Join us for a conversation with Alicia Michelle, host of the Vibrant Christian Living Podcast, about renewing our minds after pregnancy loss. Alicia is a Bible Teacher and certified NeuroCoach. She equips women with practical brain-and-Biblically based tools to overcome negative thinking and cultivate godly confidence.
After losing her son in an early miscarriage, Alicia struggled with overwhelming sadness. Through her journey, God has given her wisdom on how to cope with grief in a healthy way. She teaches us how to manage our thoughts and get out of the negative spirals that we get stuck in so that we can draw closer to God in our grief. In this episode, we discussed:
Giving voice and legacy to our babies in Heaven
The nearness of Heaven and how we can talk to our babies (through Jesus!)
What Alicia wishes she would have known when she was grieving her baby
How to honor our grief and allow it to exist
Sin tendencies and how our brains can trap us into negative habits
Self-sabotaging behaviors and why we do them
Amygdala hijack and how to stop moments of panic
The root problems of fear and control and why they impact our grief
How to trust in a God who allowed your baby to die
The American dream vs. the Kingdom dream
Going deeper in fellowship with God and being refined in our pain
How to combat the enemy's schemes to destroy your healing work
Surrender and the fruit of spiritual gifts and good works
Full transcript below.
Each episode has a special Hope Guide that you can download by clicking the button below. It is packed with hope-filled resources and extra information from the episode!
Discussion / Application Questions (leave your answers below in the comments!)
Alicia and Ashley discuss a quote about Jesus sitting our babies on His knee and talking to them about us. What would you want Jesus to tell them about you? Spend a few minutes talking to Jesus (His Holy Spirit in you) and reflect on the fact that He is also in the physical presence of your babies in Heaven. Does this bring you comfort knowing how near Heaven is to you?
In this episode, Alicia says that we shouldn't beat ourselves up for the things we wish we would have known (whether that was during our pregnancy or after our loss). We need to release regrets. She reminds us that each day is an opportunity to grow closer to God and to change and learn. What are the things that you need to release? What are the things you have learned?
We talked a lot about sin tendencies and negative thinking/behaviors that we do in grief. What earthly coping mechanisms are you turning to that are not healthy? What areas do we need to expose and bring into the light? How can we choose to turn to God in our grief instead of the need to control or escape our emotions?
Graphics to share on social media or pin on Pinterest! Find more here.
CONNECT WITH OUR GUEST
Alicia Michelle is an author, Bible teacher, podcaster, and certified NeuroCoach. She equips Christian women with practical brain-and-Biblically based tools so they know how to renew their minds. She is the host of the weekly Vibrant Christian Living podcast.
Alicia is a mother to five children: four on earth and a baby boy in Heaven.
Connect with Alicia:
CRADLED IN HOPE PODCAST
New episodes will be shared on the 1st and 15th of every month. Don't miss a single episode...subscribe wherever you podcast!
Please also leave a review to help spread the message of hope with other grieving mommas!
MEET OUR HOST
Ashley Opliger is the Executive Director of Bridget's Cradles, a nonprofit organization based in Wichita, Kansas that donates cradles to over 1,090 hospitals in all 50 states and comforts over 26,000 bereaved families a year.
Ashley is married to Matt and they have three children: Bridget (in Heaven), and two sons. She is a follower of Christ who desires to share the hope of Heaven with families grieving the loss of a baby.
Connect with Ashley:
Follow Bridget’s Cradles:
Follow Cradled in Hope Podcast:
JOIN OUR CRADLED IN HOPE COMMUNITY FOR GRIEVING MOMS
Episode 12: Renewing Your Mind after Pregnancy Loss with Alicia Michelle
Ashley Opliger: [00:00:00] You’re listening to the Cradled in Hope Podcast where we believe that the hope of Heaven, through faith in Jesus Christ, has the power to heal our hearts after the loss of a baby. It’s a pain no mother should have to endure and we want this podcast to be a safe place for your broken heart to land. Here, we are going to trust God’s promise to restore our joy, use our grief for good, and allow us to spend eternity with our babies in Heaven.
I’m your host, Ashley Opliger. I’m a wife, mom, and follower of Christ clinging to the hope of Heaven. My daughter, Bridget, was stillborn at 24 weeks in my first pregnancy in 2014. In her memory, my husband and I started a nonprofit ministry called Bridget’s Cradles, and God has given us purpose in our pain and we’ve seen beauty come from ashes.
Although we wish you didn’t have a need to be listening to this podcast, we believe God has a reason for you to be here today. We pray this time would be a source of healing for you as we remember that Jesus cradles us in hope while He cradles our babies in Heaven. Though we may grieve, we do not grieve without hope. Welcome to the Cradled in Hope Podcast.
Ashley Opliger: [00:01:26] Welcome back, friends. I am so honored to introduce you to my friend Alicia. Alicia Michelle is an author, Bible teacher, podcaster, and certified NeuroCoach. She equips Christian women with practical brain-and-Biblically based tools so they know how to renew their minds in order to overcome negative thinking and cultivate godly confidence.
She hosts a weekly podcast called the Vibrant Christian Living Podcast, which I actually had the honor to be on and share about Bridget’s Cradles. You can go back and listen to Episode 119 of her show if you're curious and want to listen to that conversation.
Alicia has a baby in Heaven as well, and we bonded over our shared grief and our shared hope. I know you will be so blessed by the wealth of knowledge that she has on coping with grief in a healthy way, so let's jump right in.
Ashley Opliger: [00:02:20] Welcome Alicia. I'm so glad to have you on the Cradled in Hope Podcast.
Alicia Michelle: [00:02:24] Thank you. I'm so glad to be here.
Ashley Opliger: [00:02:26] Yes. I got to be on your podcast a couple months back, and that was such an honor, and sort of cool to be able to have you on this side.
Alicia Michelle: [00:02:34] Yes, I know. I was just thinking this morning, it's an honor to bring voice to the legacy of our little ones who are lost. They didn't have a voice to share this message, but we get to share their story through what you're doing. And so it's an honor for me to share my son's story on today's show.
Ashley Opliger: [00:02:52] I would love for you to introduce yourself. Tell us more about you, who you are, as well as your motherhood journey and about your experience in losing your son.
Alicia Michelle: [00:03:02] I am Alicia Michelle. I am a Christian mindset coach and a Bible teacher and an author. And my heart is to help women learn how to manage their thoughts, specifically those thoughts that are self-sabotaging or negative spirals that we get stuck in, so that they can learn how to develop confidence, true God-confidence in themselves.
I do that through a course called the Christian Mindset Makeover, through lots of resources on the site, through a podcast, which Ashley just mentioned, and I am honored to do that work with women. So that's my “job”, quote, unquote, in terms of a career, but I have also been a mom for almost 19 years now.
I have been married to my husband for over 20 years and we have our son, who is almost 19, one who is almost 17, their birthdays are actually two days apart in November, and one, a daughter who is 14, and a son who is nine. And then we have a son who is in Heaven, who would be about 10 right now.
So we had three children at that point. And we just felt like we weren't finished, God still had more children. And we had tried for so, so long to get pregnant and were not able to get pregnant. And it was very frustrating, like, “God, why would You not allow us to have more children when we love You and we want to raise them for You?” And it was this really long period.
We finally got pregnant and of course we were so thrilled, telling everybody, telling our other three kids. And I remember going to the doctor's appointment for the 10-week visit.
When you're trying to get pregnant, as you know, you're checking every time you're late. The day after you're late, you're like, “Oh, I'm going to check.” And of course I found out straight away that I was pregnant.
And so I had known for probably about a month that I was pregnant and we'd begun making plans. We'd begun falling in love already. So I went to the 10-week appointment. We even had all the kids in there with us for like, “This is going to be a great experience.”
And I remember the doctor did the ultrasound and he said, “I wonder if there's …” He made some sort of story about the kids going outside of the room with my husband. And he looked at my husband in a certain way.
And he said, “Okay.” And so he took the kids outside and he shared that the baby had passed, that you could see that it was no longer attached inside the uterus.
And I just didn't understand. I was like, “How is that possible?” So it was at least a week and a half or two. I remember just being in the deepest, darkest hole I had ever felt.
Now, I had gone through a time of deep depression in my early 20s, and it was a darkness similar to that, but it was a loss. It was like somebody had just come in and just taken something from me, stolen, that I did not want them to take.
And I didn't understand. “Why would You do this, God? You made us wait all this time. We waited. We were faithful. We believed and You gave us, why would You take it away?” And so I just remember grieving and grieving.
And then the thing that really helped me in that moment, I feel like looking back on it now, I wish I had known some of the things that I learned through all this time, of course you learn so much, that would have helped me then, but what God allowed me to see and experience was a true gift.
I remember one morning sitting in bed being really upset and just having a vision is the closest thing I can describe it, because it’s the only time I've ever had anything like this, but I had a vision of Jesus holding our baby is all I can describe him as. I knew he was our son. He looked to be about a year. He wasn't a newborn baby. He had blonde curly hair.
And I was like, “Wow!” And he looked straight in my eyes and he said, “Mommy, stop crying. I'm with Jesus. I'm okay. I'm okay. You can stop crying now.” Like, “I know you're sad, but I'm okay.” Like that’s just what he kept saying. “I'm okay. I'm okay.”
And I was like, “Okay.” And that was a double gift for me, because I first of all knew that our baby was okay and he was with Jesus. I saw it. But I also saw that it was a boy. And one part of the grief for me was that I never got to know, was this a boy or a girl? It was always such a gift for me when I was pregnant to be able to go, “Oh, it's a girl. Okay.” I could imagine this child. I could think about them.
And I was like, “God, You didn't even let me know when the baby passed.” And so that was a gift from God to let us see that. So yeah, ever since then, I mean, you never think something like miscarriage or stillborn, any of these really tragic things that happen, you never expect them to happen to you. But when they do, you begin to see little glimpses of how these are part of your story, that this child's story has a testimony still to encourage others.
I can't even tell you the number of women that God has brought into my life, who have gone through miscarriage, who have lost a child. And I can sit with them and cry with them and understand that pain.
I'm grateful that He gives a legacy to these little ones that we lose, even though my child never lived outside of my womb. But he still has a legacy, so to me it's just incredible.
Ashley Opliger: [00:08:13] Absolutely. And what a beautiful image that God allowed you to see. There's actually a quote from Billy Graham, the late evangelist.
He actually lost a nephew that was three months old. And when talking about his loss and his family's loss, he explained to people that if we could only get a glimpse of Heaven for even a second, we would never want our loved ones to come back to this broken earth.
And that really stuck with me because I think so much of it, when it comes to the hope of Heaven, it's faith. We have to believe in something we can’t see yet.
And so we know our babies are in Heaven. We believe that our baby is in Heaven, but because we haven't actually seen it, I do think sometimes it's hard for us to really take comfort and rest in knowing: Yes, they are okay. They’re more than okay. They are fully alive in the most beautiful, perfect place that we could ever imagine.
And I love that God gave you that vision and peace and comfort, knowing that your baby is sitting on Jesus' lap. It actually reminds me of this quote. I want to read it because it's so beautiful and it reminds me of exactly what you just said.
It says, “Jesus. I wanted to sit my babies on my lap and tell them about You. As I can't do that now, will You sit them on Your knee and tell them about me?”
And I just love that quote because it's something that you don't really think about, but the fact that Jesus can talk to our babies about us because His Holy Spirit is in us, and Jesus knows us so intimately that He can talk to our babies about us. And as well as our loved ones that have gone on to Heaven before us, I imagine, are able to hold our babies and talk to our babies, and that just brings me so much comfort.
Even on Bridget’s headstone, we have Jesus holding a baby. It's just so much comfort knowing that our babies are in the presence of Jesus. And one thing I like to say is Jesus is physically in Heaven, holding our babies and His Holy Spirit is in us. I feel that Heaven is so close. It's so near. We're connected through Heaven, through His Spirit.
And when I'm missing Bridget, I always think, ”I can just talk to Jesus because she's right there with Jesus and Jesus is in me.” So Heaven is so much closer than we think.
Alicia Michelle: [00:10:32] Mmm, that is beautiful. I love that picture that you shared. That's actually very similar to the vision that I saw.
It was literally Jesus holding a baby, just in His arms. It was sitting on his hip kind of, because it was a bigger child. So comforting and so true. And even to think, like I shared with you before we started recording, we lost our mother-in-law a few weeks ago, my mother-in-law, my husband's mom. And she loved her grandkids. And that she's holding our baby, that's just a beautiful picture. So thank you for that.
Ashley Opliger:[00:11:04] That’s beautiful.
Alicia Michelle: [00:11:05] Sorry to break down.
Ashley Opliger:[00:11:07] No, it's okay. That is so beautiful and so comforting to know that. My mom always says, she's still on earth, but she always says she's going to get to Heaven and see Bridget before me. So they're going to have already bonded and been hanging out and exploring Heaven without me.
And so when I get up there, then they'll be able to give me a tour and catch me up on everything that they've been doing. And I just sometimes picture Bridget being like, “Come, Mommy, look!” Like, “Come and look at this beautiful waterfall, this special little place I found!”
There's just so much glory and beauty that we're going to see and, I think, colors that we've never got to see on this earth, and smells, and sights, and tastes, so many beautiful, amazing wonders that await us in Heaven I think we can't even fathom with our human minds. So yes, thank you for sharing that.
Alicia Michelle: [00:11:57] Yeah. No, it's going to be an incredible time and that's amazing that our children are going to get to show us, like you said, all of the intricacies and the beauties, give us the tour, so to speak, the grand tour of when we get there.
Ashley Opliger: [00:12:09] Yes.
Alicia Michelle: [00:12:11] Yeah.
Ashley Opliger: [00:12:11] You said something, when you were talking about that deep grief that you entered into after your son went to Heaven, and you were just wading through those deep waters of grief and trying to figure out what was up and down.
I feel like after loss, your whole world flips upside down and the world's spinning, but you feel like you're stuck and you're in this space where you're looking out at the world and thinking, “How are people continuing to move on and live life and my world feels like it's stopped?” And you're really in survival mode when you're going through grief like that.
And you said you've learned so much now that you could have used back then. What are those things that you wish you would've known during your grief that would help another mom who's currently going through that deep grief after losing a baby?
Alicia Michelle: [00:13:01] That’s such a great question. First, I would say, which I have to tell myself, I would say to the person who lost someone, a child, a loved one, whoever it is, and it's been a while, that don't beat yourself up for what you wish you had known then, and think, “Well why didn't I just do that?” Or, “Why didn't I respond in this way,” because God gives us every day the opportunity to grow in Him and to change and to learn. And we can't view our circumstances then from the lens that we have now. We just can't.
So release that, if that's where you're like, “Oh, I wish I had known that. What's wrong with me,” kind of a thing, which is easy for us to step into. I really wish that I had been more emotionally healthy then. I grew up really not learning how to handle emotions, how to manage my thoughts, which is of course the work I do now, but not learning about that at all and just pushing it down.
And when it did come up, to yell at it and tell it it was wrong and bad. So in that time, part of what I was going through along with the grief was this inner struggle in me to be like, “Just whatever. It's over. Move on. Stop grieving. It doesn't matter.” Not doesn't matter, but, “Yes, it happened. Okay. How long are you going to sit in this?”
Like the impatience that we try to just push ourselves through. And recently, again, I was thinking about another situation where somebody was sad. A friend of mine had lost her dog and again, a dog that she's had for 14 years and it's a really big deal.
And I was tempted to think, “It's been like five months since she's lost this dog and she's still mourning.” And I was tempted to think like, “Really? Come on. Get over it.” And then I thought, “Alicia, that is your old mindset.” Again, like grief is tricky. It takes time. It needs to be honored.
The difference between dwelling in it and honoring it is that we allow it to exist. We allow ourselves to have compassion for it. We recognize why it makes sense. We recognize it's part of the human condition of suffering. We are all in this world going to suffer and we recognize that God is with us through it.
And we don't have to try to just make ourselves move on from it, that it isn't the goal of our life to just continually live in joy and happiness. I think that's a huge disservice that the Church tries to share all the time, that joy is the ultimate goal. Joy is nirvana.
Joy is great. Joy is always present. It's like a flowing river that we can tap into it. It doesn't change. But there are other emotions that are highly valuable as well. And we don't need to rush over them or run over them to get to just find joy and to be past it.
And that's what I think I was trying to do is just be joyful. Just try to think of the good things. Sure, you can, but you don't need to dismiss the difficult, hard parts of it. And so going through that and being that honest and real and raw through it, it can feel harder, because when you're going through deep grief, you just want to push it away because it's already super painful. I don't want to open it up.
So we're not saying you have to do that straight away, like yes, this instant everything. But it's so helpful to be real with yourself about what you're feeling and to let God do the healing in His time and not be afraid to sit in the emotion and to understand that it's reasonable to feel this way.
I wish I had known that it was reasonable and okay to grieve for longer than quote unquote, “what I thought was necessary.” That's what I would say,
Ashley Opliger: [00:16:45] Right, giving yourself that permission to grieve and to sit in your sadness. We talk about that all the time, how it's so important. And I do think it goes against our human tendency to feel pain, because we don't want to feel pain.
So we try to do everything we can to avoid it, which it can be rushing through. It can be just getting back into a normal routine and staying busy. That's one of my tendencies, is to distract myself from pain. And so I keep myself super busy. I love my to-do lists.
And God’s given me a personality to be driven and productive, which is a good thing, but it can be sinful when I try to use that to escape my emotions or escape allowing God to do a healing work in the deep parts of my heart versus trying to control it and handle it on my own.
That's when I think it can be almost sinful, really, if you think about it, when we try to control our grief on our own terms and figure out our own coping mechanisms, which most of the time, because we're human and we're sinful, we're going to lean toward something that's negative or not necessarily healthy for us because we want to escape it.
And so for other moms it might be that we're going to alcohol or we're going to retail therapy or shopping to avoid it, to make us feel better. For me, sometimes it's stress eating sweets or things like that. And I know that it's kind of hard to talk about these things and just expose my own sin here on the podcast.
But I think it's important that we expose that darkness and turn to God when we realize, “You know what? I'm trying to turn to earthly pleasures or trying to turn to earthly coping mechanisms instead of allowing God to come into these deep and hard and scary emotions and heal me from the inside out.”
And I think that's what you're saying, is that we need to sit in it and we need to allow God's work through that. So what would you say to a mom who's feeling overwhelmed by her grief and loss? What should they do in that moment when they're feeling overwhelmed and they want to sit in it, but it's hard and it's scary to do that?
Alicia Michelle: [00:18:56] Before I answered that question, can I say something based on what you just said a second ago? Because I think it really needs to be said that when we respond in all the ways you're talking about, these behaviors often are self-sabotaging. And we think, “Why do I do that? Why don't I just go to God,” or whatever, we have to understand that we're not only fighting our spirit, we're fighting our biology.
So our biology, our brain is telling us, always trying to keep us safe. It's always trying to protect us. It's always trying to keep us alive. So if it sees pain, it's going to try to subconsciously try to divert us away from pain, because again, it's trying to keep us safe.
So if we are going through something difficult, if we're just listening and not paying attention to what we're feeling, what we're experiencing, allowing ourselves to sit in it, then we just can almost step into that subconscious mind where we're just needing the relief or needing the pain relief of whatever it is.
And so that's why it's so important, when we're talking about learning about grief and coming over whatever we're trying to work through emotionally, that we're aware of what's happening and that when we see ourselves responding in these ways, we can almost laugh at ourselves.
“Okay, here I am again, trying to make myself feel better through retail therapy or binge eating,” or whatever, and not be mad at ourselves but to say, “Hey, obviously I'm in pain. Obviously I'm suffering. And I understand what my brain is trying to do. That's not going to solve it.”
We have to learn to practice that muscle from the logical mind to learn how to calm that other side down. Like, “This isn't going to solve it.” What we really need is to be able to be real with it, let God heal us. And that comfort is good, but that it becomes bad when it becomes a coping mechanism.
Ashley Opliger: [00:20:43] So it's almost like the behavior is a red flag that something deeper within us is going on, like a check engine light comes on.
Alicia Michelle: [00:20:51] Yes, absolutely.
Ashley Opliger: [00:20:53] It's, “Okay, there's a check engine light. Something's wrong with the car that needs to be fixed.” If we're going to retail therapy or we're feeling the need to make brownies and eat a whole pan, which I could do, and I love chocolate, but it's not good to be eating in excess. Right? So if I'm feeling this need to do this, it's a check engine light.
“Oh, okay. I need to be in tune with the pain. I need to be in tune with what's going in my heart and in my soul and in my mind, because these behaviors are really just signs of something deeper that's going on within me.”
And another thing that you said that reminded me of my counseling experience after I lost Bridget. I had a really wonderful counselor. And I'm sure with all your work with brain anatomy that you know about this, but we talked a lot about the amygdala hijack and how essentially for me, a lot of times when I am going through grief or loss, I will experience anxiety that comes on as panic.
And what's happening is the amygdala, which is that part in the back of your brain that is the fight or flight response and controls, basically, your survival instinct, whenever there's some sort of trigger or something in the world that happens, it will pop off.
The amygdala hijack goes into motion and the prefrontal cortex, which is where your logic and your reasoning and all of that part of your brain can reason with you and say, “No, it would be best if you didn't do X, Y, or Z, this is how you're feeling,” that part goes offline when your amygdala takes over, which is why they call it a hijack, and you're no longer able to reason and rationalize with yourself.
And so my counselor would talk a lot about the whole left brain/right brain, and even we did some EMDR therapy and things like that to try to help my body, because I'm more of a left-brain person, focus on how can I get my body to calm down so that my brain can focus and I can reason and have a logical sense when I get panicked in grief. So maybe you have more to share about that.
Alicia Michelle: [00:22:57] Yeah, I would. That is exactly what happens. And there's some very interesting research by Dr. Jud Brewer. He's a psychotherapist, he does more of the research side of reward-based behavior and working with people struggling with addiction, understanding why do we go back to these addictive behaviors when we know quote unquote, “what we're supposed to do.” And he talks exactly about that, that the amygdala jumps in, tries to save it.
And literally, like you said, the prefrontal cortex goes offline and we can't process. What we can learn to do though, is through things like being mindful of what's happening, being aware of what's happening. And that's a skill that we can learn and practice, being aware of what we're feeling and not dismissing it and shutting it down, just being like, “Okay, it's existing.”
That makes it easier for the prefrontal cortex to learn how to manage and break that amygdala hijack faster so that it's not just so you get lost. He describes it like you sit down and you've eaten the whole box of donuts and you're like, “Wait, what happened? Oh.” And then the guilt sets in. So you can break it faster and you can understand faster when you can practice that.
But yeah, what I've been thinking about lately is a lot of how, again like we said, safety, but fear. So the fear of things hurting us or of us being hurt more. Fear is the root, and then that self-sabotaging behavior is the fruit that comes from it. It's that that's the root of it all.
So if we try to just be mad at ourselves for the self-sabotaging behavior, that's not going to fix it. We have to know what's the root that's causing that fruit of the self-sabotage and it is, most of the time, fear. It's that pain stepping into it.
And the other thing that I was going to share is that I just did a podcast recently with a woman named Nancy Hicks, who is an author and a speaker. And she recently lost her 28-year-old son to colon cancer.
And so we were talking about: How do you manage? How do you mentally prepare yourself for grief at the holidays? She had just lost him in May, so this is going to be her first holiday without him. And how do you realistically deal with that?
And she was saying, “When you go through something like that, where you have prayed and fasted and done all the right things, and God doesn't answer your prayer, you have a different perspective of who God is as protector.
You realize that He's not a protector if He does what you tell Him to do. He's your protector through the pain. So it's like you make a decision in that moment where you're either going to be mad that He didn't answer your prayer, like He didn't save your baby, or you have to realize, “Am I only following Him because He does what I want Him to do? Or am I following Him because He's good and He loves me, and so therefore I'm going to trust Him?”
So that is a mindset, that's a struggle we have to go through, but if we can get to that place, that can give us the courage and the ability to sit in deep grief more easily and allow us to let God do that work. Because that's the hardest thing about grief too, with so many emotions, is we can go to that place, but we don't have a magic wand to fix it.
We as moms, we are so good at solving problems all day, figuring things out, but when it comes to this kind of stuff, that is that supernatural healing that has to happen. It's laying ourselves before God on the altar, and then He has to bring the healing work. But we have to get on the altar first. Right? So it's this partnership, but it's a very vulnerable partnership that God has to bring us to.
Ashley Opliger: [00:26:42] We hope you are enjoying this episode so far. We wanted to take a quick break to tell you about some other hope-filled resources our ministry provides to grieving families.
On our website, bridgetscradles.com, you can find many resources on grieving and healing including memorial ideas, quotes & Scripture, blog articles, featured stories, recommended books, and other support organizations. We share ideas on how to navigate difficult days such as due dates, Heaven Days, and holidays. We also have a page with ideas on how to care for a friend or family member who has experienced pregnancy loss.
In addition, every month I lead free Christ-centered support groups for bereaved moms called Hope Gatherings, both in-person and online. You can find a list of upcoming dates and sign up for our next support group on our website. You can also join our private Cradled in Hope Facebook group for grieving moms to find friendship and support. We would be honored to hear your baby’s story and be praying for you by name.
Lastly, our Pinterest page has beautiful graphics of quotes & Scripture from this episode, along with many other resources that you can pin and save. We would also love for you to connect with us on Facebook and Instagram. You can find us on these three pages: @bridgetscradles, @cradledinhope, and my personal page @ashleyopliger. We’d love for you to follow along and spread the word about the Cradled in Hope Podcast. Now let’s get back to our episode.
Ashley Opliger: [00:28:18] And that brings back to trusting God to be your protector and trusting in His character.
One of the things that I see a lot of women, I'm in some Facebook groups for pregnancy loss and not necessarily for believers, but for any mom who's experienced loss, and one of the comments that I will see so often after someone has lost a baby is, “How could a good God allow this to happen to me?”
I've literally seen comments where they say, “I don't want to believe in a God that would allow this to happen to me. I don't want to put my trust in a God who would allow my baby to die.”
And they're so mad at God, which they're acknowledging that God exists, but not believing in His good character. And that's, I think, one of the most important things to set straight in order to have a healthy mindset toward God is that God is good and He is not doing this to punish you or to cause this pain on you for any reason.
It's the brokenness of our own sin that has caused this. It's humanity, starting with Adam and Eve, because of the Fall of humanity and our sin that has allowed death and sickness, and brokenness to enter the world. And so that is why we have lost our babies.
Yes, God has allowed it to happen in His sovereignty, but that doesn't mean that He's purposing it. And I think that's one of the biggest roadblocks to women trusting God is that they do feel that God is responsible and, “How could I trust someone who did this on purpose?”
And I think for me, that's one thing I really try to set straight with moms is that yes, God did allow it and He is sovereign. He allowed it, but He has made a way to redeem us and He's given us the ultimate gift of salvation. Through our faith in Jesus, we are reconciled with God, because of His grace. By faith, through grace, He has saved us and that is the ultimate gift. And He is worthy of our praise. He is worthy of being trusted because of that.
But it is hard and I would be lying to say that I didn't go through those questions and feeling abandoned by God and asking those tough questions of, “God, why did You allow this? Why me? What did I do to deserve this?”
But when I studied who He is in Scripture, in the Bible, which is God's authoritative Word on who He is and the story that He's writing in humanity, I know that it's not because He's trying to punish me. He can redeem our pain.
And going back to something you said earlier, He really does work through our pain, and we can become the closest to God and be sanctified and refined the most by the Holy Spirit in pain and suffering. I grew so much closer to Jesus in my pain after losing Bridget and other trials in my life than I ever did just in the happy mountaintop experiences.
Alicia Michelle: [00:31:10] Sure. Right. Oh my gosh. A couple of things can I add to that? Because it was like that's exactly a huge lie that's going through our churches right now is something that our pastor this week spoke about. And he phrased it as, “Do we want the American dream or do we want the Kingdom dream?”
The American dream of God says. “I follow this rule. You give me what I want and You prosper me. I don't have any pain. And if I have pain, then I did something wrong. If I have any suffering, then You don't make sense. Why would You make me suffer? You're a good God.” It's this whole mindset that we've put on there. “If I do the right thing, God's going to bless me.”
The Kingdom dream says. “I love you. I'm with you in your suffering. You will have suffering. Look at what happened to My Son. He suffered. And I am good. You're following Me because I am good, not because of what I give you or don't give you.”
And so that's to say that, but to also to say it is so normal and I think healthy to have those kind of questions about God. “Why would You allow this to happen? Why would You do this if You love me, You love my children, You love our family?”
I think that is, first of all, our God is big enough for us to ask those questions. We don't ever have to be afraid that He will be mad at us, He won't like us anymore if we ask questions like that. Those are the questions that may be have been simmering in our hearts for years that we've never dealt with.
But He's, “This is an obstacle. I want to allow this question to come to the forefront so we can deal with it”. Maybe this is the way that He's allowing there to be more fellowship with Him, more honest, authentic connection with God, because this question has come out and you've wrestled with it.
We cannot be afraid to wrestle. I think it's been lost in our generation and in our culture. We don't like wrestling. We want it to be solved. We want it to be moved on. We don't want to deal with it anymore, but that is not the way of God. That is not the way of deep friendship with God, with fellowship, and we have to be okay.
So for those women who would have those questions, I would say, “Good. Go to God, ask those questions. Look at how He treated His people throughout Scripture. Look at chapters like Hebrews 11, the Hall of Faith.
People, amazing saints, who we get to meet one day in Heaven, who've followed God, people who did what God told them to do and they never saw the Promised Land. They never saw the full completion of the promise. They never saw it. Was it because God didn't love them? No. He was with them through all of their trials, but this was just part of their story. It wasn't that He wasn't good to them.
I think we can't be afraid to wrestle. We can't be afraid to ask the deep questions. God is bigger than those questions. And that was actually how I came to faith in Christ at 19. If I'm going to believe in a God, He has to be big enough for me to ask the questions like, “How do I know this is true? How do I know Your Word hasn't changed over the centuries? How do I know this? How do I know that?”
I had to go through all of that and get those questions worked out before I was able to honestly say, “Okay, I'm giving my life to You.”
And some of us have grown up following a religion, and when hard times come, that is the opportunity for us to see: Is this a true faith? How deep is my faith? How deep are the roots? Like the seed being thrown on the ground, are these roots that are within rocks or are they in good soil?
God is allowing us, like you said, being refined in the fire to be stronger through these times. So if we could reframe it to be, yeah, it's really hard, we're not saying it's not, “How could this be an opportunity for me to grow deeper in Christ and to really be more authentic in my faith,” I think that would make a huge difference.
Ashley Opliger: [00:34:57] I love that. And I love what you said about the American dream versus the Kingdom dream.
And I 100% agree that the prosperity gospel, the American gospel, you could really call it, is not the Gospel.
Alicia Michelle: [00:35:12] Right.
Ashley Opliger: [00:35:12] It's not the Gospel. And it's bold to say that out loud, but when you study Scripture and every single person that God loved in the Bible, Job, Paul, His disciples, Jesus Himself all went through incredible suffering.
And just like you said, it didn't mean that He didn't love them, but that was part of their walk. Even God Himself came to earth and suffered. In our American mindset, that suffering is not supposed to be part of the walk, and that if God really loves us, we wouldn't suffer.
He never promised us that we would not suffer on this earth. In fact, He promised that we would suffer. He said, “Take heart. I have overcome the world, but in this life you are going to have trouble.” And that's part of it until God comes back and restores this earth to be the New Earth in the New Heaven. But until He has defeated the enemy, we are going to be dealing with all of this and we are going to be dealing with the effects of the Fall.
And I think it's very important to purge ourselves from some of these false theologies and false gospels that are out there and, quite honestly, false teaching that's in the Church right now.
That's something that God has really been making aware for me as to be very mindful of the sermons I listen to and the podcasts that I listen to and filtering everything that I'm listening to, even worship music, that the doctrine behind the songs aligns with His Word, because I want to be filling my mind with the true Gospel and through Scripture.
And that really does impact our grief, because if we have the American gospel version downloaded into our brain of, “If I'm suffering, then something must be wrong.” And I love what you said about going to God with your feelings and having this authentic, real friendship with Jesus.
I remember one night I was at the cemetery late at night, which is probably weird to hear, but I just needed to be at the cemetery with Bridget. I remember just bawling my eyes out over her grave and then getting in my car and screaming at God and pounding on the steering wheel. This was very fresh in my grief, of just like, “Why? Why is this my life story? I hate this for my life!”
And I just had to be real with God and super raw in my emotions with Him because He already knows how we’re feeling. He knows.
And so I think it's important to bring that to Him and allow Him to work in it and, like you said, draw near to Him and wrestle through those feelings, because I do think that's going to only strengthen our relationship with God over time versus having these thoughts, these questions, concerns, and not bringing them to Him, and then growing apart from Him because we're bitter and we haven't resolved these questions through His Word to really understanding who He is and who He is to us in our grief.
And then we end up on a completely different path because we didn't bring those feelings to Him. So I love that you shared that.
Alicia Michelle: [00:38:08] Exactly, yes. Now, control too is a word that kept coming to me when you were just sharing, because we have to ask ourselves, “Am I serving a God that I can control and fit in my pocket? Or am I serving a God who is big and mysterious who I don't always understand?”
It makes me think of C. S. Lewis when he speaks about Aslan in the story of the Chronicles of Narnia, where he describes Aslan as not a tame lion. He's not safe. Our God is not safe.
That's heresy to some people to hear that. “Why would you follow a God who's not safe?” He's not safe, but He's good. We can't say that we know exactly what He's going to do.
We know His character. We know that He is love. He's compassion. He's a God that’s slow to get angry, abounding in love. That's His character, but we can't predict what He's going to do every second of the day. That's not God. And we have to get to that real realization,
And so control, I think, is a big issue when we realize, when we lose something like a child, we go, “Why would You do this?” It's a control thing. What do you think about that? Do you think control plays a part in that, too?
Ashley Opliger: [00:39:14] Absolutely. And I think as moms, our motherly instinct is to protect and to nurture our children, and especially when we lose a child. For me, I struggled so much with my identity as a mom and my body, having to forgive my body for not nurturing and bringing life to my daughter.
Alicia Michelle: [00:39:34] Oh, wow.
Ashley Opliger: [00:39:34] And that was a big thing because I felt I could have controlled it if I only would've known what to do to protect her. And I wasn't in control, and that was the hardest part of my bed rest journey, because I was on bed rest from 13 weeks to 24 weeks, knowing that there were problems in my womb that I couldn't fix. I couldn't control.
The only thing that I could do was rest in bed and pray. And as a mom and as just a human feeling that “Okay, there's something wrong with my daughter and I can't fix it. I can't control it, the only thing I can do is surrender and pray to God,” and that was really hard for me.
And looking back on it now that I know some things about my body and about hormones and things that I was on, progesterone for my two pregnancies with my boys and they were full-term and healthy. And so I look back and have this guilt of, “If I would've known about progesterone, could I have saved her?”
And It goes back to what you said. We can't go back and have this knowledge. We didn't know that. And that really does just go back into me wanting to control my life circumstance, my life story.
And at the root of it, I would say that's the sin of pride of wanting to be our own God, wanting to elevate ourselves before God, and say, “This is the story I want to write for my life. And I don't want it to include losing my daughter. I don't want it to include any pain or suffering.”
There are so many other aspects of my life I would have completely rewritten if I was in control. And it is really hard to surrender those hard parts, but there's so much beauty when you can surrender in your suffering, because I think that's when God can start using your grief for good and really redeeming your pain.
And just like the verse says, that, “He will work all things together for the good of those who love Him, who've been called according to His purpose.” And that's what I believe happens when you surrender. He can use your pain when you're willing to surrender and you're saying, even if you say, “I don't like this part of my story, God, I don't like that this is happening. I would have written my story differently, but I'm going to trust You in this.”
And that's the place that I got to in my surrender moment, was, “God, I'm going to trust You. I'm going to lean on You. I'm going to believe in Your Word and who You say You are because You are giving me this beautiful gift of salvation. I cannot save myself. I cannot do enough good things. I cannot be a good enough person or earn my way to Heaven to be able to see Bridget again. I am a sinner in need of a Savior, and Jesus, You have given me this gift. And I am so grateful for that gift that I'm going to surrender my life and do anything and everything You want me to do in obedience.”
That's where the good works come. He saves us through grace, but faith without works is dead. And I think the works come from being so grateful for the gift that we want to live our lives for Jesus and do these things in memory of our babies and for the glory of God, until we get to see our babies in Heaven.
Alicia Michelle: [00:42:34] Right, completely. And like I had said before, that fear is the root and self-sabotage is the fruit. So if surrender is the root, then the spiritual gifts of God are the fruit.
We can't produce those and let the Holy Spirit work in us, I mean, even just from a logical standpoint, He can't produce and take over if we haven't surrendered our camp, we haven't given it over to Him. So we have that choice of fear or surrender.
I really think that that's a key question that comes more to light in these hard moments, but it ultimately is the question we get to ask ourselves every day as Christians. “Am I going to live in fear and control, or am I going to live in surrender and release to God. What's coming next?”
Ashley Opliger: [00:43:24] That's a beautiful summary. I love that. As we have talked about healing and being able to do this healing work that God wants to give us during our suffering, we know that the enemy is going to be at work and trying to sneak in and steal that healing work, and steal our joy, and cause us to question God. So what can we do to protect our hearts from those attacks and his conniving ways?
Alicia Michelle: [00:43:52] Sure. I think the first thing to do is just be aware. That's the number one thing that we talk about when I work with clients one-on-one or in the Christian Mindset Makeover. The first thing we talk about is noticing and being aware and acknowledging it.
So much happens in our minds and our lives that we don't pay attention to, just because we're so busy and we're running from one thing to the next. But if we can learn to practice that skill of seeing what's happening, we can become aware of why our grief and suffering might make sense, first, and also how the enemy might be trying to twist it.
Because if we know that, “God works all things for our good for those who are called according to His purpose,” that's the verse that we quote all the time around grief, then we also know that the enemy is going to try to use what he intended for evil to continue to stay evil.
Joseph, in the story when he says, talking to his brothers, “You intended this for evil, but God intended it for good”, you know that the enemy, he intends it for evil and he wants to finish it.
So if we can have that awareness that the enemy is out there and he's going to try to twist this, then when it starts to happen, we can say, “Okay, I see it.”
And I'm going to again say how it could even be plausible what he's saying, because he doesn't speak things that are hard for us to believe. He comes as an angel of light. Right?
He says things that we're like, “Yeah, that's really true,” sometimes. So we have to recognize, “Okay, how might I be trying to get in line with it?” And then, “God, what is the truth here?” Right? “What's true? And where do I want to dwell in this situation?”
So I think an awareness is probably the skill, and a willingness to own what's in our head and what the enemy might be trying to put there and decide: What do we want to do with this?
Because we are the only creatures in the world who have a mind and a brain. We have the ability to stand outside our brain and decide what we want to think about. And that means we have the ability to let or not let the enemy’s lies come in. We have been given that skill.
And it's a skill that we practice. I believe it's a life skill that we have to learn. And that's a part of what I get to do is to help women learn how to do that, but to learn that life skill so that we can be aware of his schemes when it happens. So to expect it, first of all, and to be aware of when it happens.
Ashley Opliger: [00:46:09] That goes along with Ephesians 6: 12. It says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the Heavenly realms.”
Just being aware that we do have an enemy and that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but it is against the enemy of darkness, Satan, that wants to come in and steal, kill, and destroy. He wants to steal our joy. He wants to kill our relationships with others and with God, and destroy our lives, destroy our hearts, destroy our ability to trust God.
And there's going to be so many attacks. Like you said, he can be very sneaky.
Sometimes it might seem like a good thing, but not a God thing. And there's just a lot of things that you have to be very aware of, and processing everything through the Word of God, and self-reflecting on your behaviors, and motives, and what's coming in, and even the advice that you're hearing.
One thing that I've been trying to speak out about in this grief space for pregnancy loss is there are nonprofits and Instagram accounts that have quotes about pregnancy loss, but they're not coming at it from a Biblical perspective and they're not Christians.
And so I feel like that's actually very dangerous to be taking in information from someone who doesn't have the same worldview and doesn't have the hope of Jesus. It might seem innocent to be, “Oh, this is healing to do this and to listen to this or that.”
But if you believe in Jesus and you want to process your grief with Him and through Him and have the hope to see your baby again, I feel like it's very important to protect your mind of who you're listening to, what support groups you're going to, what counselor you're going to.
I believe very strongly that if you're going to counseling that you should be going to a Christian counselor, because the advice and the methods that are going to be used and, if it's cognitive behavioral therapy, the conversations you're going to be having are going to be very different if you don't have the Christian spiritual aspect if you're just going through this and trying to solve your grief in a worldly manner.
And I know that sounds very strong and bold to say that because there's some Instagram accounts that I'm like, “Well, I like the little quotes about baby loss or what not, but if that's not coming with Truth, absolute Truth, then I don't think that I should be consuming this content.”
And like I said, I know that's very strong, but I very much believe in the Word of God and very much believe in Jesus and what He did for us. And I think that it's important to be consuming content that aligns with His Word and the Truth that we have.
Alicia Michelle: [00:48:50] That’s right. Definitely.
Ashley Opliger: [00:48:52] So as we wrap up our conversation, I just want to give you an opportunity to share any final comments that you want to share with moms that are fresh in this grief?
Alicia Michelle: [00:49:03 Yeah, I would just say that first of all, self-compassion is huge and that it's okay to grieve. It's okay to feel sad. It's normal. It's part of how we were made. And think of it as an invitation from God to go deeper.
I would encourage them to be real about what they're experiencing and to be real about what they're feeling in terms of God around it and see it as an opportunity to say not just, “What are You going to teach me, God,” but, “How can I learn more about God's compassion and His ability to sit with me in suffering?
This isn't a choice that I made. I didn't choose to walk on this journey, but I still serve a sovereign Lord who is in control of all things. And am I believing just that my faith is based on ‘Would I get what I want?’ Or do I really believe that God is God and I am not? Do I really believe that?”
Because it's in these moments where we get to figure that out and to not be afraid to wrestle with God through those things. And that might mean you alone and a journal for however long it takes. That might mean you working with a Christian counselor. That might mean you just meeting with a group, a support group like what you guys have, Ashley, things like that. It can look different ways for what you need, but to not ignore it, to not push it aside and just, like you said, keep going with your life.
And a lot of us have other kids. I had three other young kids when that happened and it was like, “Yes, you are busy, but this is an opportunity and it has to be dealt with because if not, it's going to come up later.”
So make the time to invest in healing yourself through this and be okay with the difficulties and messiness of the journey along the way.
Ashley Opliger: [00:50:50] Thank you so much, Alicia. How can listeners get connected to you? Would you mind sharing your website and where they can find you on social media?
Alicia Michelle: [00:50:59] Sure. Thank you so much for that. You can find everything that I do at vibrantchristianliving.com and that's where you can find out about the podcast. You can listen to straight on the website itself, or we're on all major podcast players.
And that's where you can learn about the course, the Christian Mindset Makeover, which is a nine-part course where we teach you how to manage these thoughts, how to create these life skills to learn how to manage your emotions.
And we do something called brain priming, which is something that I have only been able to do with clients, but we've now been able to put this together in a course format and we will be releasing that and opening it back up again in November. So I'm assuming this will probably be out by then.
There is also a free workshop training called Transforming Your Thoughts to Transform Your Life that you can find at vibrantchristianliving.com/mind. So you can definitely check that out and that's got some great resources on: What do we do with these emotions? How do we handle them in the moment?
I'm also on Instagram @vibrantchristianliving. So I would love to connect with you in any or all of those ways, especially if you're walking through grief. Even if you just want to DM me, I would love to pray for you. I again understand what that grief journey is like.
Ashley Opliger: [00:52:11] Oh, I love that, Alicia. And we will be linking her website, her podcast, her course, all of that in our Hope Guide and in our show notes so you'll be able to find links for that as well.
We are just so thankful for your testimony and for you sharing all of your amazing knowledge that God has given you over the years through your own grief journey and through being a mindset coach. So thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and your story with us.
Alicia Michelle: [00:52:38] Oh, thank you so much.
Ashley Opliger: [00:52:40] Thank you for listening to the Cradled in Hope Podcast. We pray that you found hope & healing in today’s message. Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss a future episode. New episodes will be shared on the 1st and 15th of every month. You can also find this episode’s show notes and a full transcript on our website at bridgetscradles.com/podcast.
There you can download a free PDF for each episode, called the Hope Guide, that is filled with notes, Scripture, links, discussion questions, and so much more. Be sure to leave your email address so that we can keep you updated on podcast episodes, upcoming support groups, and other hope-filled resources.
If you’re interested in volunteering or donating to Bridget’s Cradles in memory of a baby in Heaven, you can find information on our website on how you can get involved and spread hope to other grieving families.
One way you can spread hope is by leaving a review of this podcast on iTunes [or Apple Podcasts app]. Consider the two minutes of your time as a way YOU can personally share this hope with a mom whose heart is broken and needs healing. Thank you so much for listening and sharing. Until next time, we will be praying for you. And remember, as Jesus cradles our babies in Heaven, He cradles us in hope. Though we may grieve, we do not grieve without hope.
#bridgetscradles #cradledinhope #cradledinhopepodcast #christianpodcast #christianpodcasters #christianpodcasts #miscarriagematters #infantlosssupport #grievingprocess #stillbirthawareness #miscarriagesurvivor #pregnancylossawareness #grievingmother #infantlossawareness #angelmom #miscarriagesupport #iam1in4 #stillbornstillloved #pregnancyandinfantlossawareness #bereavement #childloss #1in4 #stillborn #stillbirth #griefjourney #miscarriageawareness #lifeafterloss #infantloss #babyloss #pregnancyloss #miscarriage