Justifying Grief

I want to warn you, friends, that this post may make you uncomfortable. And if you’d rather not read it, I understand.

It’s been a season of dreaming and doing…with a lot of reflecting mixed in there, too.

And since many of you walk this journey with me…the one of hopes and chasing dreams, of love and extreme thankfulness, of a bit of sorrow and more broken, but also of so much redemption and Grace…I want you to know.

If you want to know.

So read at your own risk. :)


There is a wound that’s been buried in a corner of my heart for more than four years.

Most days, it’s just there…but it never goes away. Occasionally it will tug and pull and ache and make me cry.

And then there are weeks like this past one where it slashes and slices and crushes and makes my body rack with sobs.

I thought it would go away, this wound of loss so deep, especially once our little girl joined our family.

But it hasn’t, and from time to time, the pain will resurface. And lately, it’s seemed to grab a hold and start to strangle.

Especially this past week, as it seemed to just make me cry more and more, I wondered…

Is it possible I never grieved it?

I don’t know.

All I know is that the month of March is one of the most painful for me…and when it rolls around, it feels as if a demon overtakes me.

The demon of depression…of anger, of hurt, of regret, of unknown. Of wishing and wondering and wanting to know so badly but needing to accept that I never will.

Most of you know the story, but not all.

For a long time, I’ve been afraid of it, but I can’t be anymore. For it is part of us…part of our family, and we need to acknowledge that it’s there and always will be. 

In November of 2008, while Tobin and I were living in Indonesia, we made the decision to pursue adoption. It wasn’t something we rushed into…it had been in our prayers and discussions for months, even years.

In January of 2009, we were approached about the possibility of adopting a baby. A mother in a nearby village who had a connection with a friend was pregnant with her third child. The father was in and out of the picture, money was almost nonexistent, and they wanted a better life for this baby.

Through our friend, they heard about us and asked if we would like their baby.

There are days I wish it had been that simple. And then there are others when I wish it had all never happened.

She was due end of April/beginning of May. It was January.

We flew into paperwork mode and, as soon as we could, scheduled a meeting with the head of the Yayasan (adoption CEO, for lack of a better term) in Jakarta. We met with her, and though somewhat helpful, we left feeling discouraged.

Despite the discouragement, our friend was convinced that this could work, that the hoops could be jumped through and the obstacles overcome.

We had a lot on our side, and I believed with everything in me that God wanted us to have this baby.

And I knew I shouldn’t have gone there yet, but I did. We were lying in bed one night, talking, and I told T how much I liked the name, Maria. We never talked about a boy’s name because I was certain it would be a girl.

I had dreams of a purple nursery with maybe some butterflies on the wall, of spending more years in Indonesia, of finally being able to be a family in my community.

In March, those dreams died when the mother changed her mind. We never heard officially what happened, other than we knew there had been some family pressure.

And my dreams for a Maria and a purple nursery with a cute, white crib turned to ashes.

I cried more tears that month than I ever thought possible.

What’s worse, I was convinced that my grief was unjustified. Not everyone had been completely on board with the situation, and one friend even passively said, Oh, you can just try again. It’s not like it was guaranteed anyway.

It was a grief I stuffed down deep. I was afraid of judgment, afraid of being caught crying over something others felt wasn’t justified.

I still had to teach…I still had nineteen 5th graders. I had a life and responsibilities…and the tears were pushed to the late night.

The kind when it was just me and heartbreak buried under a daisy blanket.

Alone, crying out to a God Who felt too far away.

People say that time heals wounds, and I half-agree with it.

Just half, though.

Eventually the exhaustion translated to sleep and sleep meant relief from pain.

Days somehow passed and life occupied hours…and it was what it was.

We returned to the States for the summer. Most never asked, we didn’t talk.

And while tears have dripped since, today the hole feels more like a pit of desperation…the kind that threatens to swallow up a life that needs to be lived.

About a year ago God laid it on our hearts to sponsor a child through Compassion. I pored through the pictures of children from Indonesia, looking for a three year-old. Somehow hoping that maybe…maybe…this child could still be mine.

I knew it was foolish, I knew the odds were millions to one, I knew…

I know…

I know I just have to let go.

To trust that God has a plan for this now-almost-four-year-old child, one that for whatever reason didn’t include us, one that is far greater than I could have imagined.

And so I need to say goodbye.

Goodbye, sweet one.



  1. This grief you’ve experienced is real. Having been down the adoption path twice, I know people say all kinds of things that you wished they’d kept to themselves. Of course nothing is guaranteed, but that doesn’t mean we don’t experience disappointment. This raw post is brave, friend. I hope laying it out here brings healing. May you remember God has a perfect plan in store of you and your family.

    • Thank you, friend, for the reminder that He has a plan. And it did help to get it out there…I’m thankful for your encouragement. :)

  2. Mel,
    your pain, whatever it is, whomever does or doesn’t understand it, is always very real. I wish you were sitting next to me so I could jump up, brew us a pot of insanely complicated tea (maybe rosehips, chamomille, ginger and candied lemon peel), so we could sip it with warm homemade shortbread. Bless you for opening your heart. Know this, a burden shared is a burden lightened.
    I am praying that this sorrow will diminish over time…make peace with it, and know that we love you.
    May God bless and keep you, my sweet dreaming sister. Sometimes one dream has to move out of the way so another one can take its place. Can’t wait to see what’s next for you.
    Peace and good, and hugs.

    • You made me smile, Chelle…and wish for a long chat with you…with some of that tea, too. (That sounds like an amazing blend! Mmmmm…) :) Thank you for your sweet words today…hugging you back, friend!

  3. Oh sweet friend my heart breaks with you. While we haven’t lost through adoption, we did have a miscarriage between our 2nd and 3rd son. It was very early on and people would say the same to me…”at least you knew you can get pregnant”, “You can try again”…”there was a reason”…and while yes those statements were all true – they didn’t bring comfort. I lost the baby on Feb. 19th 2008…our due date would have been Oct. 24th. I still remember those dates…dates my husband has long forgotten.

    I wasn’t dealing well and ended up meeting with a counselor because I couldn’t “move on”….she told me that I lost a dream and I had the right to grieve. She encouraged me to write a letter of goodbye for now to my baby…I am sharing it with you b/c it was so helpful to me. I cried through the entire thing…but it helped me move forward. http://www.dominicandkristin.blogspot.com/2008/07/letter.html

    Love you Mel – sending hugs to you today!!

    • Thank you for sharing that precious letter with me, friend. Beautiful. :) I love what you shared in that post, too, about when we share our sorrows they are cut in half and when we share our joy, it doubles. (I’m sure I paraphrased that! ;)) I’ve found that to be true today…thank you for your kind words and hugs. You are a blessing to me! :)

  4. Oh, Mel…I’m so sorry. You have every right to grieve this. I fully believe loss stays inside of us…until we do. While I’ve never experienced this, I have had to grieve loss. I was blessed at the time to work for hospice, so I’d been through grief training…and even then it was so hard. And yes, like you , some did not see it as a loss…but my heart disagreed. For months. I cried tears from a place so deep I sometimes actually wondered if I might die in mid-cry…like being swept under by an actual ocean wave. I do think it was necessary though…as terrifying as it was. A wise person once told me “Tears are a balm to the soul.” Thank you for sharing this. What a huge step in the healing journey you took today…and who knows how many this will go on to help. Thank you Mel.

    • Thank you, sweet sister, for blessing me with your words and insight. I agree that, at times, I felt like it was all going to swallow me up. But today is good…sharing this was good. I feel like I’m moving forward. :) Thank you for walking this journey with me…what a blessing you are!

  5. Oh, ((hugs)), sweet friend!! I know grief all too well…so many stages, so many years… you think you’ve moved on, worked through it, and then, there it is, another layer of grief upon you! What a brave, beautiful, and very hard step you’ve taken…the journey to let go. I will trust that this letting go will lead you to even more joy! Praying for you.

  6. Oh sweet Mel – I am so sorry for your loss. Sorry for the time you didn’t have to grieve it. I remember my own ahi g loss when we were told we couldn’t get pregnant and my husband saying we couldn’t adopt. Pray for your mourning to be turned to rejoicing and knowledge that he holds that precious child in His hands.

    • Thank you, Gindi…both for your words and the reminder that He’s got that child in His care. I need to remind myself of that often. :)

  7. Love you friend, and thank you for being brave and honest and real. We all need that permission to feel loss, regardless of what others think. I tend to be a stuffer and then one day everything comes spilling out. I pray you grieve and let it all out, as long as it takes. (((hugs)))

  8. Thanks so much for sharing and being so brave to do so! As the other’s have pointed out…this was a real and true loss for you. And all of us that have had losses know the classic struggle of “dealing with it”…it never really will go away completely. The hurt stays with us and that is the hard part. But don’t let yourself feel guilty for feeling it and for continuing to grieve your loss. The only way you can come to a sort of terms with a loss is to accept that it changed you forever and that through the experience God has and will shape you and bring you closer to HIM.

    • I needed that reminder today, Kristen…because, really, that’s His purpose in anything, isn’t it? To bring us closer to Himself…it’s sometimes a hard reality but also a sweet one when we accept that He can bring good and trust that He will. Thank you for your kind words, friend…many blessings to you! :)

  9. After watching my sister foster two kids hoping two adopt, only to have them taken away because she nor her husband were not Native American, the grief there is real. For the big people, and for the little people. My niece cried lots, and my sister decided they couldn’t try that again…indeed, it ripped a huge hole in the heart of all of us. But the decision to love risks such pain, and grief.

    • That breaks my heart. :( I’m so sorry for the pain you all experienced. But you are so right…that we risk pain and grief when we love. And it’s worth it even when it hurts. Thank you for sharing today, Lisa…you are a blessing. :)

  10. As you can see by all the comments there are so many who hurt deeply. I, too, have been touched by a circumstance that had me so grieved and mad at God that I couldn’t even pray let alone worship a God who would “let that happen.” Time has mended that to a degree. I wish I could say something to help you feel better, whole again. I am not that naive! Our wounds and imperfect healings – scars – one day will be forever healed by the One who bore more scars than anyone before or since. I will pray for you and your family. :)

    • That will be an incredible day…no more pain. Wow. Thank you for praying, sweet friend…your friendship means so much to me. :)

    • Linda – I’ve had the same experience in which it is so easy to turn away from what brings spiritual strength and guidance. It’s easy to get angry. Sometimes, as hard as it is, we have to trust “the bigger picture” and since we don’t have the ability to see what that is right now this moment, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist or that it isn’t good for us. Much light to you.

  11. Mel, sometimes there are no words that will make anything better. So, I will just say that I’m sorry you had to experience such a deep pain, one that other people made worse. I pray that Jesus holds you close as you grieve, and that He blesses you with redemption of your pain. Sending you love, hugs, and a listening ear whenever you need one, for as long as you need them:)

  12. Know you are loved and held, by us, your friends, and your mighty Father. Lean on us as you cry your hot tears and grieve. We don’t judge; we hold you close. I still remember the pain of my first pregnancy — which ended in a miscarriage at 9 weeks. Even if grief doesn’t make practical “sense,” it doesn’t make it any less real. I pray that you start to feel the light of love lift you up in the weeks to come and please, please let me know if there’s anything you need! xxoo.

    • Thank you, friend. I am so thankful for this community and how you all have just poured on the virtual hugs in the last two days! I appreciate your prayers so much…thank you for being such a blessing to me! :)

  13. Well you know why I am perusing your entire site right now. 😉
    But I am welling up with tears over this … that you heart grieved so much.
    I grieved as well… over a child.
    But the child meant for us came in 1994. I hugged her tight, oh so tight. She is now almost 19.

    know you are hugging your baby tight today.
    Hearts be blessed at your house, my friend.

  14. Mel, I just found this post now. I think you have every right to grieve. I don’t have children, but there was once a time when I did want them. I understand. You’d already received this soul into your life, already started being a parent to her in your heart and you already gave her love. We can’t know what kind of karma is playing in the background. Yours, hers, her family’s.

    • Thank you so much for your words and thoughts, my friend. I still struggle with the grief aspect…yes, we’ve chosen to move forward and embrace life, but this little one is still in my heart. I still think of him/her and wonder…and then I just choose trust because I have to. He’s got a plan for all of us. :) Thanks for reading.

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