I feigned interest in a bag of frozen broccoli so no one would see me cry.
I studied the list of ingredients (spoiler: it’s just broccoli) until my icy fingers numbed and my vision blurred. I knew I couldn’t stand there forever. Surely other shoppers would take notice of the unstable woman emotionally invested in a bag of vegetables.
I blinked back the tears and dropped the unneeded bag into my cart.
Then I looked at her.
She was minding her own business. Absently talking to the man with her while placing items into the cart he pushed. A toddler sat in the cart, gazing wistfully at the Pop-Tarts and Toaster Strudels just out of arm’s reach.
The sight of this cute family wasn’t what led me to bury my face in the nearest food freezer. It was when I realized the woman also had a stroller with her. A double stroller.
Twin babies slept inside.
A knot the size of a fist lodged itself in my throat. My eyes burned. I searched for escape.
Hence the frozen broccoli.
Almost exactly one year ago, at a routine prenatal appointment, I found out I was expecting twins. At the same appointment, I found out that both had died. One week later, I began hemorrhaging and had an emergency D&C procedure. It was the worst experience of my life—an experience compounded by weeks of nightmares following the surgery where I would relive every hellish moment.
On the nights I woke up crying, I remember thinking, “Just get through this. Life will be back to normal soon. Just get through this.”
But a friend, who had also experienced the grief of a miscarriage, told me something that shook me:
“You’ll never go back to normal. You’ll never be the same. And that’s OK.”
My frozen broccoli breakdown wasn’t the first time grief barged uninvited into my day, and I know it won’t be the last. I used to think grief was similar to a college course you take for a semester—something to get through, conquer, and then file away on my list of life experiences.
But grief is not a sickness to medicate or an emotion to master or tolerate. Instead, it’s like a new pair of glasses you’ve been given that you never take off—it changes the way you see and experience the world.
A new pair of glasses is awkward at first. Maybe even uncomfortable. Sometimes they need to be adjusted. Sometimes the new clarity of vision might even cause headaches.
But as time goes by, they become the new normal. Soon, it’s hard to remember how you saw the world without them. And maybe—just maybe—they help you see the world in a way you never knew you needed.
I’ve spoken with friends and family who have walked through miscarriages, suffered stillbirths, lost parents, and mourned the deaths of siblings. I’ve seen women tear up remembering a loss from more than thirty years ago.
We humans learn to heal and grow after loss—but we don’t just get over it. We’re never the same.
And that’s OK.
We grieve because we’ve loved. And every time we feel fresh waves of pain or sorrow wash over us, it reminds us of the precious lives of the ones we loved—even if only for a short time.
The losses can’t be undone, but the wounds do begin to heal. I’ve stopped trying to remove my new glasses or function without them. Instead, I’m learning to embrace the refined vision they’re giving me. The vision to see what a gift every life is. To rejoice with those who rejoice. To grieve with those who grieve. And to try and comfort others like Christ has comforted me (2 Corinthians 1:1-11).
I blinked back the tears and dropped the unneeded bag of frozen broccoli into my cart. I breathed a quiet prayer of thanks for the short lives my unborn children had, and for the hope of seeing them someday.
And then I looked at her. I looked at her children.
And I smiled.
Because every life is a gift. I see that more clearly now.
And maybe it’s possible that grief is a gift, too.