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A Time to Mourn: Reflections on Naming the Child

It’s this message that it’s OK to let grief linger that Jenny Schroedel’s book, “Naming the Child: Hope-filled Reflections on Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Death,” gently whispers.



There’s an image that still haunts me, two and a half years later.

Last night as I attempted to drift off to sleep, I saw it again: The limp, blue form of my nine-month-old daughter, Ava.

The scene plays out: A high fever. Convulsing. Non-responsive eyes. All followed by no sign of breathing and already pale skin turning to blue.

The emotions rush back. I hear my voice calling, “Ava! Ava!” Fear and an overwhelming sense of grief envelope me. Suddenly it seems my sweet baby’s spirit is slipping away as I hold her earthly body in my arms. I long to grasp the intangible and refuse to let go, but control is beyond my fingertips.

I can’t bring her back. No matter how hard I try.

Just as quickly as her breathing stops, it starts again. Her color, though still pale, returns. Lethargic and unresponsive, she opens her eyes. I utter a tearful thank you.

On that September day when Ava suffered her first of two febrile seizures, I was given a hint of what the death of an infant might feel like. It left a mark that I have yet to erase; images and emotions I can’t seem to shed. Even so, because Ava lived, I don’t know or even begin to understand the depths of the grief parents face when a baby does die.

There are countless mothers who know these depths well.

They’ve had no choice but to make the difficult and unwelcome journey of watching their baby—whether through miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death—cross the threshold from life to death.

Unfortunately, our having grown up in a fast-food world often puts an unspoken expectation on those grieving to hurry up and heal. Caring friends offer meals, and a card is signed by co-workers. But it doesn’t take long—especially in the case of a miscarriage—for these same friends to return to normal life. The delivery of casseroles stops, the phone calls and emails of concern become less frequent.

I know, because I’m one of the guilty. As I write this, several friends come to mind who’ve experienced miscarriages in the last year. While I have talked to them recently, I haven’t specifically asked how they are holding up after the death of their baby.

As the daughter of a hospice chaplain, I should know better. Through watching my dad and hearing his stories, I’ve learned that grief shouldn’t be rushed. It can’t be rushed. The first few weeks, when care and concern is expressed most abundantly, is only the beginning of the grieving process. Parents who’ve experienced a miscarriage or said goodbye to a cherished infant move from the initial shock and denial to pain, guilt, anger, and sometimes depression. They need their friends to remember and to offer them long-term support that allows them to slowly journey from devastation to hope. And it’s this message that it’s OK to let grief linger that Jenny Schroedel’s book, Naming the Child: Hope-filled Reflections on Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Death, gently whispers.

With little judgment or commentary, this tender message is communicated through stories from moms and dads whose babies have died. Schroedel allows each parent to share their experiences. The result is a book that encourages those reading: Take your time. Don’t hurry grief. Heal. A book that clearly shows that talking about death isn’t something to be avoided, but is instead a critical part of healing.

Naming the Child

I love Schroedel’s discussion of naming, and how it connects parents to their baby. “From a Judeo-Christian perspective,” she writes, “naming is a holy act.” Scripture affirms this. Schroedel points to the Creation story, as well as Isaiah 49:1 where the prophet writes, “The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name.”

But Scripture doesn’t stop there. We also read how God values names, even before birth, in several other passages. He sent an angel to Zacharias, who told him, “Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John” (Luke 1:13). Likewise, He sent the angel Gabriel to visit Mary and say, “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus” (Luke 1:31).

Although I didn’t realize it until reading this book, I was personally impacted by the concept of naming a child five years ago. I was pregnant with my first baby, Olivia. So was Libby, a friend at church. Her son Sam was due two weeks after our daughter. Unlike Olivia, Sam never saw this side of heaven. He and Libby died in a tragic car accident in the seventh month of her pregnancy.

The funeral is still fresh in my mind. While some may remember it as primarily honoring Libby’s life, when I think of that day, I recall how the sacredness of Sam’s unborn life was honored as his name was spoken. Hearing “Sam” reminded us that even though this little boy had only begun to be “known,” he was deeply loved. His name, as Schroedel explains, moved him “from the abstract to the concrete.” It reminded everyone at the funeral that we weren’t “talking about ‘pregnancy loss’ or ‘infant loss’ but an unrepeatable human being that had already begun to have a relationship with his or her parents … even in the womb.”

A Touching Goodbye

Building on this theme of naming, Schroedel goes on to examine other ways parents can connect with their infant prior to death, as well as move toward healing as they continue to keep the baby’s memory alive after. In a fascinating chapter on touch, she discusses the Eastern Orthodox tradition of saying goodbye with our hands. She stresses the importance of parents—when given the opportunity—engaging in “farewell rituals.” She writes:

The parents can stroke the baby’s hair and cheeks, count the fingers and toes, smell the top of the head and examine and memorize every part of him or her. All of these tactile experiences help imprint the infant on the mother, help her to realize that this baby is separate from herself, a revelation that will be helpful during the grieving process.

The author continues with a look at the importance of carefully chosen words, how the love of a community is crucial, the ways death can affect marriage, and how to help siblings walk through grief. Additional chapters focus on encouraging parents to follow their instincts during pregnancy and the care of their infants, how moms and dads have celebrated the anniversary of their baby’s death, and signs that bring comfort.

Spiritual Healing

Each parent whose story is told in the pages of Naming the Child journeys differently. Some put their trust in God. Some find solace in praying to the Mother of God. Others find healing apart from God entirely. And yet others are comforted by the belief that their dead infant “is mysteriously at work in their lives, helping them.” Knowing of Schroedel’s own Christian faith, I had hoped for more direction from her, guiding readers from these various experiences back to a biblical understanding of death.

While the voices of the grieving parents do point to hope and healing in the spiritual, I wish the author had allowed Scripture to have more of a voice. I would have liked to see the book move past spiritual themes to the supreme source of hope, the Great Physician Himself, Jesus.

I don’t believe this book’s lack of a spiritual anchor is problematic for readers who are firmly rooted in a biblical faith in Christ, as long as they approach it with the expectation that their convictions will not necessarily be affirmed through it. I am concerned though that there are stories included that could confuse those who are on the fence spiritually as they attempt to navigate through a time of extreme emotional and spiritual vulnerability.

Even so, there is much to love about Naming the Child.

In the end, the book’s gentle, loving tone and sensitive approach reminds grieving parents that they are not alone, offering them hope through community. It’s a book that left this mommy—who ultimately did not have to face the death of her infant—realizing that as much as we sing in church about there being no sting in death, in this life death does sting. Yes, Jesus has conquered the grave, but until the day of His return this “last enemy”—as Paul calls death in 1 Corinthians 15:26—has not completely been destroyed. The pain of it this side of heaven is still acute.

And because of this, Naming the Child fills an important need. It extends hurting parents the comforting hand of those who have walked the path of grief before them and survived.

Ashleigh Slater is the author of Team Us: Marriage Together and the editor of Ungrind. As a regular contributor at several blogs and websites, she loves to unite the power of a good story with biblical truth and practical application to encourage others. She has 20 years of writing experience and a master’s degree in communication. Ashleigh lives in Atlanta with her husband Ted and four daughters. You can follow her on Instagram here.


When Doing Justly, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly Stand at Odds

If your compassion far exceeds your capacity, here’s one way you can be sure to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.



One of my life verses is Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

It is one of my favorite verses because my heart has been so moved by the love Jesus has for me and the sacrifice He made for me that I am grateful to have a way to express my gratitude through acts of justice and mercy while walking humbly with God.

I have found at times, however, the call to do justice and love mercy come in conflict with the call to walk humbly with God. For me, one of the ways to walk humbly with God is to recognize my limitations. I have to put skin to the fact that I am not God which means saying, “no” to ministry requests. It means going to sleep when I could be spending time advocating for the harrowed and helpless in the world. It means limited seats at my table, limited funds in my bank account, and limited energy in my body cannot be ignored but respected and adhered to.

This is hard for me at times, especially when I scroll my Facebook feed and see friends who are caring for their really sick children, spouse, or other family member all while millions of refugees flee war torn countries and babies are slaughtered by the hundreds each day in our country through the abortion industry.

As I scroll, I receive texts about one family member’s surgery gone wrong and another family member announcing a new baby is on the way. I have in mind my neighbor who has inpatient surgery scheduled this week and another neighbor who is trying to hold down a full-time job, care for twins all while battling profound “morning” sickness.

Folks at church are fighting for their lives in physical and spiritual ways, and strangers who pass me on the road are clearly battling something as demonstrated by their impatient honking because I won’t take a right turn on red. I want to meet the needs of all; I want to do justice and love mercy, but I’m daily confronted by the fact that I am so limited.

What am I to do when doing justly and/or loving mercy seem to come in conflict with walking humbly with my God?

God keeps bringing me to this answer: prayer.

God invites us to cast our cares before Him because He cares for us.
God tells us to be anxious for nothing BUT WITH PRAYER present our requests before Him.
God commands us to pray without ceasing.

And, when I walk humbly with God, I see the immense kindness in His command.
He gives us a way to do justly, love mercy WHILE walking humbly with Him.
It is by praying without ceasing.

I cannot take a meal or give money to every sick person or family I know. I cannot extend kindness to all my neighbors all at the same time they’re in need nor conjure up sustainable solutions for the refugee crisis and contact all the necessary world powers to make it happen.

I cannot heal all, but I know the Healer.

I cannot provide for all the needs, but I know the Provider.

I cannot rescue everyone in need, but I know the Rescuer.

I cannot comfort all the broken, but I know the Comforter.

I cannot speak peace over every situation, but I know the Prince of Peace.

I cannot be all to all, but I can go to the Great I Am through prayer, lay all the people, problems and pleas for help before the Omniscient and Omnipresent God of all Creation.

I can do this through prayer.

Recently, via an Instagram contest of all things, I came upon A–Z prayer cards designed by blogger/author/speaker, Amelia Rhodes. It is a simple concept packed with a powerful prayer punch. It has served me personally in this tension of wanting to do far more than I practically can do. It provides prayer prompts starting with each letter of the alphabet along with a scripture that coincides with the prayer focus. It ranges from Adoption to a creative “Zero Prejudice” for the letter “Z.”

The cards are well thought out, color printed on sturdy cardstock with blank lines for the user to write in the names of people and/or organizations that are personal to them.

If, like me, your compassion far exceeds your capacity, pick up a set of these prayer cards and unload your burdens onto a God whose competence matches His kindness, both boundless.

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Facing Our Fears in Motherhood

Do you have fears tied to motherhood? If so, here’s encouragement for you.



“Are you scared?”

I was taken aback by his question. Scared? Of what?

“Of anything,” he answered.

I had just shared my due date with a new class of trainees.

“He has three boys,” another new hire volunteered. So fear is to be expected, I reasoned. I’m just about to face the most frightening experience in my life.

Of course I was scared.

I was scared…

  • I’ll lose my temper.
  • I’ll whine about sleepless nights.
  • I’ll breastfeed too often or not often enough.
  • I’ll leave piles of unfolded onesies in the middle of the nursery floor because I’m too tired (or lazy?) to fold teeny-tiny baby clothes for the upteenth time.
  • I’ll go with disposable diapers when the better choice would be cloth.
  • I’ll work too many long hours at the office and miss precious moments with her.
  • I’ll sign her up for too many activities and push her to become Miss Achieve-It-All.
  • I’ll pass on to her my ugly pride, self-righteousness, and perfectionism like a dreadful contagious disease.
  • I’ll miss countless little joys in life while pursuing worthless dreams.

Facing Our Fears in MotherhoodIn short… I was afraid I was going to fail miserably as a parent.

And now, holding my second-born daughter in my arms, thinking back on that brief exchange just a few years ago, I realize those fears were well-founded. I’ve failed many times. I’ve lost my temper. I’ve raised my voice. I’ve worked too much and played too little. I’ve seen my own sinfulness reflected in my daughter.

Yes, I’ve failed, but over and above it all, God’s grace has covered my parenting imperfections and made me run to the cross day after day. The writer of Proverbs puts it this way:

Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

When it comes to fears, we have two choices: Will we fear the unknown or will we fear the Lord? Will we allow the uncertain to grip us in its clutch or will we turn to God’s Truth to set us free?

Scared? Oh yeah. There was so much to be scared of that day. And even now, if I’m completely honest, there are still fears nibbling at the edges of my consciousness. Fear that we won’t outgrow the temper tantrums. Fear that the two girls won’t get along. Fear that I’ll mess them up and cause them interminable hours on a psychologist’s couch.

I’m sure you have fears, too.

But rather than allow those fears to consume and paralyze us, we can take them to the Lord, acknowledging His sovereignty over our parenting, pleading His grace over our mistakes, and entrusting His provision over their futures. He is not only able to handle it all — He is far more capable to be trusted with it all.

If I say one thing to that frightened 9-month-pregnant me standing in that room years ago, I would say this: Don’t let fear rob today’s joy with tomorrow’s unknowns. Each day has enough worries of its own (Matthew 6:34).

Instead, let us keep seeking God, running to Him as our secure fortress and resting in the knowledge that He will care for us and our children one day at a time.

What are you scared of today? Name your fears and bring them to the Lord, allowing Him to replace them with His peace that passes all understanding.

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He Gives Shade To The Weary

If anxiety is a struggle for you right now, remember that He gives shade to the weary.



Do you ever have those moments of fear because you don’t know what lies ahead? When do those thoughts tend to happen to you?

For me, most of those thoughts happen when I lay my head down to sleep at night. The vulnerability comes forth every time. That’s what happened the other night to me. I shut my eyes and immediately anxiety welled up inside me.

What if we don’t succeed in this new venture? What if we have to move? What if we can’t pay our bills?

I laid there with the covers drawn tight over my head (I still think that I am safer if the covers are over my head), praying scripture over my anxious heart. Assuring myself that God sees me and that He cares.

In the morning, I turned to Isaiah 41, specifically verses 10-20.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NASB)

Yesterday, the “what if’s” piled up as I anxiously looked about me. My daughter needs tutoring, however at this point in life, tutoring feels like a luxury we can’t afford. So I listed some items online to sell hoping to make just enough to cover the tutoring. I’m buying groceries on a Visa reward card. I’m holding my breath until the next paycheck comes. But what did God speak over me: Do not fear. Do not look anxiously about you.

“For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’ Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares the Lord, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:13-14 NASB)

Why shouldn’t I be anxious? Because God will hold me up. God will help me. When I first read the word “worm” as a description, I took it as a slam against Israel. Like, gesh, God. What animal does He relate me to? But through further study, He calls them a worm because worms are helpless. They are viewed as insignificant, despised and weak. God will help me — seemingly insignificant, helpless me — because He is my Redeemer. He is my go’el — my next of kin. The Redeemer is the one who provides for all my needs. Rent. Car payment. Credit card bill. Gas. Food. Clothes. Debt. God will redeem.

He Gives Shade to the Weary

“Behold, I have made you a new, sharp threshing sledge with double edges; You will thresh the mountains and pulverize them, And will make the hills like chaff. You will winnow them, and the wind will carry them away, And the storm will scatter them; But you will rejoice in the Lord, You will glory in the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:15-16 NASB).

God is transforming me from a helpless one to a powerful one. The description of that type of threshing sledge is like a modern day earth mover. Powerful. Strong. Immovable.

“The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, And their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the Lord, will answer them Myself, As the God of Israel I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 41:17, NASB)

He will come to our rescue. God, Himself, will answer you and me. Can you hear how personal that sounds? Have you ever pleaded with someone important whether your boss, public figure, or even a parent, and they responded to the need themselves? You expected for them to send their assistant, but instead they — the most important one — responded to you.

“I will open rivers on the bare heights And springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water And the dry land fountains of water. I will put the cedar in the wilderness, The acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert Together with the box tree and the cypress.” (Isaiah 41:18-19, NASB)

This passage describes the wilderness-like times in life. You are barren. You are thirsty. You are hot. You are in need. God will provide what you need. God will quench your thirst. He will provide shade when you are weary. During those times, God can provide in creative, innovative ways. He can provide something out of nothing. Doesn’t that give you great hope? Even when you can’t answer how He will do it, He is creative enough to figure it out even when the odds are stacked against you.

“That they may see and recognize, And consider and gain insight as well, That the hand of the Lord has done this, And the Holy One of Israel has created it.” (Isaiah 41:20 NASB).

God will do all of this so that His glory will be put on display. People — including yourself — will see that He is powerful.

So you can see how after a night of wrestling with fear and anxiety, reading this was like shade and water for my soul. God is a god who sees. And God is a god who acts on your behalf.

What do you need His help with today? What are you fearful about today? What keeps you awake at night? Where do you need some shade?

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Hi, I'm Ashleigh Slater, founder and editor of Ungrind. Here at Ungrind, it’s our goal to churn out biblically-based encouragement for women. We strive to be honest and transparent about our struggles in a way that inspires hope, faith, and perseverance.

As you read, we hope you consider us friends, the kind you feel comfortable sitting across the table with at the local coffee shop. You can read more about me HERE and our team of writers HERE.

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A Time to Mourn: Reflections on Naming the Child

by Ashleigh Slater time to read: 6 min