When Comfort Becomes A Curse

August 28, 2018

I got a tattoo.

For the 18 months leading up to it, I knew what I wanted. Several birds with an olive branch—an homage to each of my children and a reminder to always seek peace. A few weeks after my oldest daughter's adoption, we went together to the parlor. I was so excited. I got my tattoo and my daughter got “her” bird tattooed behind her ear.

As we drove home, I had mixed emotions—happiness, which I expected, but also some reservations, some sadness. And I thought, That’s oddwhy would I feel this way? 

I’m a fairly decisive person; I very rarely regret decisions or choices I’ve made. Once I’ve committed to something, I move ahead without little thought to any other options.

The next morning, I woke up again with the nagging feeling that something was wrong, amiss. I felt  sad and could not explain why. For the next several days, I walked around in a daze, unable to pinpoint my pain.

There were moments I’d sit and cry in my closet, feeling panic wash over me—hating my arm, the tattoo—all of it. I would Google ways to remove tattoos and then wonder why I was doing it.

After several days of covering up my arm so that no one could see it and feeling awash with sadness, I finally sat down and prayed—Lord, what is this about? It’s just a stupid tattoo.

Looking down at my arm once again, I noticed that only half of the image was showing and I didn’t mind it—it was only when you could see the entire picture that I hated it.

And, suddenly, it struck me. Several months earlier, my daughter suggested that I place a small black bird on the olive branch to represent the miscarriage Kyle and I had experienced several years earlier. I thought it was a wonderful idea and readily agreed to include it as a way to remember all of our children.

But now, a memory breezed through my mind of a time, years earlier, when I sat crying in a closet after my sister died of cancer. And I realized that what I was feeling was not simply sadness or panic—it was grief.

When I had my miscarriage, I already had two young children of my own and additional foster kids in my home. I told a few close friends and family members what had happened, and then I moved on. I refused to acknowledge any sadness or grief and, if you asked me at the time, I would have told you I was fine.

How could I not be? After all, I had all these other children. And it was early on; I couldn’t be sad like a woman who’d actually lost a child during childbirth or worse

Somehow, I told myself that the sadness I felt didn’t count—and so I left it. Or so I thought.

But if there’s one thing I’m continuing to learn, it’s that ignoring pain never really makes it go away. I can use daily comforts to avoid pain or grief in the short term—Netflix, a good book, a little chocolate. None of those things are evil, but when they are used to avoid feelings, they can result in disaster.

And that’s what hit me this spring, when my tattoo brought a wave of emotions that I didn’t even know was there.

And I wept when I realized what it was.

For weeks and even months afterwards, I grieved for that baby like I’d never done before. And the pain felt new and fresh, like it was happening again right now, and in a sense it was.

This time, I didn't allow myself to turn away like I’d done before. Grief would hit me like a wave and I would lean into it; I would tell myself it was okay to feel it. I put away old comforts—realizing they never really worked, anyway—and instead sat with myself and my pain. I’d whisper, “God, help me.” And he’d be right there, as close as my own breath. Offering his peace, right alongside the pain.

I grieved for the baby we lost, and I also grieved for the child that wasn’t here now. I wondered about their age, how they’d fit right in between my two youngest children. I wondered about what they’d be like, where they’d be at in school, what kind of personality they’d have—and I allowed myself to miss this child that I have yet to meet. I grieved for what was and what is not here now.

The whole time, I kept my arm covered (in the summer, of all things)—still feeling too vulnerable and exposed when others saw it, desiring to avoid questions at all costs.

And I gave myself permission to do so. Permission to care for myself. And, slowly, I began to feel peace along with the grief.

Over time, I began to wear shirts exposing my arm. Friends and family would comment, and I felt more comfortable with my tattoo as I got more comfortable with my own grief.

I realized my grief wasn’t holding me back. Instead, it was there to walk me through my sadness, and  this time, I treated it like an old friend. I allowed it to show me truths I’ve long avoided.

Today as I write, I am peacefully sad…is that even a thing?

And yet, I wonder who else may be struggling today. Who else has allowed their comfort to become a curse—a way to avoid pain or grief or sadness. I wonder who else needs to make friends with their harder emotions.

Because here’s what I don’t want: I don’t want to walk through this life with a curse over me; I don’t want to live day after day and not recognize my pain; I don’t want to carry more burdens than I have to—and if I want these things, then I better get comfortable with my own feelings. With my pain.

And I don’t think you want to live a life of burden, either.

It’s hard to walk this grief road without faith in something more, something greater. I had no power to heal myself, but as I chose to deal with my emotions, the God of the universe somehow brought healing to my heart.

You don’t have to be a theologian to find God (or healing). He promises: He’s already near.

There is always hope.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. Psalm 34:18


  1. Thank you for this post. Grief is in waves, I experienced 2 miscarriage losses within 3 months recently. I too have healthy children. But to have permission to just be OK and go with the grief is the best. Thank you for your vulnerability in sharing this truth and hope. Sometimes it's easier to just get through the day without having to think about it. But then I read this amazing book on loss, and this helped me greatly: picture yourself with the baby you lost, holding them close, and then handing them to Jesus's loving arms. To be able to grieve, but then release your sweet child into His arms. It was so healing for me in this process. We will know our children in heaven, and they will know us.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your own journey with me. I'm honored you would do so. I love the picture of seeing yourself holding your baby and then placing them in Jesus' arms. It's a beautiful way to handle your grief. Much love and prayers to you.

  2. Hi Kendra...
    Thank you for sharing such a sad,deep,emotional, touching yet beautiful look into your heart.
    While reading,all i wanted to do was wrap my arm around you and just sit with you.
    I have not experienced such a personal loss, so i can't imagine the pain.
    Keep smiling your amazingly beautiful smile!!

    1. Thank you so much for the encouragement Christina, I appreciate you :)

  3. I have had 3 losses (many years apart from each other). I had a difficult time. I also cried in my closet not knowing if I could move on. Feeling guilty as though I had not been there for my children to protect them. I knew I had no fault in the miscarriages, yet felt so helpless. I was trying to focus on our beautiful children I current had. When people would ask how I was doing. I guess the reason I told them I was fine is because perhaps in that present moment when they asked, I was. The pain comes in waves, never knowing when the next emotional storm comes to make those waves swell......I can never be prepared for those waves. Yet, the release of my emotions is comforting. Comforting in that there is so much love for my children, even those who are with Jesus. Many years after my first miscarriage I had a very vivid dream of an adorable curly haired boy who came running to me. He was so happy, so free. It gave me such internal comfort seeing this child. As he approached me in my dream I remember giggling a bit before crouching down asking him “hi, who are you?”. He then, with the biggest smile and comfort says “I’m your 8 year old dead son” (as any 8 year old would put so bluntly). It was then when I awoke, not sad, not scared. But comforted....it had been 8 years since our last miscarriage. A release of weight lifted off my shoulders since this dream. Knowing that this boy.....my boy.....was so happy, so free, so loving. I felt the reflection of Jesus’s love in him. I think of this dream often, every time I think of our losses. Knowing Jesus is with all of us.

    1. I'm so sorry for your loss. I love how God brings us all comfort in different ways, thank you for sharing your story.