Join us for a conversation with Casey Nestor about grieving with the Gospel. After losing her sons Judah and Caleb, Casey found herself laying on the floor in deep grief, crying out at the foot of the Cross.
Through her tears and questions, she depended on Jesus to survive the suffering and be sanctified in His image. Because she received a cradle for her son, Casey was connected to Bridget's Cradles and has become a part of our Hope Online community. Her testimony of faith has been a source of encouragement for many grieving moms.
In this episode, we discussed:
Her experience receiving a Bridget's Cradle for her son, Judah
What attending an online support group has been like for her (and why she was skeptical at first!)
The importance of attending a Christ-centered support group
How to believe God is good even when life hurts so bad
Standing on the Word of God in the midst of grief and why we can't rely on our feelings or our own "truth"
Culture's trend of seeking "mediums" to contact their babies (and why that's dangerous!)
A beautiful illustration of the impact of the Gospel
Grieving your old self and finding a new identity in Christ in the New Year
Looking away from ourselves and toward helping others to find hope
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!)
Casey talks about how she had to learn to trust that God is good even when her grief hurts so bad. Through wrestling with God and discovering some false theology in her beliefs, she was able to believe that God is good, no matter what. Can you resonate with her feelings and if so, in what ways are you struggling to believe that He is good? List some Scripture references that remind you of His goodness in all circumstances.
In this episode, Casey says that God is the only One who can heal our hearts and He's the only One who can connect us with our babies again. Do you believe that? If so, how does this fact change the way you grieve? Can this perspective alter your healing journey and if so, how? If not, what is in the way (e.g., doubts, the enemy, other beliefs) of surrendering your heart to Him?
We talked a lot about finding purpose in our pain and how we should look toward others instead of solely focusing inward. God can redeem pain when we surrender and allow Him to use it for good. How has God prompted you to use your grief for good? List some ideas of ways you can focus on others, even when you're in the messy middle of grief.
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ABOUT OUR GUEST
Casey Nestor is married to Sean and is a mother to six children: four on earth and two babies in Heaven. She lives outside of Atlanta, Georgia.
Casey received a Bridget's cradle for her son, Judah, who was born into Heaven in February of 2021 at 20 weeks. She also attends Bridget's Cradles' Hope Online support group every month.
Read More of Her Story:
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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.
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Episode 15: Grieving with the Gospel with Casey Nestor
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] Happy New Year sweet friends. I am praying for you as you navigate a new year and new chapter in your grief. I know that this day can be a hard milestone when you're grieving, and we will talk about that in our episode today. But first, I want to introduce you to my friend, Casey Nestor.
She lives near Atlanta, Georgia, and received a little blue cradle for her son in Heaven, Judah. After receiving his cradle, she started coming to our Hope Online support groups and I was able to get to know her better through these monthly Zoom calls.
Then a few months ago, when traveling to Atlanta, I got to meet her in person and have dinner together. I have enjoyed becoming friends with her and walking with her in her grief.
Each month, during our Hope Online calls, she always shares valuable Biblical wisdom and insight in our groups and spends her time encouraging other moms in our group, even outside of the Zoom room.
But I thought she should be on our podcast to encourage you as well, and let me say, after recording this episode with her, I can't tell you how much it blessed me and how much I think it will bless you. We talk about so many aspects of grief and also how to walk in the new year with hope. I'm excited to introduce you to Casey and hear our conversation.
Ashley Opliger: [00:02:46] Welcome Casey. We are so glad to have you on the podcast.
After getting to know you in all of our Zoom groups for Hope Online, it's been wonderful to hear your testimony and how God has walked you through your grief. Would you mind introducing yourself and sharing your experience of loss?
Casey Nestor: [00:03:04] Yes. My name is Casey Nestor. I live outside of Atlanta in Duluth, Georgia. I am married to my husband, Sean, and we've been married for a little over 11 years. We have four living children and two babies in Heaven.
In 2018, we decided that we were going to try for a third baby. We were super excited. It took us six months to get pregnant, which was really different than our first two pregnancies, which were really easy and happened right away.
So that was challenging in its own self, and when we found out we were pregnant, we were just so overjoyed and excited. But we lost that baby at eight weeks, and we named him Caleb, and that was really a difficult loss for us.
And then after that, God gave us our baby, Isaac, who was born a year almost to the day of my D&C.
And then in February 2021, actually three years to the day that we lost Caleb, we lost our baby, Judah, at 20 weeks. We went to the 20-week ultrasound and we just were told that there was no heartbeat.
Ashley Opliger: [00:04:24] I'm so sorry, Casey. Your precious Judah connected you to Bridget’s Cradles. Would you mind sharing more about his birth and receiving a cradle for Judah?
Casey Nestor: [00:04:34] Yes. We went for the ultrasound, just the normal anatomy scan. We had no idea that something was not right.
And we went in and found out that there was no heartbeat and that he went to be with the Lord, which was so hard. And we decided to go ahead to the hospital that day. Mostly we just were so in shock and overwhelmed, and we really didn't know what to expect and just kind of felt ourselves moving through the motions of like, ‘Okay, I guess this is the next thing that we do in this situation.”
So we got to the hospital and they induced me, and he was born at three o'clock that night. And I remember feeling like, “We're in the hospital room,” it was so difficult.
I was feeling like we thought we were going to be finding out whether we were going to have a boy or girl and be planning a sweet gender reveal party. And then here we are in the hospital getting ready to deliver our stillborn baby and feeling like, “How did we get here? What are we doing here? What is going on?” I felt like my world was crashing down all around me.
And it came to the time to deliver him and I remember feeling, “I cannot do this.” I remember crying out to God, “God, I can't do this!”
And there's a popular song that goes, “I'll walk through the fire because you're walking with me,” and immediately He brought that song to my mind. And I thought, “Okay, God, I can't do this. You're going to have to do this.”
And He walked me through delivering Judah, which was so hard, but then it was also such a blessing of getting to hold him and cherish him.
And a little bit after he was born, one of the nurses brought a sweet little blue cradle in to me, and attached was the card from Bridget's Cradles that had the verse from Psalm 139, that said, “You knit me together in my mother's womb. I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
And I remember thinking that, “I had no idea I would be here. This is not where I wanted to be, but You knew I would be here. You prepared this cradle for me in advance. Someone took the time out of their day to carefully knit that cradle together to comfort us during that time,”
It felt like God wrapping His love around us and being like, “I'm with you. I'm going to get you through this.”
Ashley Opliger: [00:07:21] Casey, that's going to make me cry.
I'm thinking back to my experience, being in the hospital and feeling like my world was ending, and God getting me through the most difficult experience that any parent can walk through, leaving the hospital without your baby.
And then to see what good that He brought from Bridget's life and creating the cradle and designing the little tag with Psalm 139, He knew in advance the families and the babies that would be held in these precious cradles.
And not only does He knit together our babies. I do think he knits together our stories and He knits together a community of moms to support each other through.
And the cradle is the reason why I was able to meet you. And you and I actually got to meet recently. I was in town in Atlanta visiting Amanda, who is our Director of Communications.
And we got to go to dinner with you, which was such a blessing to get to meet you in person after meeting you through the ministry and through Hope Online, which I'll let you share more about your experience with Hope Online and how you got started coming to our online support groups.
Casey Nestor: [00:08:34] Yes, I started following Bridget’s Cradles on Instagram because I just felt like I needed to find some connection to other people who were experiencing what I had experienced, who knew what I was going through.
So I started following you online and you posted that you were having a virtual Zoom that night. And on an impulse, totally on a whim, it was the Holy Spirit. I just signed up to go on the Zoom meeting.
And I remember sitting there that night, talking to my husband about it, like “I signed up for this group, but I don't really want to go. It just seems weird. It's a Zoom meeting,” and I was really nervous about it.
And he was so great and encouraged me to follow through, to see what it was all about, and give it a try. And it was such a blessing for me. That very first night you talked about so many of the things that we had been talking about that we were really struggling with.
It was such a blessing to realize that I wasn't alone in my grief, that I wasn't the only one feeling the kinds of feelings that I was feeling or struggling with the things that I was struggling with. And it has been such a blessing for me to walk through this grief with other people who understand.
Ashley Opliger: [00:09:55] Would you mind sharing maybe some of those aspects of grief that we've discussed in our online support groups that have been helpful or healing to you so that other moms know what a support group looks like and what we talk about and how it's helpful?
I think there are so many barriers to women signing up for this, and we can talk about that in a little bit. But what has been helpful or what stood out to you? What messages really spoke to your heart that we have discussed?
Casey Nestor: [00:10:23] I think when I thought about doing an online support group, it just seemed like it would be impersonal or weird or awkward.
And then you start to feel like, “I don't know what other people's stories are.” And especially if you've experienced an early loss, I think sometimes there's a misconception that it's not as bad of a loss or that you're not hurting the same way a mom would who had lost a baby later in pregnancy. Maybe you feel like, “I'm not sure that they'll think that I should be in the group,” but everyone is so kind and compassionate and understanding.
And with grief, I think loneliness can be such a place of vulnerability and a place where we're really easily attacked. I think feeling like you're alone, you're the only one who's going through this because a lot of us don't have friends that have experienced pregnancy loss or miscarriage. They haven't gone through the same experience. And you feel like you're alone and sometimes you can feel like you are crazy for having some of the feelings that you do after walking through such a deep grief.
And to hear someone else say, “I struggle with that too,” Or, “I've walked through that too,” is such a comfort. And I've had the opportunity to be able to reach out to girls in the group and exchange prayers and thoughts, and that's just such a comfort to know that someone's lifting you up. They know what you're going through. They'll ask you about your baby, about your family.
That's such a comfort to feel like you're able to connect with people, even though you may live far away and in other circumstances, you might not have that much in common with, it's an instant connection of, “We’re in this club that no one would want to be in.” But once you're in, it's very instantly connecting.
Ashley Opliger: [00:12:27] That's been one of the blessings I've seen from Hope Online is that the connection across even state lines and across the country.
I am friends on Facebook with all of the moms that have come to Hope Online. And whenever I see a mom post something about their baby online, whether it be their baby’s Heaven Day, or they post a picture of their baby's grave, what I have found to be so beautiful is whenever I see a post come up on my feed of a mom that's come to Hope Online, when I look at the post, I see that the first comments are moms from the group.
And so to see other moms in the group that they've connected on Facebook and they are encouraging and supporting and commenting on their posts, obviously it'd be better to be in person and be going to coffee and giving each other real hugs in the flesh. But the next best thing is to have this online community and taking it beyond just the Zoom room and going into social media and text messaging, FaceTime.
I've even heard that there's been moms in our group that have sent care packages to each other or cards in the mail. And what a blessing and what a beautiful picture of the Body of Christ coming together and moms empathizing with other moms and lifting each other up and walking through their grief together.
Do you have an example of you connecting with another mom from the group and how that encouraged you?
Casey Nestor: [00:13:57] Yeah. I have really found that after attending a Hope Online, God will lay one mom in particular on my heart. And I will just be thinking about them a lot and praying for them.
And so sometimes just by messaging them and saying, “Hey, you're on my heart. I've been praying for you. I'm so sorry for your loss. Let me know if there's something I can pray for you about,” just opens up the conversation even further.
It'd be like, “I really would need some prayers for this.” Or, “We have this going on.”
And it opens up an even easier connection where you can be like, “Yes, I know what you're going through. I'm feeling that too.” Or, “We're really struggling with that as well.”
And it's been really encouraging to have other people lifting you up. Through this loss, we've really felt the Body of Believers lifting us up and carrying us through when we just couldn't, when you felt like you were going to just fall apart.
Ashley Opliger: [00:14:54] Yeah. And we need that community of support. And it's so special to see sisters in Christ coming alongside each other in our own pain, in the middle of suffering, being able to support and encourage someone because you know better than anyone else what someone else will need, and what you can say to that person to encourage them, and what you can do that will bring a little bit of peace and comfort into their day.
Of course, friends and family will try to comfort us in our grief, but it's just a much deeper connection when you have someone who knows the pain that you're in and can really relate to you on such a deep level of understanding what the sadness feels like and what triggers you're experiencing and the different emotions and the layers of grief that you're walking through.
So I would like for you to back now, and talking about grieving Caleb and grieving Judah, what did that process look like for you of grieving with hope and leaning on your faith in the middle of complete darkness and sorrow?
Casey Nestor: [00:16:06] It’s been a really long journey. And when we lost Caleb, it was a true crisis of faith for me. It was totally unexpected.
We had been praying for a baby, really felt like God told us that we were going to have another son and that we should name him Caleb, which means faithfulness.
And we were so over the moon when we got pregnant. We were so excited. And then I started having bleeding, a lot of bleeding, and panic set in. Complete worry.
I remember falling on the floor of my living room, begging God, “Please, God, don't take my baby. Please, Lord.” And the bleeding would stop and then it would come back.
And we went to church that Sunday and they were playing a song. And I don’t remember what song it was, but it talked about God being a good Father. And I remember feeling the Holy Spirit asked me, “Will you still say that I'm good, even if the answer is no?”
And I remember thinking, “What? How could I say that You're good if You're going to take my baby from me?”
And I would say that I really wrestled with my faith for a good year of feeling like, “How can God be a good God when this hurts so bad? How can He say that everything is for my good when I can’t understand what could come out of this kind of pain and sorrow, when I don't understand what He's doing?”
And it really opened my eyes to some false theology and maybe places where I was not believing really true what the Word of God said.
Like there was a part of me that felt like good Christians don't struggle with their faith. They don't question God. If we're counting everything as joy, then I don't feel joyful. I don't feel like I can just say, “Okay, I know that this is what God's doing.” I thought that I would be able to look back and say, “Oh, I can see that God brought this from it and it was worth it.”
And walking through that, I came to a place where I realized that I'm not going to understand, this side of Heaven, what God is doing. And I don't have to, because I can trust that He knows what is really best for me and what is best for my baby.
And there's an aspect of faith that we have to take a leap of saying, “I'm going to stand on the Word of God. I'm going to accept that what He says is true, that the Word of God and His promises are for me,” and through that, walking through that, and just Him coming to show me in all of these little ways that He's faithful and that He bore me, that I'm going to choose to say that God is good, no matter what.
And so when we came to the hospital with Judah three years later and found ourselves in another loss of a child, which I never imagined that we would be in, I don't think anyone ever pictures themselves losing a baby or walking through pregnancy loss, but I remember thinking, “I know that You're good, no matter what, and I'm going to choose to trust You and to praise You no matter what.”
So we named him Judah, which means praise, because he will be praising the Lord his whole life. And when he was born, he was literally the size of my hand. My palm is five inches, so about, he lay perfectly in my hand, so tiny and so perfectly formed with 10 tiny little fingers and 10 toes and a cute little pudgy belly. And he was born with a little smile on his face.
And I remember when we watch a little video at the beginning of every Hope Online and a part of it is “for some of our babies, the first thing they see when they open their eyes is the face of Jesus.” And it still makes me cry every time because I just think about him, every moment of his life, every memory that he has is in Heaven with Jesus, praising God, where there is no sorrow or hurt or pain. All he knows is just perfection.
And one day when God calls me home, I will get to praise God with him and with Caleb, and what an amazing day that will be!
Ashley Opliger: [00:20:54] Oh my goodness, Casey, what a beautiful picture that you've just painted for us! And truly to think of their lives from their perspective, it's beautiful to think about our babies going from our wombs, being loved and hearing our heartbeats from the inside and going from the safe place inside of us into Heaven, to perfection, to Paradise, to God's presence, and being there with Jesus.
Like you said, they will not have to suffer. They will not have to know what it's like to face temptation. They will not have to sin. They will not feel the consequences of their sin. They won't have their heart broken. No one will lie to them. No one will betray them.
All of these things that we go through on this earth, these trials and this pain, they will never know any of it. They will not know what it feels like to suffer. And so what a perfect life that is, to be in a perfect Paradise with God.
Of course, we want them on earth because we wanted the opportunity to raise them and to love them here, and to experience the joys of earth. Even though we live on a broken earth, God has still given us blessings to experience on this earth with our living children.
But you're right. Our children are in God's glory and one day we'll get to praise Him forever with them. And I love that you said that he was smiling when he was born because he was seeing the face of God and that's just so beautiful.
I didn't realize that part of our video, which we call our Declaration of Faith and we show this video, it's a short three-minute clip at the beginning of every Hope Online, really just outlines our beliefs and our views and our perspective and why we are grieving with hope, with the hope of the Gospel.
And also it shares with all of the moms why we believe that a loss at eight weeks matters just as much as a loss at eight months or eight days after birth, that every single baby was made in God's image, and that we believe that life begins at conception and that each of us has lost a baby, and we have lost our hopes and dreams for that baby's life on earth.
And that's why we share that because we do want every mom to feel welcome, and to let her know that her loss is validated, that her baby's life matters, and that we're grieving with each mom, no matter how many weeks gestation.
And the other aspect of that video is that we try not to compare our grief to each other and that some of the moms have lost the baby a few weeks ago, others a few months ago, some years, or even decades ago.
And we understand that even though we're all in different parts of our grief journey, that we are going to support and encourage each other on that journey. So if you're listening to this podcast and you decide to come to Hope Online, you'll get to see that video.
Casey, you were a little skeptical to come to an online support group. You felt like it could be weird. It could be awkward. And I know there are a lot of moms that say that not only for our online support group, for in-person as well. There'll be moms that come and give me a hug at the end and they'll say, “I'm so glad that I came, but I almost didn't come,” and that seems to be a pretty common story.
I think there's just a lot of fears and a lot of unknown about putting yourself in such a vulnerable place and opening yourself up. So do you have any advice or encouragement for moms to step past some of those barriers or the skepticism to put themselves in a place to find healing in community with other believers?
Casey Nestor: [00:24:36] Yeah. It's hard to be that vulnerable, especially you feel like with people that you don't know. You've never met these people, you have no idea where they're coming from and you're sharing your deepest sorrow, the worst pain in your life with people that you've never met before.
But I would say you feel like you've known these women for much longer because they understand where you're coming from. And walking through my grief journey, and I know before I experienced loss, I felt very uncomfortable around grief. I didn't know what to say.
It made me just feel like, “Oh, it's probably best not to talk about it.” And walking through my grief journey, most people are not comfortable talking to you about your grief. They don't know what to say. They don't bring it up. They feel like it would be better just not to say anything.
But it's so healing to be able to talk about what we're going through, what we've been through. It brings me so much joy to get to talk about my babies in Heaven because it's not something that a lot of people ask about, they don't feel comfortable talking about.
But the moms in this group understand how much you love your baby, how much you wish you could hold them and be with them, and how much you want to talk about them.
Ashley Opliger: [00:25:54] Right. And I think if there's ever going to be a safe place to talk about your baby and to say their name and to share their story, this is the place for it.
And whether it's our support group or another Christ-centered support group, we really just want you to be plugged into a support group. It doesn't have to be Bridget’s Cradles’ support group. There are many other digital support groups and in-person support groups at churches and nonprofits across the country.
I will say though, and I think you would agree with me here, it's so important to find a Christ-centered support group, if you're a Christian and you're wanting to grieve with Jesus through your journey, because there are so many support groups that can talk about grieving, the stages of grief, and talk about coping mechanisms to get you through your grief. But if the hope that you're clinging to is an earthly hope or is in you doing certain things or practicing self-care or whatever …
And obviously, self-care is fine. We encourage self-care, of course. But if that is the end-all, be-all of your grief support, it’s not going to last you very long. And ultimately, your soul will not be settled because the ultimate hope that we have is to see our babies again, and no one else other than Jesus can offer us that kind of hope.
So would you mind speaking to that a little bit about why you feel that's important?
Casey Nestor: [00:27:19] Yeah. I actually tried some other support groups. I signed up for the Hope Online and the first night was amazing. I loved it so much and I felt like, “Oh, I'd love to find an in-person group here in Atlanta. Maybe there's something.”
And I tried another group that I went to one meeting and people were talking around the faith issue but weren't really addressing it head-on. And I felt like, “Okay, I'm just going to bring it up, if nobody else is.”
And after that, the leader of their group said something like, “Well, we are a Christian organization, but we're not really.” Or, “We're a faith-based organization, but we're not really exactly a Christian organization. And I just encourage everyone to lean in, search your feelings of what you think about that.”
And I just remember thinking, “That is so dangerous.” In a time where you're grieving, your emotions are just all over the place, to lean into our own feelings and not lean into Truth, it's not going to lead anywhere good.
And true healing can only come from God. That is the only One who can heal our hearts, because people can offer us comfort and things that can maybe make us feel better in the moment, but God is the only One who can give us what we truly need. He's the only One that knows what we need in our healing journey. And God is the only one who can connect us with our babies again.
When we lose our babies, the only thing we want is to hold them, is to see them again. And if we don't have the hope of Heaven, then we don't have hope to see our babies again, and what a horrible state that would be!
And I often think, “If I didn't have the promises of God to know that this pain and the sorrow is not pointless, that I'm not just walking through earth, it’s not just something that we've experienced because, well, pregnancy loss happens, it's really common, that no, God has purpose for everything, that He has a reason to be walking us through what we're going through, if I thought that all of this pain was for nothing, I don't think I would be able to carry on.
Ashley Opliger: [00:29:47] Right. And the support group leader saying to lean into your own feelings, that's a very cultural thing to say that it's, “You do you, it's your truth. What is your truth?” And that's very dangerous because our feelings are faulty and we're humans.
And each of us as humans have our own feelings and are going to view life and view God through our circumstances, most likely. And that's the thing about this whole “everybody can have their own truth” thing.
Well, if everyone can have their own truth, then there's no truth whatsoever. If there's going to be truth, there has to be one truth and it can't waiver. And as Christians, as believers, we know that Truth to be the infallible and authoritative Word of God, the Bible, and we can't waiver from that.
And our culture is wanting to do everything it can to say, “Well, the Bible is not true. You can choose to believe what you want to believe, and whatever's going to comfort you, you can believe.”
And I'm seeing, even in the loss space, some really dangerous ideas coming out. Recently I've seen some really scary and to be honest, quite evil practices happening. And what's interesting is that the moms that are grieving and doing these practices, they're not trying to be evil, but they're deceived.
And one of the things that I've been seeing that's becoming very prevalent is there are so many moms in these Facebook groups that are asking for mediums, like very New Age kind of thing, but asking for mediums and even [so-called] ‘Christian’ mediums to speak to their babies. And they're trying to learn about their babies on the other side. And some of them are believing that these mediums have told them about their babies.
And it is becoming very prevalent. And I know you're probably listening, thinking. “That's crazy. This is really happening?”