Grieving & Connecting as a Virtual Community

he week before Kara died, I read an op-ed piece in a major newspaper written by a woman exploring what it means to grieve someone she only had a virtual relationship with. She became a Twitter follower of a woman dying of cancer; over the course of years, she fell in love with the woman and her story, and then when the woman sadly died, the writer didn’t know exactly how to grieve—she couldn’t go to the funeral, she didn’t have a relationship with the woman’s family members, none of her friends could talk about her. It was a strange, difficult situation to be in, and I felt her pain. I remember thinking, That will be the case with so many people when Kara dies.

How do we do this? How do you do this?

I have been humbled, amazed, and blown away by the love and support of the online community of Kara supporters/friends. You all have held us up in prayer and have sent letters and emails of encouragement. Strangers, and yet not really strangers. I’ve talked about how Kara was a gatherer. Isn’t that so? She gathered us all here to Mundane Faithfulness; we are united in our love for Kara, our passion for her story, and our need for her message of the Gospel.

One thing I look forward to in Heaven: meeting all of you and connecting all the dots of our relationships.

I feel that you are such a big part of Kara’s story and Jason’s story and now my story. As well as their extended family, like Jonna and Mickey, and our friends and church family. One thing I love is how you often connect with each other in the comments area of the blog or Facebook page; you all have pursuing, tender hearts, and I thought you would be blessed to get to know one of your own. I asked Jen if I could share her hard story with you and how she found her hardest peace. She humbly agreed. I think her story is beautiful as we process grief together. Jen’s faith in Jesus is redemptive and healing even as I seek Grace for another day of mourning. Grab a tissue before you continue…

On April 16, we found out that our sweet unborn baby’s heart had stopped due to Trisomy 13. She was our first child, and her short life brought so much joy to our home. The next few days after our baby’s death, God kept bringing to mind many of the lessons that Kara had learned and shared on her blog. The main lesson was on keeping my heart soft and bent towards Christ. I wrote this quote from her blog in my journal and changed it a little to fit my heart:

[My prayer is] for God to keep [my] heart inclined…A heart bent on being towards Jesus. What more could I want in my limitations? An inclined heart causes every part of me to be softer, gentler, more accepting, content. But a contented heart is a fight for us all, isn’t it? When my heart is discontent, I struggle through the details of life and look closely upon my control for comfort. When my heart is inclined toward God, I’m more willing to open my hands to my story and look for the present grace of God to show up.

It has been over a month since our baby girl went to Heaven, and my grief is settling from the overwhelming drowning-feeling to a dull, familiar ache that varies in intensity, but is always present. I am usually a fairly easygoing person and it is easy for me to love and get along with others. But this pain has revealed my selfishness and makes me short-tempered, and my responses often reflect the pain in my heart. God keeps reminding me of the kindness that Kara often talked about. I was in the middle of her book on kindness when our baby died, and I know that was God’s sanctifying plan. I have a long way to go, but I’m learning to rely on Him to help me be kind even in pain.

Kara’s life and death has impacted my heart so much, and truly prepared me for my daughter’s death. Because of this, and because the name “Kara” means “beloved”, we chose to name our baby Kara Jane. “Jane” means “gift from God/God is gracious” and is also my mom’s middle name. Her name is a reminder to me of how God graciously brought Kara’s story into my life to prepare me for my own story. Even though I never met Kara, I am so encouraged knowing that she was there when my baby went to Heaven.

I pray for the Tippetts family often. My heart was heavy and empty on Mother’s Day, and I know that their grief was even stronger and that the day was even emptier for them. Any good in me is ONLY because of the Holy Spirit’s work in my heart. Having a soft, peace-filled heart is a daily battle, and it’s not a battle that I win every day. I have learned that any glimmer of spiritual life in me is only because God gave me that life and was holding on to me tightly. So my prayer is that people recognize that God deserves all of the glory whenever I win the daily battles—He has the power to turn even an angry, bitter, resentful person like me into someone who will someday look just like Christ.

In what ways do you need a soft heart? In what areas do you struggle inclining your heart toward Jesus? Do you look for control to comfort you in hard situations or even in everyday life? What would it look like for you to seek God’s Grace instead of control?