There are still mornings where I wake up and live the trauma all over again. Moments where I am caught in between the memory of holding our sons in my arms and begging God to bring life to them again. The only memories I have with my two youngest boys are also overwhelmed with great suffering, and because of this I must brave the trauma all over again just to remember their little faces.
My earliest memories are filled with dreams of being called, “Mommy”. I was the kid who lugged around an oversized diaper bag as a child pretending to be the mother of many. I put everything in that diaper bag, even a live raccoon once (no joke!) but that bag carried my dreams. Dreams that one day it would be time to live out those hopes. And eventually, that day came.
Becoming a mother has been the greatest dream of my life. I chased those dreams all around the world loving on children that were not my own in some of the poorest patches of dirt I could find. And when it became my turn to walk in that reality myself, I found out that my fairytale had become a war zone.
I married the love of my life in a whirlwind wedding barefoot in the dirt of Mozambique, Africa. A tall, dark, handsome guy from New Orleans ran with me to the ends of the earth, and I was head-over-heels in love with him. From day one, I dreamed of having his babies. I never dreamed the battles that loomed in the horizon.
2014 and 2015 have been the hardest years we have ever walked through as a family. In August of 2014, our son, Beau’s heart stopped beating just a few days before birth. I hoped again very publicly in announcing we were pregnant with our fourth baby soon after. In July of 2015, our son Montgomery passed away at birth as well. Those boys were everything my heart always hoped for. I carried those boys for 10 months. I named them. Dreamed of them, sang to them.
My dreams were dead — and I didn’t know what to do.
The days following the death of our sons were a blur. I wondered what I should do in the wake of losing everything. Shock brought me through most of the chaos in the initial aftermath. But the journey to healing for myself and my family — Hell, even my marriage– has been long. I will share more on how to fight for your marriage after tragedy and on developing the skill of grief, but I wanted to share first on what to do when your dreams die.
Not all of us have experienced the death of a child, but most of us can relate to experiencing the death of something very valuable to us — and the death of dreams.
What To Do When Your Dream Dies:
- BE PRESENT. One of the hardest decisions I had to make after our sons died was to let myself feel the pain of loss. Most of us will either have a natural fight or flight response. Neither one of these responses are valuable in deciding to be present in pain. Being present means that I had to let myself be vulnerable and feel the death that was happening around me.
- TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. This was hard for me as well. I didn’t eat for days after Beau died, and I felt guilty for eating after a 72 hour labor with Montgomery. I felt guilt if I laughed or smiled. My attempts at honoring my sons were very upside-down. I had went through days of labor and natural deliveries of each son, but did not have a recovery period like most moms do. I didn’t have a baby to nurse, or to hold. It’s so very important to take care of your body when you are going through trauma. Nutritional deficiencies, hormonal imbalances and neglect to our bodies can cause the grieving process to be much more difficult.
- FIND YOUR VILLAGE. I have to admit that this was the step that took the most time for me. Grieving for my sons didn’t mean that I blamed God. I knew who He is and I didn’t have a time where I questioned His goodness. But I did have a hard time with people. Because the death of our sons was so public I had many emails from people around the world. 75% of those emails were filled with attempts at bad theology and/or nosey questions from individuals who wanted to know details of our son’s death. I even had a handful of emails from well-meaning people who wanted to “encourage” me that God “let” my sons die because they “could have been the next Hitler”. (Insert face palm here). I was angry. And my anger made me want to isolate myself away from the world. I didn’t know how to let people love on me during my grief because I was afraid of the weirdos who put their lazy theology on my situation. Eventually, I had to find my village — even a small group of people who I could be real with. People who wouldn’t feel awkward around my grief. The truth is, I needed them.
- DAILY ASK THE HOLY SPIRIT TO BE YOUR COMFORTER. Most people didn’t know how to handle our grief. It was too much for them and it brought up too much of their own questions about life and God and everything really. I almost felt bad for pastors who tried to explain why this happened. I equally felt bad for those who were okay with not having answers. I didn’t want to shy away from the reality of what I was walking through. But no one could help me with that process but God. One day, when I didn’t know what else to pray, I just dropped down on the floor and said, “Holy Spirit, would you come and be MY Comforter today?” The truth is that I had woken up to a war that I had forgotten I was fighting in. When I got married, I truly believed in the fairytale “happily ever after” mantra that I have bought into. But that wasn’t the reality. The reality was that I was in a very real war for my life and those around me. A supernatural battlefield full of ashes and death. But that is where Heaven overwhelms earth so well. God can redeem the battles lost. He feels them alongside of us. He’s a King who finds His place on the battlefield with us and does not leave us. That means even in my darkness, God can eclipse my pain with HOPE. Hope isn’t a feeling, it’s the manifestation of God-with-us. He’s here even in our suffering.
- DON’T SET A TIME LIMIT. The grieving process even in the death of dreams will look different for everyone. Instead of placing a time limit on your pain, give yourself permission to uniquely go through your process as God leads you.
- CALL OUT BEAUTY FROM THE ASHES OF OTHERS. This is where God empowers you to find others who are struggling, and join with Him in bringing His power to a dying world. The truth is, the world is dying and so desperately in need of a powerful God. I know that power–the One who can change everything. The power that can raise the dead, and make blind eyes suddenly see. I’ve seen it. I’ve been there sitting in the dust under the African moon as a man–blind–sees for the first time in his life. I’ve been there as I’ve watched a one pound baby — my first born — born much too soon, defy every odd put in her path and rise with audacious beauty that made doctors shake their heads with wonder. I’ve seen His face in those moments of chaos and have watched Him turn them holy. And He can do that for you, too. “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, . . . to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” -Isaiah 61
- READ GOD’S DREAMS FOR YOU. When my dreams were dead, I had to make the choice to listen to God’s heart for me instead of what the enemy was telling me. I had to make a conscience effort to read and listen to what God said about my situation. Everything we have faced in our lives equips us for destiny. That means the battles I have lost are just as valuable as those that I’ve won. In our ashes, God has called our beauty by opening a door for us to adopt two babies from Uganda. I do not take that privilege lightly. I know the reality of losing a child. And I know the gift of adopting two beautiful ones means that someone else has felt that same loss as I have.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18.
The death of a dream is a painful road to walk. Even in your ashes, I want to call out the beauty that God is rising in your life. As someone who knows what its like to walk through trauma and tragedy, I want to speak comfort over you today. I pray that God would overwhelm you with the awareness of just how close He is to the brokenhearted, and that He would empower you to call out beauty from the ashes of a dying world.
Have you suffered the death of a dream? We’d love to pray for you. Connect with us @TheDavisTribe on Facebook, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org