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46 | I Used to Be Pregnant | Chuck and Ashley Elliott





Join us for a hope-filled conversation with Chuck and Ashley Elliott about navigating the relational aspects of loss. Drawing from their own loss experience and their background as counselors, Chuck and Ashley share helpful advice on how to face the complexities of grief.


After experiencing recurrent miscarriage, Chuck and Ashley felt called to write a book called I Used to Be which provides biblical and mental health techniques to develop healthy ways to see yourself, your life, and your loved ones. We discuss these techniques and the intricacies of handling the hurt others may cause us in grief. You will be blessed and encouraged by the practical wisdom they share!


In this episode, we discussed:


  • Keeping our faith intact when we feel distant from God

  • Praising God in the midst of the pain

  • Neutralizing emotional triggers in grief

  • Giving grace to those who have hurt us

  • The ways that grief lies to us

  • How to help people help us

  • The importance of communicating our needs

  • Grieving in marriage from the father's perspective

  • Comparison and why it is destructive

  • Why they wrote the book, I Used to Be


Full transcript below.

 

MEET OUR GUESTS


Chuck and Ashley Elliott are the authors of the book I Used to Be. They both earned their Master's Degrees in Counseling, Education, and Organizational Leadership.


Chuck and Ashley live in Indiana with their three sons on earth and enjoy spending time outside as a family. They have experienced recurrent miscarriage. Chuck and Ashley are committed to equipping people to build spiritual and relational success.


Connect with Chuck and Ashley:

Facebook: chuckandashley

 

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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 1,400 hospitals in all 50 states and comforts over 30,000 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:

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EPISODE TRANSCRIPT


Episode 46 | I Used to Be Pregnant | Chuck and Ashley Elliott


Ashley Opliger: [00:00:00] You’re listening to the Cradled in Hope Podcast on the Edifi Podcast Network. I’m your host, Ashley Opliger. I’m a wife, mom, and follower of Christ who founded Bridget’s Cradles, a nonprofit ministry in memory of my daughter, Bridget, who was stillborn at 24 weeks. 


Cradled in Hope is a Gospel-focused podcast for grieving moms to find comfort, hope, and healing after the loss of a baby. We want this to be a safe place for your broken heart to land. 


Here, we are going to trust God’s promise to heal our hearts, restore our joy, and use our grief for good. With faith in Jesus and eyes fixed on Heaven, we do not have to grieve without hope. We believe that Jesus cradles us in hope while He cradles our babies in Heaven. 


Welcome to the Cradled in Hope Podcast.


Ashley Opliger: [00:51:05] Welcome back to another episode of Cradled in Hope. I am so excited to introduce our next guests, Chuck and Ashley Elliott. They are the authors of a book called I Used to Be, and they spend much of their time equipping people to build spiritual and relational success.


Chuck is a pastor and Ashley is a counselor, and they have devoted their lives to help people fight negativity and leave a legacy. They both earned their Master's Degrees in Counseling, Education, and Organizational Leadership. Chuck and Ashley live in Indiana with their three sons on earth and enjoy spending time outside as a family.


Chuck and Ashley have experienced the loss of several little ones, and they will share their story on this podcast. If you're experiencing the loss of a baby or any kind of loss, their book and this podcast episode will be a blessing to you. I'm excited for you to hear. Let's dive in. 


Ashley Opliger: [00:51:32] Welcome, Chuck and Ashley, to the Cradled in Hope Podcast.


Chuck Elliott: [00:01:43] Yeah, thanks for having us. We're excited to chat with you.


Ashley Elliott: [00:01:44] Yeah, and thanks for the ministry that you do. It's really important.


Ashley Opliger: [00:01:48] Thank you. Well, we are so honored to have you and I've just been so impressed with the ministry that God has given you in each of your career paths and how you together in your marriage are using your giftings for the glory of God.

And we're going to talk about that today in our interview, but before we do, can you introduce yourselves and then also share your story of experiencing multiple miscarriages?


Ashley Elliott: [00:02:11] Yeah. Well, I'm a counselor, and before that I worked at a university for 11 years. And I oversaw the psychology and addictions program at a Christian university, and Chuck and I met, had two kids, and then went through recurrent miscarriage in 2015, ‘16 and ‘17.


And so we've had a lot of other life that's happened as well, but this journey was one that really impacted our identity in such a devastating way. And we had been Christ followers for years, but it was something that it just shook our faith in different ways. 


And although we grew through the process, there was so much struggle and so we saw it would be helpful for people to know some of the things that are normal and feel encouraged. 


And so we had talked about writing a book previously, and we are both relationship people. So we said, “Let's write a book and help people navigate the relational aspects of loss.” 


And so we ended up not just focusing on miscarriage, but other types of losses, even losing a job and different non-traditional losses, not just death related, and how we go through some struggles. And so Chuck, you can tell about you being a pastor and maybe some of that side of it as well.


Chuck Elliott: [00:03:27] Yeah. Before I worked at the church, I worked with families involved with the state for neglect and abuse. So I was doing in-home services and counseling and I was in that world for about four years or so. 


But then since 2011, I've been full time in the ministry. And Ashley and I, in her work in being a licensed therapist and my work in pastoral ministry, we saw how there's all kinds of loss. And so many times people don't have conversations about that loss and they don't talk about how it has an impact on their relationship.


Because Ashley and I, losing the little ones to miscarriage really showed us there were situations, like the miscarriage and then also other losses, that people just don't communicate about. And it has a real tax that it puts on relationships and people's stability and their wellbeing across the board.


So we were saying, “Okay, God, we went through this. This is horrible. We're broken. But what do You want to do with us?” And that's where things really started.


Ashley Opliger: [00:04:27] And that's always a beautiful place to be of surrender, of saying, “Okay, God, this isn't the story that I wanted, but I'm going to trust You with it and I'm going to allow You to bring beauty out of the ashes and purpose out of our pain.”

And so how did you move forward and trust God despite those painful circumstances that you walked through?


Ashley Elliott: [00:04:47] For me, I continued to go to God with the good and the bad feelings. 


And sometimes I'd find it more difficult to get up and teach. I remember one time going to the university and just feeling so unseen. Like, “Nobody knows what I'm going through,” and I'm trying to still teach these students that many of them didn't care about God, and I would try to incorporate devotions, and it would feel hard for me, and then it was hard to teach. And I would feel like, “God, I really need You.”


And there were times when I felt God was close, but there were a lot more times during this season of loss where I felt God was more distant than usual. And I know some people feel like God's super close to them in hard times and other people feel like God's closer to them in the good times. And I think for me, especially with a couple of the losses, that was how I felt.


And so I just continued to try to go to God with it, and I really scoured the Scripture and said, “Have other people felt this way?”


And I saw that David, he says, “God, why have You forsaken me?” But then he says, “Yet will I praise you,” just a few verses later, and then he has this pattern.


Chuck Elliott: [00:51:32] Yes.


Ashley Elliott: [00:51:327] So there's multiple psalms where he does this and I held on to those. Like, “God, I want to be that way. Even though I'm not hearing from You, I want to hold on to Your Word and I want to praise anyway.”


And so that led me as I just was processing and praying through it. “Lord, You are worthy before I get my answered prayer. You are worthy on the darkest days and on the brightest days,” and, “Help me, because I don't feel cared about by You, and so then it makes me question Your worth in some way that I know is not right. But yet I really struggle.”


And so again, I can acknowledge today, I'm more in a positive space, feeling hopeful. And so even the things that I remember tend to be more hopeful when I'm in a better place. 


And I think, “Is it going to be good whenever I'm having a really hard day during one of these interviews and I can maybe access all of those negative emotions even more?”


Because it's hard. Sometimes I'll hear something that someone says, and I'm like, “Would they say that if they were really in the thick of it at the moment?” 


Chuck Elliott: [00:06:58] If they were really experiencing the pain, would they make that kind of a comment?


Ashley Elliott: [00:07:01] Yeah. 


Chuck Elliott: [00:07:01] Yeah.


Ashley Elliott: [00:07:01] Yeah. And I know for us, there were different moments and we try in the pages of our book to really share some of the raw moments, things that we got from our memory, but also from journals and stories that we shared with each other.

And we try to not just tell about the glory that God gets later, because I think sometimes that feels so hard to hear the ending that we're hoping for and that doesn't make us feel very hopeful in the moment. 


So I want to affirm that it's okay to feel distant from God or to question, but then let's just take that to God, take that to godly counsel, take that to God's Word, because when we do that, we can get to the other side with our faith intact.


Ashley Opliger: [00:07:43] Yeah. You make such a great point because so often for our listeners who listen to me frequently and to our guests, so often you're listening to someone on the other side of their trial and you're listening to them having been sanctified and refined through their trial and they're looking back on it with hindsight, and they now have this new perspective of it. And it's not often that we're actually interviewing people right there in the middle of the darkest, deepest valley.


And so, when you're listening, it's probably hope-filled to hear someone else has made it through, and this is their perspective, and this is where they're at, but sometimes it may not be as relatable because you're like, “Well, I don't feel that. I don't feel joyful again. I don't feel like I can use my pain for purpose because I'm just trying to get out of bed and I'm in survival mode.”


And so you also brought up the point of when you're in those times of grief, a lot of us, we are desperate to hear God's voice, but sometimes He just seems so silent. So have you experienced this? And what encouragement would you have for us as we're in the darkest grief and wanting to hear God's voice, wanting to be close to Him, but feeling so abandoned by Him?”


Chuck Elliott: [00:08:54] Yeah. Well, like Ashley said, we see in Scripture how there are individuals in Scripture who were calling out to God and they felt like He wasn't there. And something I often hear Ashley say is, “God's constant, even when I'm not constant.”

So there could be something that's changed in us and changed in our situation, and just because you don't hear Him speaking to you in the same way or feel Him in the same way doesn't mean that He's abandoned you, doesn't mean that He's not there, doesn't mean that He doesn't care. 


And the words in Scripture are just as true when we feel like we're not hearing Him in the same kind of a way, and there's things to be learned through those moments. 

And God's worthy before we get to feel His presence in the way that we want to. He's worthy before we get the answers that we want to get. He’s worthy before the things possibly change, and He's worthy even when the things don't change the way that we want them to.


And going back to something that you said a little bit before, we often hear from people when they are on the other side of things. And Ashley and I try to point out to people that just because you maybe feel like you've moved, you've taken steps forward, it's okay to still have those hard days.


Because through the process and things Ashley and I've been through, we've realized, it was like, “Yes, God, You've taken something that was really painful and done something with it. But if we could go back in time, I want my babies back.” 


And it's like, “I still want my kiddos back.” And I grieve that and it hurts. And when I think about it, I think about how old they would be and I have those moments and it was 2015, ‘16, and ‘17. And it doesn't mean that it doesn't hurt and it doesn't sting and we don't go back to those points.


So you are not broken. There is not something wrong with you that you don't feel like you have been able to put a bow on the process of grieving. Because you're different. You've changed. You've lost somebody that you loved and you had a connection to and it's okay to feel those things again.


Ashley Elliott: [00:10:56] And we especially have hard times when we get triggered and I've noticed that other people have found that helpful to identify the triggers, and then we try to help people neutralize them.


Now, we know that we can't perfectly neutralize our triggers, but we can help reduce the amount of pain that maybe is stimulated. And so for us, one of the things, we have three boys, so people will say, “Oh, you're a boy mom.”


And that's a trigger for me because I don't want to go into the fact that like, “Oh, I lost babies and one of them was a girl.” And I have a hard time.


Chuck Elliott: [00:11:32] Yeah.


Ashley Elliott: [00:11:32] But I want to be strong and like, “I'm in a good mood. I'm trying to just do the ministry” or do whatever, soccer game or something. And people don't mean to hurt us, but that hurt. 


And for me to work through that on my own, for me to lean into that, to say, “God, help me. This is a grief and I want Your help,” finding a path forward helps me to then go, “Okay, I've worked through this.” Yes, it's still going to sting. Right? We can't perfectly neutralize them.


Chuck Elliott: [00:12:00] For sure. 


Ashley Elliott: [00:12:00] But if I don't work through that pain point, I am like a mine that someone can step on and I'm going to explode.


And so if I try to say, “I'm going to pray through the brokenness and ask the Lord to help me see, “What are those triggers?” And how do I bring them before the Lord and say, “Help me know what I need so that I can get back to serving others.”


And not that we're going to completely ever feel pain free, but that we can still feel a little bit more stable. Because loss really does destabilize us, especially at an identity level. You know, “Am I lovable,” we wonder. Like, “Did God do this to me?”


Or someone will say something and challenges our theology, like, “Lord, what's wrong with me that my body is not able to carry this baby?” Or, “What's wrong with me?”


And just remembering who we are in Christ and going back to those truths and trying to neutralize those triggers can help bring little bitty layers of healing.


I think sometimes we want that big healing to come all at once, but it is that healing, that renewing of our mind day after day, that really gets us to the place where we do feel hopeful again in the future.


Ashley Opliger: [00:13:13] Amen. And I can relate to you with the boy mom comment because my daughter is in Heaven and then I had two little boys. And so what people see on earth is that I have two boys. I'm a boy mom, and so the same kind of comments. Or my oldest son, they'll refer to him as my first child because he is my oldest on earth. And so that's another trigger for me. 


But something we talk about on the podcast all the time is not only trying to neutralize those triggers for ourselves and to pray through them and take that pain to God, but also giving others grace, that these people that make the comments that say ‘boy mom’ or refer to my son as my firstborn, they're not trying to be hurtful. 


And like you said, the landmine thing, it's like, if we accept all of these comments and allow people this power over us to hurt us in this way, we can become victims and we can just be constantly hurt. And we become bitter to these people if we perceive that they're trying to be hurtful.


But if we go through life having grace and just understanding that people are going to say things and they might be insensitive, they might be coming from a place of love but it comes off hurtful, we can give them grace and forgive them because then we're not going to have that heaviness hanging over our head of unforgiveness and bitterness toward people.


So would you talk about that and having grace through the grieving process?


Chuck Elliott: [00:14:33] Absolutely. I think being patient with yourself and being patient with other people, because people don't know what it is that you're feeling. 


And sometimes we want people to know what we're feeling, or even when we haven't told them, because sometimes people don't know that we've experienced a loss and we feel like we're just walking through a hallway or going through life and no one knows what's going on.


Or sometimes we tell people and we expect more from them than maybe what it is they can even give. Are we putting a role on them that is only supposed to be put on God, that they can't do what it is that we need to be done?


And I think having the perspective to have grace on them because everybody listening to this, Ashley and I, yourself included, we've probably said something to hurt somebody's feelings at some point in our life. 


And if we were to go back and look at it, I don't think we meant to. We said something that was insensitive, and we didn't even know what it was. 


So just because we're grieving, we may be an expert on what it is that we've experienced, but it doesn't mean that we're always an expert in saying the right thing to other people.


And Ashley and I do this often, and we talk to people in the midst of their loss, and I'm sure that I've said something that has probably come across as insensitive, even when I'm trying really hard to not be insensitive. 


Many times when people say things, they're trying to make us feel better, or they're trying to take away the pain, or they're trying to say, “Okay, the big picture is God loves us, and you get to see your little ones in Heaven.” And those could all be true statements, but they may not be helpful in that moment.


Ashley Elliott: [00:15:56] And we want to give people hope, but sometimes the way that we're trying to give them hope is different than what they need. 


Chuck Elliott: [00:16:03] Mm, true.


Ashley Elliott: [00:16:03] And so, yeah, we want to be gracious to people, but we also want to lean in and understand what has helped us, and I think sometimes that is someone just saying, “I'm sorry.”


And I remember one time a gal at the gym, it was right before workout. I told her because we were friends and she knew. And I said, “I had this loss.”


And she touched my arm and she said, “That sucks.” And I don't even usually use that word that much. In our family, we try to keep it a little more PG than that. But it was the thing that stuck with me. 


She didn't try to say, “Oh, maybe you'll get pregnant again,” or something. A lot of times people want to spin it hopeful. They want to spin it spiritual. 


And not that God doesn't want us to be spiritual.


Chuck Elliott: [00:16:47] Sure.


Ashley Elliott: [00:16:47] But sometimes the most spiritual thing we can do is to lament, to go, “Oh, this is painful.” And giving ourselves space to do that for others is really powerful.


And then again, like you said, giving grace to people that they mean well, they want to help. They may say, “Let me know if you need anything.”


And it can be good for us to say, “Hold on a minute. In the future, I'm not going to say that specifically, I'm going to try to think, ‘Is there something I could offer? Hey, I would love to bring you a meal,’ or ‘Hey, could I watch your kids for you so that you can go for a walk or go shopping or do something?” 


Chuck Elliott: [00:17:24] Go on a date.


Ashley Elliott: [00:17:24] Yeah, whatever it is, to give yourself space to invest in yourself or heal.’” And I think us understanding what we want and need allows us to know how to better help other people in the future.


And then again, like you said, giving grace that they may not have ever walked through it. Or they may just have a different perspective or need to sound spiritual and so they're like, “What's the spiritual thing I can say? We'll see him again in the future.” 


And although that's true, why does that not settle well with us? Because we feel a little bit shameful for not being so spiritual. Like, “I don't have a Heavenly perspective.” I think it's okay. God is okay with us loving so well that whenever that love is taken from us that we have that pain. 


Chuck Elliott: [00:18:08] And you can see how complicated it is. People are, “This is really complicated,” because when someone says something to you, they're saying something and it doesn't mean that they're perfectly healthy and they're a grief expert when they say something to you. They're just not going through what you're going through. 


Ashley talks about this sometimes, about how she was at her grandfather's funeral and the people who kept on coming up to her mom and saying things to comfort her were telling their grief stories that had been unprocessed. 


Ashley's mom didn't need to hear everybody's grief story when she's grieving the loss of her father.


Ashley Opliger: [00:18:45] Right.


Chuck Elliott: [00:18:45] But people, they haven't dealt with their own stuff and we haven't always dealt with our own stuff. And we could be angry about something or bitter about something or jealous about something when we try to say something to somebody else in trying to comfort them in their grief. 


So it's messy and it's complicated. So when we have grace on individuals, knowing that just because they say something to you doesn't mean it's accurate, doesn't mean it's coming from a healthy place, doesn't mean that it's coming from a wise place.


Ashley Elliott: [00:19:10] Yeah.


Chuck Elliott: [00:19:10] Because as we've done this more and more, Ashley and I just see how there are many things that people have gone through that they have not grieved, they haven't processed.


And not that you have to live in this state that you're always lamenting, you're always working on something in that kind of way. But even the small things that you lose in life, when you don't process them, you're not emotionally and spiritually available and intelligent in the ways that you need to be.


Ashley Elliott: [00:19:35] And when I noticed that people were saying things strange to my mom, like they're coming in and saying, “Oh, the last time I've been to a funeral was when my mom passed,” like, wait a minute. I didn't want to be mean to them. I did want to be protective of my mom, but I really tried to take away: What's the lesson here?


We have to try to process our losses or else our grief will find us at a time when it's inconvenient. These people, they didn't want to be a burden to my mom, but they weren't able to be the support that they wish that they could have been, probably, if they had processed their grief. 


So there's motivation for us, if we can say, “It's hard, it's messy, but I want to be able to heal, to let God help me to know what needs to be healed, so I can help others down the road and so that I don't feel like I'm a ticking time bomb that just can explode at any point if someone asks the wrong question.” 


Ashley Opliger: [00:20:30] Yes, and what I'm hearing you both say, too, is that yes, we want to offer hope and we want to have encouragement when people walk through these hard times, but we also want to lament with them and sit in their sadness. 


And what that does is actually validate them, validate their grief, validate their loss, the magnitude of their loss, that yes, they have a reason to be sad and to be grieving, like your friend at the gym. 


Because when we skip over that part and we just go to the platitudes and things, and even though those statements might be true, and we should offer hope and Truth from God's Word about the Hope that we have of Heaven, I think we need to have it be a both situation, where we're carrying the sadness with them and we're entering into that place with them and not focusing on ourselves, like the people at the funeral.


Because I think some people are well-meaning, but in my mind, I'm thinking these people, first of all, like you said, they may not have processed their own grief. But I think they're also trying to awkwardly relate. 


And so it's like, “Oh, you're grieving, so I'm going to tell you about the time that I grieved.” And sometimes that might not be necessary, especially in that setting. 


And so I think just being willing to enter into their pain and just listen to them, ask them questions and listen to them and be a shoulder to cry on and be present in that pain, because so many people are uncomfortable doing that, especially in today's culture. And I think that's such a gift to someone who’s grieving. 


Ashley Opliger: [00:21:59] We hope you are enjoying this episode so far. We want to take a quick break to tell you about some resources our ministry provides to grieving moms. 

On our website, bridgetscradles.com, you can find hope-filled resources on grieving and healing including memorial ideas, quotes & Scripture, featured stories, and recommended books and other organizations. We share ideas on how to navigate difficult days such as due dates, Heaven Days, and holidays. 


In addition, every month I lead 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. 


Lastly, we would 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. You can also join our private Cradled in Hope Facebook group for grieving moms to find community. We would be honored to hear your baby’s story and be praying for you by name. Now let’s get back to our episode.


Ashley Opliger: [00:23:08] One of the things that you talk about in your book, which we're going to talk about your book in just a little bit, but you talk about how grief lies to us. And so would you share some of the common ways that grief lies to us and then how we can overcome that with God's Word?


Chuck Elliott: [00:23:23] Yeah. There's several ways that grief lies to us, but one of the biggest ones that Ashley and I found is it tells us that we're alone. It tells us that nobody's felt what it is that you're feeling before. Nobody could ever relate to you. 


Nobody wants to hear about how you're hurting. Nobody wants to spend time with you. And one of the big ones is that you're alone and God doesn't see you or He doesn't care. He's not empathetic to what it is that you're feeling.


Ashley Elliott: [00:23:50] And grief can tell us a lot of different lies. So I think it's great for us to even pause and reflect, like, “What are the lies that grief might be telling me?”

We don't have to tell you all the specific lies because there are four of them. Right? There are an infinite number-


Chuck Elliott: [00:24:03] Yeah.


Ashley Elliott: [00:24:03] … of ways that grief can lie to us. And so us understanding, “Is my feeling completely true? Or are there some lies woven in?”


And so for me, I definitely felt like the way I needed to cope was to barrel through. This wasn't the type of loss that would give me permission to leave work because no one told me at work that it was okay. 


I know that one or two people from work knew of my loss and they didn't say, “Would you like to go home?” And so in that time, I hadn't heard of other people who had gone through miscarriage and missed work.


And so now I've had more conversations with people, I’m like, “I'm so glad your work has a policy, and let's spread the news. Let people know, like, ‘It's okay if you need to take a sick day.’”


And I remember some of the hard things that I experienced, and I do feel like God really helped me through. And even though I didn't have a lot of connection about maybe the things that I could have asked for at work, I do think that there's a lot of ignorance. I just didn't know because I didn't talk to people or I didn't ask about these specific things. 


And so part of my personality is just to barrel through, to take care of myself. I'm a counselor, so I take care of other people. And so it was something that I had to learn.

People do care more than I think. I'm just not sharing that I'm hurting. So people don't know how to help if I don't tell them that I'm hurting. 


So those are some of the ways to say, “Okay, I don't want to isolate.” 


That's another thing that I see people do in their grief. They say, “Oh, I'm just going to say no, because I don't like myself. I don't know if people are going to ask or if that's going to be hard.” 


There can be a lot of different reasons, but I chose to emotionally isolate when I didn't feel like I could stay home. I kept going to work. I kept going to church. I kept doing ministry, but I just didn't ask as many people how they were, and that was because I felt alone. 


And so I think that's a way that grief lies. It tells you that you should just stay away, that people can't handle your hurt or that you're going to be too messy. 


And so again, whatever the unique struggle that anyone might be facing, let's just bring it to God and say, “Is this truth? Is this what God wants? Is this something that other people have experienced?” And maybe, “Is this grief?”


Because for us, naming something as grief has been really helpful. Like, “Oh, I don't want to go anywhere because I'm grieving. Now I feel less crazy. Now I know what to do. I know I need to do grief work so I can create an exit strategy. I can create a plan.” 


Exit strategy is something we talked about in the book as well. But trying to figure out how we do take steps forward is helpful, but it doesn't happen if we're in a denial state, which so often happens whenever we’re hurting.


Chuck Elliott: [00:26:45] We have to look right at it and lean into it so we know what it is we need to do with it.


Ashley Opliger: [00:26:50] Yes. I want to go back to something you said. You said, “When people don't know that you're hurting, they can't help you.” And so often I see, and I've experienced this myself as well. I see women who, they're hurting and they want help. They want people to be encouraging them and supporting them, but they're not communicating that.


And oftentimes as the grieving person, we don't feel like we should need to be that person because we feel like it should be obvious. “I lost a baby. Wouldn't you think that I'd be hurting? Wouldn't you think that I need support?” And then you become very hurt when people don't show up for you in the ways that you want them to. 


And so oftentimes I'll encourage them to communicate that they need support and that they're hurting, but it can be awkward when you're the one in the place of grief and you've just gone through something, telling your friends, even your closest family members, that you're hurting and that you need their help. 


So do you have advice for someone who's walking through that to be able to communicate those things to friends and family without it being awkward or feel like they're being needy?


Chuck Elliott: [00:27:57] Mm-hmm [affirmative]. I think asking for what it is that you need, and I know that is overly simplistic way, but going back to something we had a conversation about just a little bit ago, while we've been on this podcast, look at it from the other point of view.


I think you and most of the people listening, if we were to ask you, “If someone asked you for a little bit of help or just to be a listening ear because they were going through a hard time because they just lost a little one, would you be open to listening to them and being a support person,” I think most of the people listening would say, “Yes.” Right?


The same thing is true if you were to ask somebody; they’re probably going to say yes, if you're asking a loved one or someone that you care about to be a support. And it doesn't have to be anything over the top, just asking for somebody to listen or just say, “Hey, I'm having a hard time today. Would you pray for me,” whatever those steps look like. 


Ashley Elliott: [00:28:46] I want to lean into this a little bit and I'll ask you a question. Chuck. Has there been a time in the last 24 hours where I needed something from you, but I didn't want to ask?”


Chuck Elliott: [00:28:55] Yes, ma'am. 


Ashley Elliott: [00:28:56] Maybe more than one?


Chuck Elliott: [00:27:58] Multiple things. 


Ashley Elliott: [00:28:59] Okay. So let's just acknowledge it's really hard for some people, point to myself here, to ask for help. And so what do we do then? I am trying to lean into myself and go, “God, why is it so hard for me to ask for help?”


I want people to ask for help. I want people to get counseling. I'm a counselor and I tell people, “Don't wait til it's too late.” But yet I also want to acknowledge it's really hard. It's hard for me to ask for help. 


And sometimes I will ask Chuck for something later. “Okay, maybe it could be good,” and then ask the question. But then, in the moment, I don't want to ask him. And I understand this creates complexity and pressure for Chuck, even.


Chuck Elliott: [00:29:41] Well, sometimes you bring up the topic of something that you could need, but I don't view it as much of an ask as maybe it could be.


Ashley Elliott: [00:29:47] Yeah.


Chuck Elliott: [00:29:47] Because you don't want to directly ask, because you don't want to feel like you're being a burden. But if you directly ask me, I’ll be like, “Sure.”


Ashley Elliott: [00:29:52] Yeah. So I'm trying to learn. Like Chuck has told me that he needs me to need him more, and it's hard for me to want to need him. 


I will put walls up. I'm like, “I don't want to be needy.” I realized that I have some pride that keeps me from asking for help, for asking for what I need. And it's easier sometimes when I am not in the situation to say, “I acknowledge that I don't always ask you for what I need about                topic, if it's about talking about my loss or whatnot, but I'm trying to work on it.”


And even just a little bit ago, we were talking about needing each other. I don't do it very often. In the book, I talk about a time when I asked someone to come over and listen to me, and it was really helpful. 


And as I've gone through and edited it, I realized, “I haven't done that, maybe since then. Maybe once. And I can do it more with Chuck,” but I realize how hard it is to do with Chuck, who I love and I trust, just shows me how hard it is for me in general.


So it's a pride thing, not necessarily that, I think there's different types of pride, but I just don't want to be weak and needy. I don't want to be a burden. And so I'm trying to lean into what that means. Like, “Lord, help me understand. What are my blocks? I don't want to feel guilty, like I have something else that I have to do,” because I'm a really fair person. I have a high fair-dar, Chuck says, sometimes.


Chuck Elliott: [00:31:12] Fair-dar is on point. 


Ashley Elliott: [00:31:14] I want to do for him if he does for me, and if I don't have enough time … And so I think that's a little bit of like, “Oh, I can't keep the score,” and so I just struggle with it. 


So I acknowledge, Chuck, your advice is really good and we give it in the book. “Like, “Yes, we've got to ask for what we need.” But when we don't know how to ask for what we need, we can lean into that and pray about it and say, “God, I'm just going to sit here and wait for You to help. Show me some of my needs.” Like, “Why is it that I'm not able to ask for what I need?”


Ashley Opliger: [00:31:45] Yeah. And I was thinking too, as you were talking, about how our communication style…sometimes the signal can be missed if we are maybe too passive about how we ask. Like you had mentioned, you might say something kind of vague and Chuck is interpreting it as, “Well, maybe later she wants help. Or is she asking me for help? Am I supposed to step up here?”


But I think especially if you are uncomfortable asking for help, it might seem easier to do it more passively and just drop hints and things. But that's not necessarily a clear communication signal to the person receiving and they may not step up in the way we want.


And then we're going to end up being even more hurt because we feel like, “Oh, well, we did tell them that we need help,” but maybe it wasn't clear enough for them and they didn't really know what to do or how to do it. 


So it's tricky. And we acknowledge that it's hard even with our spouse and our family members, our closest friends. But there is such a gift in being able to be vulnerable with people that you love because they do love you and they want to be there for you.


And like you said, if the tables were turned, we would want to help them and be there for them in the ways that they needed us. And so if we can communicate that clearly, I think that's only going to benefit and strengthen the relationship.


Chuck Elliott: [00:32:59] Sometimes I have to go back and say, “I think I missed something.” If I feel like there's tension in the relationship, like maybe she has an expectation that she communicated and she could have asked for it directly and I just missed it. I mean, I'm for sure not perfect.


So it's like, “Is there something that I did or something that I said or something that I missed that I need to go back to, or say sorry for?” Or whatever it might be. “I don't know what's going on, but it just feels like something is off.” 


Ashley Elliott: [00:33:29] And I think the other day I had a friend that shared about her loss and how she is a ministry person and so she poured herself into ministering to others and she didn't know how to accept help very much.


And because I was in that loss with her, went to her house, and I remember feeling like she wouldn't let me in. And I think we could have probably been closer if she would have accepted my help. And I didn't know what to do and I wanted to be closer to her in that way. 


And so I learned about myself in that moment. Like, “Oh, I've probably done that to other people. I'm trying so hard to be strong that I'm not letting people in.”


And so, If we're not in the midst of a major loss, that could be a good time to think, “Hey, who are the people who I want to be in my support network? How do I help support them so that they will feel like they would be comfortable asking?” It's like we take care of each other. 


And then also, if I do get to a place of loss, what are the ways that I could have people help me? And if you're in the midst of it, then just exploring our needs, like, “Well, having someone come and just sit with me,” that's not too hard for most of the people who really love us. 


And although it can be awkward to ask for, it can be easier than asking someone to come babysit. Like, “Will you just come sit here? I don't know what to ask for, and I don't even know that I'm going to feel like talking, but I just would like to have someone so I’m not alone.”


Chuck Elliott: [00:34:49] And letting people in is messy. And sometimes we have to accept that people are going to give unwanted gifts. They're going to try to love us in a way that isn't the way that we want to be loved. They're going to try to give us something that we don't really like, and we're going to feel like we have to return it if they gave it to us from a store, and it gives us another job. 


So sometimes people give us things that we don't want, but that's part of the relationship and the communication of what goes on with it. 


And maybe you don't ask me for too many things because I sometimes will give you an unwanted gift or I'll come in too aggressive. Because Ashley could ask me to do something and I'm really spontaneous, so I will stop everything at a fault and just jump in and do whatever she wanted me to do.


And then she's like, ‘No, we have six things to do right now. I didn't mean that now.”

I was like, “Well, you dropped a hint now, so it's happening now.” So I'm a little bit irrational in the ways that I try to help and it can be overwhelming. 


Ashley Elliott: [00:35:40] And I appreciate his personality. And we've had to work through some of these things, like, “Oh, I do love your personality and I love that you're not just like me, but it does make-


Chuck Elliott: [00:34:49] Oh, it'll stress you out.


Ashley Elliott: [00:35:50] … especially things like grief, complex because we grieve differently as husband and wife. We grieve differently somewhat as male and female. 

And sometimes I don't meet the traditional female roles in the way that people grieve.


And I think I'm thankful that Chuck has feelings where it seems like a lot of men feel the pressure to act like they don't have feelings or maybe they're not able to access them.

And so knowing that we're all different but we're trying to connect, we're trying to lean into each other, trying to lean into God, is super helpful.


Ashley Opliger: [00:36:21] Something I thought about as you were talking about the unwanted gifts, Chuck, is that we really just need to try to see the best in people and see that, their intention and their heart behind it.


And so if someone gives us something or tries to show up for us in a certain way, and maybe it's not our love language, maybe it's not the most ideal way that we would have preferred to be loved, can we see the heart and the intention behind it and see that this person loves me and they're trying to do something to show me love and just seeing the best in people? And I think that's another opportunity for grace in the midst of grief. 


And I also love what you shared about your marriage and even though you're grieving differently, you're trying to connect in these ways and trying to show up for each other.  

Because marriage is hard, especially after miscarriage and stillbirth, pregnancy loss. A lot of couples end up going the opposite way because there's so much stress and tension of grieving differently. 


So would you share, as you were walking through your recurrent miscarriages, how the Lord brought you together, and some marriage advice on grieving differently but grieving together?


Ashley Elliott: [00:37:30] I think, as you heard earlier, I had a hard time asking for what I want. And so Chuck definitely dug into that a little bit, that he noticed if I wasn't altogether happy that he would ask me how I was. 


So we didn't start that work of seeing each other in loss. We did try to, we were marriage educators and we communicated, and we're counselors and ministry leaders, so it gave us a toolbox of skills that helped.


But even in it, we still grieved differently. And I think, Chuck, you said you felt like you didn't know If you wanted to bring it up sometimes or some of the things you experienced.


Chuck Elliott: [00:38:06] Oh, yeah. Yeah, for sure. I found that, “Well, if she's in a good mood, why am I going to bring up and say, ‘Hey, have you thought about it today? Have you thought about our little one?’”


Ashley Elliott: [00:38:14] Or even if you were having a hard time, you didn't want to tell me about it because you felt like-


Chuck Elliott: [00:38:19] No.


Ashley Elliott: [00:38:19] … I was maybe having a good day.


Chuck Elliott: [00:38:22] I think just recognizing how things are different. So as a man and processing and grieving miscarriage, obviously it's different. I completely get it that I did not have the baby in my body. I do not understand that. That is not my experience. 


But at the same time, my kiddo died and that's very real. There were plans that we had, things that we were thinking that were going to happen, thinking about rooms and environments, and, “What is life going to be like? How are things going to change?” That kiddo was part of our life.


So recognizing that, and at the same time saying, “Okay, how is it that I communicate, even though I feel like I may not be as validated in hurting as much as she is?”

 

So not that grief’s a scale, but just for the sake of argument, what if I feel like she has a 10 out of 10 reason to be hurting and I feel like society or somebody might tell me that my loss is less and I'm like a 4 out of 10? Why would I tell her how I'm hurting? It's almost like that's nothing compared to what it is that she's feeling. 


I know that's not logical. She wouldn't tell me that. She never told me that. No one's ever necessarily told me that. But since I know that it's so different and I feel like, “Man, Ashley's hurting in a way that I don't understand,” I don't have a place to put any of my pain and my hurt on her when she's already feeling something that is so intense.


Ashley Elliott: [00:39:40] And I think that comparison struggle is such a human thing. It's not just men.


Chuck Elliott: [00:39:44] Oh, sure.


Ashley Elliott: [00:39:44] But we tend to do this, especially with miscarriage. 


People ask, “Oh, well, how far along you were?” And it's like, “Oh, I lost a baby, but I was farther along than you were, so my grief is bigger.”


Or if I feel like someone else’s, their loss is, like, “Oh, then I shouldn't even feel sad.”

And we just want to give people permission that we feel different. I don't even like hearing you say, “I didn't carry the baby in my belly, so I shouldn't feel like …”


I want you to feel, Chuck, that you can grieve the loss to the fullest that you need to and we don't have to compare with each other. But I think that's such a human nature thing that we do.


And so we've tried to not ask questions. So someone tells me that they lost a baby to miscarriage, I don't think I've ever asked this since then, but like, “How far along were you?” That's none of my business and it is not going to impact how much compassion I have for you. 


But sometimes that's how I feel when someone asks me that question, “Well, how far along were you?”


“Oh, well, I was this much.”


“Oh, okay. Oh, that was terrible.” I have to read their face to know that it's interesting enough for them to-


Chuck Elliott: [00:40:50] How much they're going to validate and how much sympathy you feel like they're going to give you with their face.


Ashley Opliger: [00:40:52] Right.


Ashley Elliott: [00:40:53] Yeah. 


Chuck Elliott: [00:40:54] Yeah.


Ashley Elliott: [00:40:54] And so we’ve found that whenever people do feel the need to tell their story, we can make it safe for them to tell and then they can tell what they want. But we take away some of that comparison, if we're not swapping stories in that kind of way. 


And so usually, if I ever tell someone who has lost a baby that I've lost a baby, I don't go through and say, “Oh, I lost a baby, 2015. I was this far along and this.” I'll say that I lost, but I'm intentional to not share all of that, not because I'm trying to keep it from people, but because I do feel like it's so easy to get in that. 


And so when Chuck says, “I didn't carry the baby,” I'm like, “Well, I needed to know that you grieved big.” Because there was something about me that felt crazy whenever I felt like he could walk around stable and I felt like I was going to just start crying or get angry at any moment. And so when he told me he was having a hard time, it helped me feel okay and normal. 


Chuck Elliott: [00:41:48] And not alone.


Ashley Elliott: [00:41:48] And whenever I'm like, “It was his kid too, and he's just fine,” that made me feel worse. 


And so I think sometimes in relationships we're trying to balance out the other person. So if one person's really escalated, the other person gets really calm and we polarize and, I think, trying to give ourselves space. 


Go to a counselor, talk about it, talk in a calm setting, but do share about the pain. Especially for men, don't feel obligated to say, “I'm fine. I've got to be fine because my wife's hurting,” because that actually might make it harder for her, even though it sounds counterproductive.


Ashley Opliger: [00:42:23] Yes. I so agree with everything you're talking about with the comparison. 


And in fact, we do support groups here in person in our headquarters and online. And we have women who have lost babies at five weeks gestation. We have babies that pass away at five months gestation and then sometimes five months after birth.


And we have a declaration of faith. It's a video that everyone watches at the beginning of the support group. And we specifically say, “We will not compare our grief to each other,” because we believe that life begins at conception, and therefore we are all grieving a baby that has an eternal soul in Heaven and we're all grieving hopes and dreams.

Now, that doesn't negate that the different types of loss at different gestations are a different experience and a different-


Chuck Elliott: [00:43:06] Sure.


Ashley Opliger: [00:43:06] … type of trauma, but we are all grieving a baby that we're going to get to see one day in Heaven, and we can unite in that common heartache, but also understand our stories are different.


And so I think there's a lot of freedom in acknowledging that yes, our stories are different, but we're going to unite in what we share, which is our pain and then our common hope. 


And we always say that because we'll be sitting in a circle and we'll have moms talking about [how] they lost their baby 2 days before their due date and then another one lost her baby at 38 weeks. And then the next mom will share that she lost her baby at eight weeks and then just naturally she'll feel like she's not validated because these other two moms that just shared their stories. 


And we're like, “No, each person's story is traumatic and there's so much grief there and we're all grieving our baby.”


And so we always say that at the forefront, because we want women to understand, even if you just took your pregnancy test and you got the blood work back and then the next day you're bleeding, you lost a precious little child because God gave them life in your womb. 


And so I think that's so important to say in this space but really with any kind of loss that we would acknowledge that yes, we have different stories, different tragedies that we've walked through, but God is going to work through that.


And so as you went through all of this in your own life, you ended up writing this book called I Used to Be. So what made you write it and what is it about?


Chuck Elliott: [00:44:31] Yeah. After we experienced our losses through miscarriage, we did have another little guy in 2018 and we said, “Okay.” So his name's Emerson. So we had Emerson and then we waited a year and enjoyed that time and we were saying, “Okay, God, what do You want from us? We learned things. We’re still hurting. We're processing this, but we'd like to know, how could You use some of the things that we've been through?”


So we put together some of the content through our professional experience and our education and the things that we personally experienced, and we said, “Okay, let's put this together.” 


And we ended up putting together a video series that we started with that was about loss. And we just had the conversation, saying, “Okay, what could this grow into?” And it grew into the book.


Ashley Elliott: [00:45:20] Yeah. We wrote the book to help people not just navigate large losses, but also small losses.


And when we take people through a process where we go through positive and negative coping mechanisms, we go through Scripture, we go through activity to help people build mental stability and understand, “What do we look like when we're at our best?” 


And then the simplest form, “How much are we taking showers and eating? And what does that look like in our prayer time,” and just getting a picture of what we look like when we're at our best, at a positive space and at our worst in a negative space. 


And so it really is pretty broad, so it helps with lots of different identity-shaping losses that people go through. But then we're continuing to help people to go to God throughout that process so that they find their path forward and find hope in the Lord.


No matter what has gone on, they're continuing to try to follow this process of taking it back to God and helping Him to tell them who they are and how to move forward.


Chuck Elliott: [00:46:16] And we share our story, multiple things about our story, in the book, but it's not for the purpose of us just sharing our story. We help people to put themselves in this. 


And we truly believe and have seen that if people will take these steps and go through this, it really can bring healing. It can help people to continue to take steps to navigate and to move forward if they do it. So it's not an easy process necessarily for everybody, but it's powerful.


Ashley Elliott: [00:46:42] Yeah, and fortunately, we've had some people say, “This book is hard. I had to put it down. I just couldn't go through it all at once.” 


And then we've had people say, “Oh, I read several chapters at once. It just pulled me in.’

And so we're thankful for the response that we're getting, that it is helping people feel encouraged. And that's what we desire, that people feel like they have hope. 


But it is a book, and so if it is hard, then just read a chapter at a time. Or have a friend go through it with you so that you're not having to just keep it, so you can communicate through it.


Ashley Opliger: [00:47:13] Well, I love the book and I'm so excited to share that we'll be doing a giveaway for three copies of your book, and so thank you so much for offering that. 

And we will post all of those details on our social media channels. So go check out our Facebook and Instagram page. We're going to be tagging Chuck and Ashley so you can find them and their social channels.


But would you mind sharing your website and your social channels as well as where they can buy the book?


Chuck Elliott: [00:47:41] Yeah. You can find us at chuckandashley.com. You just spell it all out, chuckandashley.com, and there's links to our social on there. You can Google us and just Chuck and Ashley for YouTube and Instagram and all the different places.


You can find our book anywhere that books are sold. Also on audible, the audio, all kinds of things, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, anywhere you get a book, you can find it.


Ashley Opliger: [00:48:04] Awesome. Well, we have been so honored to have you here. I feel like I could do three interviews with you. You have a wealth of wisdom and knowledge to share, and so I'm praying that everyone listening would go get a copy of your book and dive into that process because you have certainly been through so much together, but you have used it all for God's glory and are helping point other people to that healing work that God can do in the midst of grief. So thank you for everything that you do.


Chuck, being the pastor, I'm going to ask you if you would close us in prayer.


Chuck Elliott: [00:48:35] Absolutely. Love to. 


God, we come before You and we're grateful. We're humbled. And at the same time, I know there's people who are listening who could be hurting. 


Lord, I pray that You would show them that they can invite You into those dark spots, those hard moments, that they can be bold in the way that they talk to You. Whether they feel distant from You right now because they feel hurt, or they feel especially close to You because of that hurt, Lord, we can bring it all to You.


Lord, I pray for encouragement, I pray for strength for everyone listening. Lord, we thank You that we can come to You every day, every night, all of those moments. And we give You all the glory for the ways that You use us to minister to others, Lord, even in the midst of our pain. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


Ashley Elliott: [00:49:19] Amen.


Ashley Opliger: [00:49:20] Amen. Thank you so much for being here. 


Ashley Elliott: [00:49:23] Thanks for having us.


Ashley Opliger: [00:49:26] Thank you for listening to the Cradled in Hope Podcast on the Edifi Podcast Network. We pray that you found hope & healing in today’s episode. 

Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss new episodes when they release on the 1st of every month. You can also find this episode’s show notes and a full transcript on our website at bridgetscradles.com/podcast


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 help is by leaving a review of this podcast on iTunes [or the Apple Podcasts app]. Consider the minute of your time as a way YOU can personally share the hope that you’ve found here with another 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. 


Cradled in Hope is part of the Edifi Podcast Network, a collection of faith-inspiring podcasts on Edifi, the world’s most powerful Christian podcasting app. To listen to Cradled in Hope and find other podcasts by leading Christian voices, download the Edifi app in the Apple and Google Play stores or online at edifi.app. Thank you so much for listening.




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