Laughter Therapy

My friend Derrick once told me that any bad situation can be improved with mint chocolate chip ice cream and The Three Amigos. I can attest to the truth of this, but there are some situations that are so bad, even Martin Short can only just barely make a dent. I don’t think laughter ever hurts, though, and maybe little by little, every smile and chuckle can add up to some amount of healing.

We watched a lot of comedies and action movies right after our miscarriage – comedies because we needed the laughter to offset all the crying we were doing naturally and not spiral into depression, and action movies to escape from real life for a couple of hours at a time and remember that there is good in the world fighting (and defeating) the bad. Both kinds of movies/shows were helpful, but laughter and escape are only small parts of the healing process.

Before I go any further, I want to say that I think escape can be a valid, healthy part of grief. Your brain and heart can only handle so much for so long. You need to step out of your real life sometimes just to give yourself a break from the crap you’re dealing with. Of course you can’t stay checked out forever, but in small doses, I think it’s helpful.

Now, back to what I was saying before. Laughter and escape are only small parts of the healing process. There’s also rest, uncontrollable crying, hugs/snuggling, food, action, intellectual processing, spiritual processing, emotional processing, research, receiving love/care, and so on. Laughter is a great medicine, but in times of deep loss and grief, I think you need a more comprehensive approach.

Ella’s Story

I’m sure that some of you are curious about what, exactly, happened in my pregnancy, but you’re not sure if you should ask. Thank you for respecting our privacy by not asking. I don’t mind you knowing, but it is a painful story to tell, so I’m going to do it once right here and now and be done with it.

It was a Saturday morning. We had just eaten a late breakfast and were getting ready to play a video game together. Will was excited because he loves video games, and this was the first time I was going to play with him. I got up to go to the bathroom before we started, and while I was on the toilet, my water broke. I guess I should be glad it happened on the toilet and not on the couch, but it’s impossible to be glad right now about anything that happened that day.

I freaked out, started shaking, and shouted for Will to help me. I couldn’t stop shaking. I told him to get me a pad even though I knew it wouldn’t do much good at all. I asked if he could drive to the hospital because I didn’t want to wait for an ambulance. He said he could do it, so he changed out of his pajamas and I grabbed a towel to sit on in the car. We called the doctor on the way and told him what had happened. He said to meet him at the women’s center at the hospital.

When I walked in, they got my information, and a nurse came out to meet me and take me to a room. She just kept saying, “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.” I had no idea what was happening, and I think she probably wasn’t allowed to make a diagnosis before the doctor had seen me, but she knew exactly what it was and where it was headed.

The doctor came in, and they brought an ultrasound machine so he could check on the baby. There was no fluid left, and he couldn’t find her heartbeat. He did a full exam and said he could already see pieces of the membrane breaking and coming out. There was nothing to be done at that point but get her out. Her lungs weren’t formed well enough to breathe, so she was completely dependent upon the amniotic fluid. When it was gone, so was she.

We sat around a lot, family came and went, the chaplain spoke to us, the nurses patted my arm, and eventually they gave me something to start labor. They told me it would feel like really strong menstrual cramps, but that it wouldn’t be so bad. They asked if I wanted morphine, and I did, so they set up a drip. It did not just feel like strong cramps. It was so bad. But my sweet husband did not leave my side. He sat right next to me and held my hand the whole time.

We knew we wanted to name our baby, so we quickly made some decisions on boy and girl names. It’s amazing how fast and easy it can be to come up with a name. We make such a big deal out of it, but it’s really quite simple. Ella Claire for a girl. It’s what I had always wanted to name a daughter if I ever had one. Ella for my maternal grandmother, who was named after her own maternal grandmother. Claire for my paternal grandmother (and also my middle name until I got married and changed it). We had just taken a silly internet quiz that morning to tell us what we were having, and it was right. We were expecting a girl.

Several hours later, the doctor came in and told me to push. That part didn’t hurt at all. In fact, all the physical pain stopped at that point. Even the next day, I felt like they expected me to be in a lot of pain, but I wasn’t. They gave me a prescription for heavy-duty ibuprofen, but we didn’t even fill it. I was fine. Just empty and devastated.

I had a baby. The doctor told me to push, and out she came. He said, “Your baby has passed. It looks like it’s a girl.” He asked the nurse for the time, and she told him. 9:08 p.m.

This is the story of how Ella Claire McMillian came into the world. She was tiny and perfect. She had ten tiny fingers and ten tiny toes, all her finger- and toenails, little cheeks and eyes and ears and lips, a little perfect nose. Will said he’d always thought that babies just looked like babies, but that Ella looked like me.

We spent some time alone with her, and then the chaplain came in to pray with us and bless our daughter. Then they took her away and moved me to another room.


Baby girl,

Your story is one of love. You were conceived in love, anticipated eagerly in love, wanted, hoped for, dreamed of, and prepared for. You were delivered in sorrow, and you are grieved in pain, but only because you were and are so, so very loved. And even though you are gone, your story is not finished because our love for you will never end, and it will never change. Wherever you are, my perfect girl, I am eagerly anticipating the day I get to meet you again.


It Takes a Village

Dear Family and Friends (and Complete Strangers),

I want to thank you. Thank you for your kind words, your encouragement, your wise advice, your compassion, your love. Thank you for sharing your own struggles with me, for joining me in the pit as it were. Thank you for sitting with me, for hugging me, for checking in on me periodically, for sending me cute animal pictures and videos. Thank you for bringing food, for offering to bring food, for taking us out to eat, for having us over for food, for not judging us when we ate ALL the food and then some. Thank you for helping me with housework, for taking me for a pedicure, for inspiring me to treat my body well, for being so kind to me and helping me to be kind to myself. Thank you for letting me cry, for letting me laugh, for letting me space out completely. Thank you for sending me thoughts, words, and songs of healing. Thank you for letting me explore, doubt, find, process, and pour out my heart. Thank you for offering me love and new hope in return. Thank you.

I don’t think it’s possible to heal alone, but you have not made me try to do that. In fact, you would not have let me if I’d tried, and that’s a really good thing. It takes a village to heal a broken mama’s heart, and I don’t know what I would do without you. I’m not there yet, but I have a little bit of hope, so thank you.

Grateful for you all,


My writing prompt for today says, “ Tell us about the best movie to bring on a cleansing cry.” Sometimes you just need to cry because the stress of regular life has built up inside you to the point where it has to come out one way or another. For a situation like that, I think I’d go with Up. The first ten minutes will get all the feels out, and then you can enjoy a delightful movie with a happy ending.

You should definitely not watch the first ten minutes of Up, though, if you are grieving after a miscarriage. If you do, you won’t have a cleansing cry and feel all better. You’ll have an ugly cry and regret your choice to watch any Pixar film ever.

Here’s the thing: Losing a baby is not regular life stress building up. You can’t just have a cry, get it all out, and be done with it. I wish you could. I can’t tell you how sick of crying we are, but no matter how much I cry, it feels like I will never run out of tears. They take a break for a day or two maybe, but they’re always there waiting. Being sad is the worst, especially if you’re normally pretty happy and optimistic like I am. I can’t wait for the day when I wake up and realize it’s been a month since I cried over the loss of my daughter. I can’t wait for the day when I wake up and realize it’s been six months. I can’t wait for the day I think of her with joy and gratitude, not with sorrow and pain.

But this process of cleansing (or changing or healing or grieving or accepting) is not a “one and done” kind of thing. It takes time and a lot more than a movie to get there. I am determined to get there, though.

The Healing Mix

As I’ve mentioned before, music is a healing thing for me, and I know many of you can relate. I’m from the generation that played a song so many times the tape wore out, and I wore out a LOT of tapes. I have a record player now, and I feel like I should have been a teenager in the ’60s the way I like to just sit and listen to records. There’s just something about it. Music connects with your soul, and it connects your soul to something bigger. I think it connects you to God, but if you don’t believe in God, believe this: When you listen to music for relief or healing, your heart connects with the heart of every other person who has listened to that same music for that same purpose. Just imagine the gigantic blanket of healing that Adele is knitting to wrap around the world and how many people are snuggled up under it, right there with you, feeling your pain. I’m cozy already.

I’m not Adele, but I’ve put together a mix of songs that has facilitated healing for me, partly because these songs are awesome and speak to me, but largely because most of them were suggested by friends and family. And knowing that these friends and family are connected with me through these songs just amplifies the effect. If the song you suggested is on this mix, thank you. I had not heard several of them before you brought them to my attention. And if your song didn’t make the cut, thank you too. There was more to the mix than just good songs, and some really great ones just didn’t fit.

This is my first attempt at adding a YouTube play list to a post, so fingers crossed (it’s also here if this doesn’t work), but you should be able to listen to the mix while you read the rest of the post, and as you do, know that if you are hurting, I’m here with you, and the music connects us.

  1. Poughkeepsie – Over the Rhine – This song is a little dark at first, but I have felt very dark at times, and I appreciate that someone else has too. It gets more hopeful toward the end, but it stays appropriately melancholy throughout. Sometimes you just need your music to agree with your mood. You don’t want it to cheer you up and nudge you past your feelings. You just want to cry and feel the pain, and that deserves its own soundtrack.
  2. Reminder – Mumford & Sons – Every time I look in the mirror and see the stretch marks I was starting to develop in pregnancy, I hear Marcus Mumford in my head singing, “A constant reminder of where I can find her, a light that might give up the way is all that I’m asking for. Without her, I’m lost. Oh my love, don’t fade away.”
  3. Tear Down the House – The Avett Brothers – “I remember crying over you, and I don’t mean like a couple of tears and I’m blue. I’m talking about collapsing and screaming at the moon, but I’m a better man for having gone through it. Yes, I’m a better man for having gone through.”
  4. Late – Ben Folds – A song about missing a friend who’s gone and wishing they were still around.
  5. World Spins Madly On – The Weepies – Oh man, who hasn’t felt like this? Your whole world is destroyed, but everyone else just keeps going like nothing has happened. It does seem mad.
  6. Fix You – Coldplay – “Tears stream down your face when you lose something you cannot replace.” Yep.
  7. Rally – Allie Moss – The theme song of everyone who loves me. My buddy Dallas suggested this one for the mix, which is perfect because she has certainly rallied around me like a boss over the past two months. Love you, bro.
  8. Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul – Indelible Grace Music – Man, I love me some Sandra McCracken. And old hymns. The words are just so rich and well-chosen. There’s so much in so little. The full lyrics are here, but just a sample for you: “Still the ear of sovereign grace attends the mourner’s prayer. Oh may I ever find access to breathe my sorrows there.”
  9. Beauty for Ashes – Shane and Shane – Originally, I had something else at this point in the list, but last week, as I was writing my post on healing, I remembered this song and knew it should be in the mix. I’ve always loved the Shanes.
  10. Held – Natalie Grant – You know, it’s funny. I have exactly one Natalie Grant song in my iTunes library. I’ve had it for YEARS, and it’s this one. The one about losing a baby. About how unfair it is and how horrible, but how we are not left alone, how we are loved and held, and how bitterness and hatred may numb the pain but they aren’t the only option.
  11. Unraveling – Shelly Moore – And a nice follow-up to the previous tune, “Yes I’ve found hope that stays around, and I’ve got peace that lets me wait this thing out. Just hold me while I await release, please.”
  12. Soul’s Repair – Red June – Bluegrass always makes me feel better.
  13. Born – Over the Rhine – “I was born to laugh. I’m gonna learn to laugh through my tears. And I was born to love. I’m gonna learn to love without fear.” There are so many tears and so much fear involved in losing a child and thinking about trying again. But I do feel that I was born to laugh and love, and although those “callings” (destinies?) are being challenged, I think I can learn to fulfill them anyway.
  14. Aslan – Kendall Payne – For those of you who have been under a rock for the last 50 years (or those who just forgot), Aslan is the great lion from the Narnia stories, and in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Mr. Beaver tells the children that he isn’t safe, but he’s good. This song is about how God doesn’t do the things we expect, but that doesn’t change his nature. It’s also a tip of the hat to C.S. Lewis, whom I love.
  15. Rescue Is Coming – David Crowder Band – Just hang in there. Help is on the way.
  16. Here Comes the Sun – The Beatles – I designed this mix to run roughly through the emotions I’ve felt and thoughts I’ve thought over the past two months. It goes from dark and melancholy through tentative but wishful and finally into hopeful. If you were listening to it as you grieved, you might want to listen to the whole thing, or you might want to hang out in a particular section for a time. Either would be fine with me.
  17. After the Storm – Mumford & Sons – “And there will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears. And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.” I want to say something about this, but I haven’t quite formed my thoughts. Perhaps a new post is in the works…
  18. The Sun Is Rising – Britt Nicole – My sister Susan suggested this song, which is perfect because she’s an awesome encourager, just like the song. Every word of it is great, but all I really hear is, “You’re gonna make it. You’re gonna make it.” Love you, seeeesterrrr!
  19. O-O-H Child – The Five Stairsteps – Obvious choice.
  20. Sexual Healing – Hot 8 Brass Band – I know this one might seem like a VERY odd choice, but you just can’t listen to it and not feel a little bit better. Will and I went to the movies five days after our miscarriage because every good thing we have together has been built slowly over time while watching a lot of movies. There was no better place to start the healing process for us. We went to see Chef, which is just delightful, and I highly recommend it. In it, there’s a scene where Jon Favreau and John Leguizamo are singing this song while a 10-year-old kid looks at them like they’re nuts. I recognized the song before the singing started and would have loved it even if it had just been an instrumental cover, but it’s NOT. It’s got singing too, and it’s great.

Sad Days

I start crying out of nowhere sometimes. My tears are usually triggered by something specific, but sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes I just ache. I’m just sad, and it comes out. Will asks me what’s wrong, where my tears are coming from, and I say, “I’m just sad.” That’s all there is to it sometimes. We lost our daughter. We will never hear her giggle, never teach her silly songs, never kiss her sweet head as she “reads” us a book. We will never clean her poop out of the bathtub, never lie in bed with her until she falls asleep, never fight with her about how many bites of food she has to take before she can be finished with dinner. We will never rock her to sleep, never hate that her heart is broken, never want to choke the boy who broke her heart. We will never worry when she’s out on a date, never stress out about how much her wedding is going to cost, never rush to her side when she’s all grown up but still needs her parents. We will never celebrate her victories, never post her graduation pictures on Facebook, never look her in the eye and tell her how proud we are of her.

Some of these things are silly, I know, or gross – not exactly the things you look forward to about being a parent – but the truth is I want them all, and I’m sad that I won’t get them with Ella. Even if I get to be a mom to other kids, I’ll never have those experiences with my first baby, and that’s just sad.

5 Things to Heal the Soul

Everybody has their own remedies for a hurting soul. I’ve already talked about time and God and how you have to participate in the process, but here are my favorite ways to pass the time, connect with God, and receive the good to dilute the bad.

  1. Music – I’m working on a post for next week with the mix I’ve made. I’ve been listening to it over the past week or so as I’ve made and tweaked it, and it’s really good. Music is just good for the soul no matter how you’re feeling.
  2. Rest – Y’all know I love my sleep, and when I say rest is good soul-healing, that includes sleep, but it also includes waking rest. Lie quietly for ten minutes (or five if you’re antsy), and just breathe. Just breathe in and out and let everything go. Rest in bed, rest in a bubble bath, rest while lying in the grass with the sun on your skin. Just give yourself a break. Ordinary life is hectic enough. When you’re recovering from a trauma, you need this even more.
  3. Food – By this, I don’t mean eating your feelings or whipping your appetite into shape. I’m not talking about using food or your control over it to momentarily feel better. Enjoy your food. Appreciate it. Use delicious ingredients in your cooking, and really savor the flavor as you eat. Take your time chewing and really tasting each bite. And be grateful for it.
  4. Hugs – Hugs are awesome.
  5. Laughter – We watched a lot of comedies in the weeks immediately following our miscarriage, and sometimes we felt guilty about laughing so much, but boy did we need it. I’m sure there’s some sort of chemical process that happens in your body to make you feel good when you laugh. I won’t pretend to understand it, but I know it works.

What about you? What heals your soul?

Light Incoming

Thirteenth century Persian poet, Rumi, said, “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” The band Roman Candle sings, “Come tell me something, any words are fine…let me know if the big light is shining on me.” Rock bottom is usually where people finally allow others to help them. The vulnerability that comes with grief, loss, or injury can actually be the thing that allows light, love, and healing to enter. When you get to that point where you can no longer keep a stiff upper lip, you either shut everything out and sit alone in your depression or risk letting something in, knowing that even if it is good, it will still hurt at first. And because it hurts, it’s really tempting to close yourself off again because, let’s be honest, you’ve had enough pain for a lifetime already.

But friend, I beg you to grit your teeth and bear the initial sting because it will get better. A sharp pain for a short time that leads to long-term healing is better than a deep ache that never ends. So let people love you. Speak the name you don’t dare say for fear that it will rip your heart in half all over again. Talk about your grief, and hear others well when they say, “Yep. Me too.” Feed yourself good things – good words, good music, good food, good relationships, good touch. Be kind to yourself.

I know being kind to yourself sounds both like common sense and like an impossible task all at once sometimes. If you’re having trouble with it, here are some suggestions:

  • Listen to a good album.
  • Take a hot bath or shower.
  • Eat something delicious.
  • Take a nap.
  • Hug somebody.
  • Do some light exercise (or heavy if that’s what you need, but the goal is to be kind to yourself, not punish yourself).
  • Get outside, and breathe deeply.
  • Read a good book.
  • Play a game.
  • Watch a comedy.
  • Enjoy a hot cup of something (coffee/tea/hot chocolate).
  • Go swimming, and just float.

Let the light in, friends. Don’t let the darkness permeate every space inside you. The darkness gets to a point where it feels comfortable, but it’s killing you. The light hurts for a moment, but it is the only way to really live.


They say that time heals all wounds, but I don’t think I believe that. I think it takes time for wounds to heal, but I don’t think time itself is the healer. I’ve read a lot of the internet, and I’ve come across a whole slew of message boards where women who’ve lost a child to PPROM discuss their struggles. And there are plenty of ladies out there who seem no better off after two years than other ladies after two months. But then there are ladies who seem further along in their healing process at six months than ladies who’ve waited six years. I’m very careful to use the word “seem” in this discussion because I clearly have no idea what’s really going on in their hearts. I can only see what gets typed on the internet. But everyone is different, so I think there must be more at play than just time alone.

As a Christian, I believe that God is the best healer there is, but I think I also play a role in my own healing, so the whole process is a sort of dance, a cooperative effort, a give and take that eventually results in acceptance of my situation and myself in it.

Everyone participates in this process in their own way, so it can take more or less time depending on who you are, and it looks different for everyone because God relates to unique people in unique ways designed to best engage them. For some people, reading about God’s loving nature and promises in scripture is the only thing that helps them feel better. Other people connect with God more through music. Some of us need to feel a physical presence, and for that, God gives us people to hug. Some of us need to feel peace in the midst of turmoil, and for that, he gives sleep. Some of us need chocolate cake for a week, and for that, God gives us old high school friends who own a bakery and are willing to make deliveries.

My temptation is to say that your healing will only go as quickly as the extent to which you engage with God in his healing offerings, but I don’t know if that’s true. I just don’t know. And I won’t attempt to box up healing in a tidy 3-step process because it’s not that simple. What I have experienced, though, is that when I acknowledge the good things in my life – our friends and family, the support they’ve shown us, my cuddly husband, the love I feel for others, the love they show me, the freedom I feel to be myself knowing that God accepts me completely, good sleep, good music, a great job with amazing coworkers and students, chocolate cake, etc. – when I acknowledge all these good things, it feels like they replace little bits of the bad.

Maybe that’s what Isaiah was getting at when he said that the Lord had anointed him to provide for those who grieve, to give them “a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of despair” (Isaiah 61:3). Maybe everyone who has loved and supported us through the loss of our daughter has been anointed by God to provide for us, to switch out the bad for the good, little by little. And maybe very slowly, I’ll even start to find good things in what right now feels like an entirely bad situation. I’ll let you know if/when that happens, but in the meantime, thank you for everything. I hope you know how big a part of my healing you’ve been so far, and I want you to know that I see it, and I appreciate it more than I can say.

Letting Go of Grief

I don’t think anybody wants to grieve. I don’t think anyone likes it. I don’t think people hang onto it because they enjoy it. I think that if they’re afraid to let go, it’s because the grief is the only connection they feel to the person they’ve lost. Nobody wants to grieve, but people who are grieving have already lost someone important. When we tell them to let go or move on from their grieving phase before they’ve worked through it, they may feel like we’re asking them to give away the person they’ve lost all over again. That’s not cool.

If you are grieving, please take your time. You’ll know when you’re ready to take each next step, so don’t let anybody else tell you that you have to do something before you’re ready. If you’re afraid to let go of your grief, I think you’re probably not ready yet, and that’s ok. Just breathe. I am no expert. I’m not a counselor. I do have a degree in Psychology, but it’s just a BA, so that’s pretty useless. But I know that grief is complicated, and it’s messy, and everyone walks through it differently because people and situations are different. It takes time, and it’s hard, and you go through the stages over and over again before you come out the other side.

I know I’ve said it before, but I’m so thankful for my friends and family who have supported me and not pushed me to do anything I’m not ready for. And I’m not ready to let go of my grief. If I’m honest, it does scare me. But knowing I don’t have to let go of it yet gives me the freedom to work through it at my own pace so that one day, when I get to that small, quiet room of acceptance, I can look back on my grief and call it a job well done. I can know that I didn’t rush it, I didn’t cut corners, I didn’t try to be a hero. I grieved fully and honestly, with kindness for myself.