-opportunities to live out the Gospel and share the comfort I've been given by God to others
-deep and real friendships with other moms who have experienced the loss of a baby
-a mind focused on eternity and Heaven, my real home
-a deeper and closer relationship with God as I've walked through my grief with Him
And so many more. There has been so much I have gained from my temporary loss. And isn't that how Jesus so often works?
"Then Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? " -Matthew 16:25-26
I want to be clear that when I shared what I've gained, I'm not trying to simply offer a silver lining to loss. There is simply too much pain and heartache to the experience of losing a baby to say that there's silver linings. But to deny that anything good has come from my experience would simply be untrue and would deny Bridget the beautiful impact she's made on me. God has used my pain and grief for a purpose and for His glory and that's all that I could ever want for my life or for Bridget's.
(A sunset from tonight on my way home from the cemetery, I love how God paints the sky for us when we need it).
To all the mommas who are in the deep waters of grief visiting fresh mounds of earth and carrying fresh heart wounds, know that it does get better. Time doesn't necessarily heal, but time coupled with God's grace and comfort, can and will heal your heart. Grief never truly goes away but it does look and feel different with time. Hold tight to God's hand in these waves and He will comfort you.
To all the mommas like me who are on the shore of grief but get swept back in, I am with you and I am saying a prayer for you.
And to my sweet Bridget, I love you. You are moving mountains and changing the world and I can't wait to see you again and explore the majesty of Paradise with you and Jesus.
But until that day, know that I'm missing you and sending my love and losing my life for the sake of finding it and finding my way home to you.
Written by Ashley Opliger
Bridget's Mom & Executive Director of Bridget's Cradles
Connect with Ashley:
Website | www.ashleyopliger.com
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