Learning to Celebrate in the Middle of Pain

Earlier this year, I chose the word ‘celebration’ as my #oneword365 challenge. Essentially, it’s the word I felt led to focus on and cultivate in my life for 2016. Little did I know, just a week after choosing celebration I would be forced to question whether I believe what I wrote in my original post:

“I have become unwilling to sacrifice the beauty of moments for potential pain that may or may not come.”

You see, in those early days of January, I was about 7 weeks pregnant with a baby our family had longed and ached for. Of course, I felt ecstatic but also scared. As anyone who’s wanted anything knows, it’s not easy to wait for something we want and it’s even trickier to trust while we watch our longing come to fruition.

Nearly a week after my declaration of celebration—we learned our baby, our long desired and dreamed of baby, did not have much chance of viability. In an early ultrasound, I heard the dreaded words no momma wants to hear, “this isn’t what we’re supposed to be seeing here according to your dates. We have to wait to know for sure, but it doesn’t look like your baby is developing.”

And so, after another month of waiting and testing and praying and hoping and hurting we found our sweet August baby would never be. It took every ounce, of everything I had, to hope and pray during our waiting.

I couldn’t help but wonder why I felt so strongly about the word celebration, though. I felt God had given me my word and I felt confused at the timing. You could also say I was feeling all the feelings. I was grateful for the resources of trauma work I have as a mental health counselor; but it doesn’t matter how much you know about pain, how many resources you have access to in the midst of it—it doesn’t save you from feeling and processing it. We either do or we don’t.

Even still, in my process I felt God’s nearness closely. I knew he wasn’t punishing me. And ironically, I felt deeply loved even as I waded through dreary waters.

And yet, celebration and the words I had written only weeks before, kept chiming in my head and challenging me to pay attention.


The day of my daughter’s birthday was smack in the middle of our waiting process. My husband and I questioned how we should handle it. I knew, as much as I wanted a party and a celebration of her precious 4-year-old life; I didn’t have it in me to host or to entertain people. What I found though is my expectation of how we would celebrate was beginning to change. I wondered if it was possible to hold the weight of our loss in one hand and the joy of our girl in the other.

We decided to take my daughter to high tea at a historic hotel in the city. She wore the brightest pink dress you’ve ever seen and her eyes shone as we walked her in. My heart felt like a bag of stones as we sat down together, but something in me knew I needed to fight for this exact moment. As so, I began to pay attention. I saw my girl slowly and shakily raise her china glass to her mouth. I watched as her daddy held her hand while she gleefully took tiny bites of sandwiches. I noticed the music and the smells and the weight of the moment. And I realized I felt glad to be here, even with the pain.


Our sweet reprieve didn’t change the fact I still had much to grieve; but I realized this was one of my resources. The beauty of these moments given to me by a creator who loves me, are a healing balm for the pain. And I decided, yes, maybe I did have it right with my original quote.

It is worth it to celebrate, come what may.


Also published at Bravely Imperfect

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