Love once appeared beautiful and whole to me, deep wells that were free and generous, courageous and brave. The caverns of my soul began expanding showing me how to love beyond measure.

When I looked down to see the spots—pink and too bright and red—covering the stark, white soft paper my soul plummeted into the water below me with a splash.

Death is so quick, and grief is the price for such love.

I experienced an overwhelming emptiness, mouth gaped, gaze stuck in the toilet. The flooding tears were the only moving part of me as I stared.

My breath felt short, absent, time stopped. All in one moment of desperation I felt frozen and hot.

Desolation hit like a dart of grief overtaking my being.

The sears of cramping were nothing compared to the ripping my heart was undergoing.

A numbing and grief-filled sorrow hit me like a train.

I felt empty, yet heavy. Weighed down, but somehow floating as if I was nothing.

Flushing down a toilet meant for feces, vomit and urine, my baby and my desire for existence left me. Collapsing beneath the heaviness is all I could do.

I felt myself crumbling into bits and pieces.

Concrete emotions blended in the whirlpool of my feelings fluidly flying through a fickle and fearful existence.

I became a bigger mess than I knew possible.

My feet found the floor and walked me to the door; as I rounded the corner I stared into the bathroom for a prolonged second and then headed to tell my husband my body just rejected our baby.

“No, certainly you couldn’t have.” He shook his head, confidence attempting to replace fear.

With empty eyes I stared into his, my face resembling defeat. How do you breathe when the world stops?

He began searching the internet, baby boards on baby boards, rewording the same question in a million ways in search of hope: can I bleed a lot and have cramps and still be pregnant? You can find anything you want to find on the internet. We found success stories, stories of moms bleeding abnormal amounts along with cramps, and their babies surviving.

But I knew. I knew in my gut there was no more baby.

My husband was in the denial phase, and I let him run the course of the frantic search for hope.

The monster of grief—loss and death—writhed in the empty space where my heart and stomach should have been. Lost and disoriented, I didn’t have the energy to even grasp anything good.

When my baby passed my will escaped me too.

I was feeling all the things I didn’t yet know, but thought I knew, until then. How did I deserve such irrevocable loss? This could not be happening. My baby could not be dead.

Oceans of tears flooded my vision and blurred my thinking the next few days. I was in a tunnel of darkness. The tears washed away protective heart walls along with strength and dignity.

I didn’t believe I would ever breathe right again.

My ribs felt cracked beneath the gravity of thick air moving slowly in and out of my lungs. Each breath stung. My heart was breaking everywhere, yet it is in that brokenness my baby’s love dwells within me forever.

It’s in the spaces of pain and sorrow that love resides.

Like the wells I drink water from, the wells of my heart were deeply engrained into themselves around this baby. Love unfolded and twisted around, a hurricane damaging my now fragile soul.

Grief is the very, real price I was paying for love. Grief hurts and it changed me quickly to reveal a new layer of self.

The entire first week of goodbye overflowed with tears and despair; Loren and I were entangled together on our bed for many hours, sobbing and sinking into one another. Our hearts were crushed, our bodies weak, our hope ripped from our hands.

I was still asked and expected to attend a few different staff prayer meetings; I wish I didn’t attend. I wish I was gentler with myself. I wish I had better boundaries. But the voices in my head told me I was selfish if I stayed home to cry or rest, told me I was prideful.

No one really told me my heart would be ripped right out with my baby.

Society didn’t give me permission to lay around and grieve; to many, our baby was invisible. But he existed. He was very much a part of me and forever will be.

I later learned I cannot live by society’s rules; not when I realized how incredibly human I am. Humanity demands space to be: human.

I did, however, have a few very thoughtful friends during our fresh time of loss. Bella dropped off a small bear with a “B” charm necklace draping across its soft neck. “B” for Baby, or Blake, or Brenner. Whichever one it was perfect. Bella also sent me the book Empty Arms: Coping with Miscarriage, Stillbirth and Infant Death by Sherokee Ilse.

The way I entered the grieving process was a way I’m not sure I had ever fully chosen: in raw honesty and without abandon.

I didn’t want to bottle this pain up only to explode later. I couldn’t. But there was still some temptation to hesitate.

I feared allowing someone step on the raw, bleeding tender parts of me if I invited them into the darkness of grief with me.

We chose a name for our baby; we purchased an expensive garden stone with the words engraved, “Baby Brenner, forever in the hearts of those he left behind,” topped with baby feet in a heart; we planted a primrose. I had an entire corner set up for him in our family room: his bear, a vase with flowers, the two books I gave Loren when I found out I was pregnant, and a little Bible with his name engraved on it. He existed, even if briefly, and I needed his life validated.

So, I chose to validate it myself, no matter how vulnerable it made me.

This article is an excerpt from my newly released book, This Undeserved Life: Uncovering the gifts of grief and fullness of life

Natalie Brenner

Natalie Brenner is wife to Loren and mom to two under two, living in Portland, Oregon. She is the best-selling author of This Undeserved Life. She likes her wine red, ice cream served by the pint, and conversations vulnerable. Natalie believes in the impossible and hopes to create safe spaces for every fractured soul. She's addicted to honesty. You can love Jesus or not, go to church or not: she'd love to have coffee with you. Natalie is a bookworm, a speaker, and a wanna-be runner. Connect with her at and join her email list.