Jennifer Harrison Searches for Answers in Grief

Prayer. It seems like the catch-all sometimes, the easy response. “I’ll pray for you.” But what happens when you pray, yet don’t receive the answer you desire? In 2009, I prayed that prayer, that heart-ripping, never-ending, always-on-repeat prayer: “God, please save my baby.”

Because I was bleeding when I shouldn’t have been. I was 12 weeks pregnant, and even though the doctor told me some bleeding was normal, it didn’t feel normal to me. One week later, my husband, Curt, and I were in the doctor’s office hearing, “I can’t find the fetus.”

words + photographs JENNIFER HARRISON

Our world spiraled out of control.

We struggled. I fell apart. Men often like to fix things. Curt wanted to fix me, but I couldn’t be fixed. Really, I didn’t even want to be at that moment.

I pasted the smile on my face and said the lie, “I’m fine,” too many times to count. On the inside, I was drowning in grief or trying to avoid it by working more. At church, I moved to the back pew so I could escape easier. Even worship became hard. My only song was the tears flowing down my cheeks.

I sought help, and Heather Fann captured in words what my heart struggled to say: “It’s hard to praise the One when you feel forsaken.”

Jennifer Harrison sits beside a brick purchased in memory of her daughter Serenity at M.E.N.D.’s Garden of Hope in Dallas, Texas.

At the time, Heather was the director of the Southwest Missouri chapter of Mommies Enduring Neonatal Death. My husband and I began attending M.E.N.D. support groups shortly after.

There, I learned it’s O.K. to not be O.K. and to cry out to God, as He can handle my anger. Which was good because shortly after we found M.E.N.D., I moved to another phase of grief, anger.

I felt my prayers went unheard, unanswered or even ignored. At the time, I was very bitter. I began to seek answers of why God wouldn’t answer my prayer the way we asked: to save a life. That should be a good thing, right?

I had a dear friend who also lost a child tell me she clung to the words of King David when he said someday he would go to his child in heaven. I snapped back, “David committed a great sin and lost his baby. What did I do wrong that God took mine?”

Grief
can
be
harsh.

One night at a M.E.N.D. support group, I picked up a copy of Pastor John Marshall’s message “Don’t Be Troubled” he preached in July 2009 at Second Baptist Church in Springfield, Missouri. He spoke on people searching for answers as to why bad things happen, and I thought, “Here it is. I’m going to get my answers.”

“I don’t know,” he said.

My vision blurred, forcing me off the road, as the wave of tears streamed down my cheeks. “I don’t know.” It seems so simple, but for me it was a turning point. I began to accept the fact I might never know why God did not perform the miracle for which I prayed.

After a time, I continued to seek but not in anger. I sought to understand God and our world. Women have suffered loss for ages. I sometimes wonder if Eve, or perhaps one of her daughters, ever experienced loss. We live in a sin-fallen world, and with that, we have all the things revolving around death, pregnancy and infant loss, cancer, sickness, disasters and even in today’s times, COVID-19.

Jennifer Harrison walking with two of her daughters in the M.E.N.D. 2021 Virtual 5K. Participants from all over the U.S. joined the fundraiser.

Yes, God could have performed the miracle. I do not know why He did not. Over time, though, He has given me peace in not knowing.

He has also brought me back to King David’s story, but to view it from a different perspective. King David put on his sackcloth and ashes while his child was sick, but after the child’s death, he began to press forward. When his servants questioned him, he simply told them, “But now he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me,” (2 Samuel 12: 23). 

David pressed forward in life after this, comforting his wife, who later provided the next king and part of the lineage of Jesus. This child’s death is still part of David’s story, so much it was recorded in the Bible.

Children who are not in our arms here on earth are still part of our stories. For some of us, we remember each heavenly birthday and treasure our children with special ornaments. We donate in their memory, share their names and stories to those we deem worthy of hearing, or keep precious thoughts and moments treasured away in our hearts.

God used David when he pressed forward, and He will do the same with us. We remain on this earth to serve a purpose given by God. But with each day that passes, it’s one day closer to our great reunion of seeing our babies, many for the first time.

My baby’s first moment ever was opening her eyes to see Jesus’ loving gaze.

My baby’s first moment ever was opening her eyes to see Jesus’ loving gaze. Since that moment, I bet she has been busy singing with the heavenly choir, racing down those streets of gold and dancing in fields of flowers.

Heaven is too glorious to be tainted by the woes of earth, so I know my baby girl won’t ever look down. She doesn’t see us cry when we long for her or as we go through other heartaches of this world. Occasionally, I bet Jesus pulls her into a loving embrace, and says, “You want to hear about your Mama?” He shows her glimpses of me when I’m in my happy moments, being with her family and singing, especially when I’m in the garden. He shows her what Daddy is doing with old cars and the silliness of her siblings. I’m sure He will tell her when and how her siblings ask Jesus in their hearts, so she can rejoice that one day she will meet them too.

I hope Jesus introduces her to the children of the families I help through the M.E.N.D. Magazine, even though I have never met their parents this side of heaven. I would love to be with her, but my work here on earth is not done yet. One day, I cannot wait for Him to tell her, “Race you to the gate. Your Mama is done with her work, and she is coming Home.” JH

Jennifer Harrison serves as the magazine editor for Mommies Enduring Neonatal Death (M.E.N.D.). She and her husband are parents to Serenity in heaven; and Levi, Ziva and Evie of the home.


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