Good Grief

A spider’s web is stronger than it looks. Although it is made of thin, delicate strands, the web is not easily broken. Charlotte’s Web

One needn’t be an outdoor adventurer to enjoy the beauty of nature: the powerful rhythm of the ocean, the sunlight gleaming off freshly fallen snow, or the cool shade from an oak tree. There is something not only beautiful but calming in taking time to appreciate the artistry in God’s Creation, to immerse oneself in it. We so often take the world around us for granted, caught up in our busy lives with little time to smell the flowers or listen to birds sing. We can forget that our dominion over Creation is stewardship, not dominance, and that while we are made in God’s image and likeness, we are little. God rules over all of Creation, including us, but not like a tyrant. He delights in all that He has made, and His love for us is unending. I thought about this during a walk on my favorite trail. It was early in the morning, and the air was warm but not yet heavy. The breeze on my face felt so good, and as I walked along looking through the trees, glimmers of sunshine peeked through the branches like light illuminating stained glass. I felt content, protected, and close to God.

As I walked on, trying to take notice of everything around me, I saw a large spider web, the sun piercing it to reveal all of its intricacies. Like lots of people, I don’t especially like spiders. (They’re fine in their place – outside, in trees or on the grass – but not in my bath tub!) Yet I couldn’t help being captivated by this delicate, beautiful tapestry woven by a creature so small. At a safe distance, and with no sign of the arachnid-artist, I was able to appreciate the web’s splendor and complexity. Quite unexpectedly it reminded me of the grief of infertility that I’ve only recently allowed to take shape in me. Like the web, and the feelings associated with spiders, I find this unique grief fascinating yet repellent; complex, delicate, and enticing enough to ensnare me in it.

I’ve only recently discovered that the “web” of grief in which I have been caught for a little less than my eight years of marriage is as dangerous, beautiful and alluring as the spider’s web. How can grief be beautiful? What grace and majesty is present in loss? How could grief be attractive in any possible way? The answers to these questions are as complex as the web itself. It’s a strange “push-pull” I’d found myself in as infertility made its home in our marriage. I’d push away the grief in an effort not to deal with it, feeling selfish in the face of other people’s real losses. I had to push away the sadness once and for all and get over it already! At the same time, I felt the grief pulling me in toward it, as if dealing with it to get to a place of healing and acceptance is to finally give up on motherhood, to admit that infertility has beaten me; to let go of a possibility that had already let go of me.

Walking along my trail I began to take notice of other webs woven among the trees. Some were very large and intricate, but others were smaller, thicker and far less majestic than their larger counterparts. They’d been woven between branches that were very close together, and looked as if they’d been woven again and again, making their threads thicker and more opaque. They reminded me of the web of grief in my journey through infertility, thick in the places where I’d spun the same negative thoughts again and again until I could no longer see through them to the possibility of a life content with how God had chosen to shape and bless our marriage. I began to realize that the threads I was spinning were meant to both hide me from the reality of friends and loved ones’ growing families (the isolation that women experiencing infertility often feel as “the outsider” who can’t have children), and to disguise the emotional toll infertility was taking on me.  This is the trap of grief; this is place where we can be easily caught and devoured by it. The intricately crafted webs we observe on our peaceful nature walks make beautiful Instagram moments; but the spider’s artistry, of course, serves the purpose of catching its prey. For nearly the whole of my marriage I’ve allowed myself to be trapped in the web of my sorrow, and I see now that the spider waiting to devour me is infertility itself. The spider is the devil and his lies about my body and my marriage, and his (sometimes) convincing argument that God has abandoned me. The spider is jealousy over not receiving the one thing I asked of God (because, after all, we only ever ask for that one thing.) The spider is anger and resentment, focused in many directions, and often toward the gentle heart of the one whose “Yes” to me eight years ago was unconditional. Now that I have finally allowed myself to step back and take an honest look at my grief and where it’s brought me, I can admit that the spider, crawling carefully and gingerly to the center of the web, ready to devour its prey is ultimately me.  

Being infertile is a cross, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. It’s not deserved, it isn’t “cosmic payback” for one’s sins, and it is a real loss for individuals and for marriages. But finally allowing myself to acknowledge the cross and the loss, I am beginning to feel free; a freedom I haven’t felt in years, and which, in the course of this winding road of trying, treatments and disappointments, I wouldn’t allow myself to experience. Stepping back and examining my heart and my behavior, I see how I have allowed legitimate sadness over our infertility to nearly consume me.  And here is where I can finally begin to identify the beauty in the grief infertility had woven in my heart. Now I can imagine my grief to be like the large web which captivated me: slowly and deliberately knitted, creating unique and beautiful patterns, little lacy windows allowing the sun stream through every intricately crafted design. The spider may have been my insecurity, the stubborn clinging to sadness and anger, and some well-placed lies of the devil crafted to feed my anxiety and keep me suspended in grief. Now I see the web not as a trap but a blessing. The webs I created held me in place so that grief and anger could devour me from the inside. God is opening my heart to see that the web created from my grief wasn’t meant to trap me but to show me that something delicate and lovely could emerge from it. I am still learning what and how beauty can emerge from infertility, but I fear those old spiders a little less than I did before.

If you are experiencing grief and loss through infertility, you are not alone. God loves you! And we at Springs in the Desert love you too. Please reach out to us if you need to vent, or for someone to pray for you. Tell us your story so that through friendship and community, and with God’s grace, we may walk this path together. springsinthedesert.org@gmail.com; Facebook @Springs in the Desert; Instagram @springs_if

Ann M. Koshute, MTS lives in Central Pennsylvania with the man who sees her beauty – her husband Keith

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