Responding to grief

Emily Faith's feetI wrote this letter recently for a dear friend who is heading to the Philippines to train as a midwife and who asked for “read me when” letters. I had no intention of sharing it with anyone else at the time. But there are two reasons I’ve decided to do so:

  1. Last night I learned the shocking, kick-you-in-the-gut news that my friend, Betsey, was killed in a Marine helicopter crash.
  2. Today is the four-year anniversary of my dear niece, Emily Faith. Her life, and my subsequent grief, impacted my decision to become a midwife. When asked why I’m becoming a midwife it’s hard to answer because the motivation is tied to such deep emotions.

A lot of this letter is specifically tied to midwifery and infant loss, but I’ve bolded the portions that seem relevant in other contexts.


Dear friend,

The death of a baby is one of the greatest tragedies. So much potential wrapped up in that little life; all of the dreams and hopes that will never come to be. It seems completely unnatural for a sweet little child to leave this world without staying very long. The horror and grief I felt after Emily passed away was stronger than anything I’d experience before or since. It took my breath away and it may have been years before I felt like I was able to take a deep one again without being assuaged by grief.

Here are a few things I learned along the way:

  • Experiencing death changes you; it’s impossible to remain exactly the same in the face of grief. From my observations of other grieving people, there seems to be two options: to become softer or to become harder. I think in a 3rd world country where death will be more common in childbirth, where you are needing to become strong in order to survive in a profession like midwifery, and where you are far from your family, it will probably be easy to become harder. Not necessarily as an intentional choice, but it will be easy to slide into that to protect yourself from agony. But I urge you: in the pain and grief, intentionally choose softness. It seems like it will make you more vulnerable, and in the beginning it will probably feel that way. But in the long run it will make you stronger.
  • There is no way to avoid the pain. The more you avoid it, the bigger it becomes. Dive straight in. There is an end. Trust me, dear sister. I’ve been there and have found the other side. 

And sweet girl, I encourage you: don’t let it eat you up inside.

  • Take it to our Father. Talk to Him about how this death makes you question things. He is not put off by the reality of how you feel and what you’re thinking. He will reveal who He is to you and bring you Truth and comfort.
  • Share your pain with others.

I pray that through this experience you will be motivated to learn any skills you can to prevent similar death in the future. These emotions are powerful motivators and pouring grief into something that will have long-term impact honors that person’s live and allows their life to have a ripple effect in this world. 

But remember, there are things about this process that are completely outside our control or ability to influence. Learning to be comfortable being out of control and to trust in the sovereignty of God will be something that will bring you strength and comfort. Can you believe that I, of all people, am saying there is comfort in not being in control?

And don’t loose sight of the fact that being a midwife strongly decreases the chances of death. Women and babies will survive because of your presence. Don’t let this loss let you forget that you’re choosing to endure this pain to help prevent it for others in the future. That is beautiful, meaningful and self-less.

You will make it through this. 

Krista Joy

John 14:18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.

Remembering Emily Faith

Exactly two years ago, a sweet baby girl came into the world too early and ten hours later left us too soon. Emily Faith you are missed.

Awake but Dreaming of You

It was a journey that began abruptly
A little warning with blood and contractions
But with hope that the Great Physician would
Take care of the precious life
That the Creator would sustain

I saw healing and restoration as I prayed
And thanked Him for His provision
Before it came
Trusting in His unending care

Anxiety as the flight took off
Carrying sister and child
Dear God, please help us
The only words

Thankfulness and respite
For a moment
As all seemed calm and well

Shock and fear
Emily Faith was born today
She survived

It’s a long journey
Thirty percent
four to eight months

Lord God, give us strength for this journey

Hope for healing
A strong heart beat
All her fingers and toes

Dear God, thank You for life

In a meeting
Phone vibrates
Shock, horror, grief, disbelief

“Emily did not make it”

Focus.  Where were we at?
Let’s continue
Let’s wrap this up

Feel the darkness coming
Trying to stave it off


Phone Rings


I um.

Point to phone
Room next door is empty

Sit on couch
Answer phone
Silence with shock and sobs

Barely speak
Hang up


I don’t understand

Walk to desk
Grab purse
Emily didn’t make it.
I’m leaving

Want to give a hug
But can’t

Can’t hold it together

An endless walk
To car and safety


Text prayer warriors


Parking lot
Like a movie
Sobbing on steering wheel

Oh God, How are we going to make it?
My family can’t handle this, too!


Oh, my God!

Oh, my God!

Oh, my God!


Why have you forsaken me?


Rocking sobs
Racking grief

Get out of car
Walk in building
Into elevator
Moving up

Phone Rings.




Emily is alive.


Is this a joke?






Oh, my God
On a sigh
Of thankfulness

Just think in twenty years,
We’ll tell how God
Miraculously brought her back to life

The little girl Jesus healed.

How great is our God.

Go to appointment
In shock
Can barely speak
Then can’t stop

Am I crazy?

My finite mind can’t keep up


All the juxtapositions of opposites

Hope soars
And blossoms
Into dreams

Talk to sister
Doing well

Long road

Should I come?

I don’t know

Do what you want.

Head to friends

Share my news

Hugs and love

Driving home

Return to work

Work, work, work.

Share story with a friend

Praying, praying, praying

Turn off computer

Phone vibrates


“Emily has passed away”


A second walk
To a distant car
That’s not really very far

Sit in darkness


A whispered
Oh, my God

Texted back

“So sorry. I love you.”

No words

Call friend

“Can I come over?”

“What happened?”

“She died.”



Can’t stay awake
Can’t go to sleep
Streaming tears

Oh, my God.

Visions of Emily
Safe in His arm

“Antie Krista
I love it here
I wish you were here
Can’t wait for you
To come”

She’s happy
And dancing
With sweet ‘lil ones
My friends have


“I’m glad you’re there
But I wish you were

I didn’t get to hold you
I wish I could”

I should have gone on Monday

But, I didn’t.

I trust God’s prompting
And His timing

But sweet, girl,
I wish I had touched you

Just a second
So I could remember
The feel of your little

The softness of your head
All ten toes.

My sweet, sweet niece
I love you more than I can say

You and Maddie.
I love
more than I ever thought I could

And you are gone

Never to be held in my arms.

I know someday I’ll hold you
I’ll hold you forever

I guess I’ll share you with your mommy
And daddy and everyone else

But I can’t wait to just hold you
Hold you and spin
And laugh with joy to
Just be with you

Sweet, precious Emily Faith
I’m so glad your parents named you

The perfect name.
For a perfect tiny

Ten hours

So short but long time

Ten hours and life has changed


The world’s axis has shifted

So tired
Can’t sleep

Tears streaming
But dreaming
Of you


You can read Emily’s story on my sister’s blog.