We are continuing our “Women in the Trenches” series today with the second part of Rickelle Hicks’ interview. Get to know Rickelle a bit better in Part 1 from Sunday’s post.

Today, I’m sharing a very tender piece from Rickelle who went through an unspeakable tragedy just two years ago. In response to my questions about her journey through grief, Rickelle decided to write you a letter. I share it with you on the wings of a prayer that it might reach into your heart and speak to your need today:

Dear Reader,

On march 31st, 2010, I went into see my midwife for our routine appointment. I was 25 weeks pregnant with our first son and it was my husband, Caleb’s, and my anniversary.  Cal is a teacher and he was at school, so I went to the appointment alone. My midwife, Anita, went through the usual proceedings with me…weight check, measuring the baby and then checking the heartbeat. She squeezed the gooey gel and placed the doppler on my planet of a belly. She couldn’t find the heartbeat right away; she closed her eyes and said she thought she heard it. She kept the doppler there, but then couldn’t quite find it again. I could see her expression tense and I could see her concerted effort to not let me see her concern. She checked again and again and then again and finally said, “Let’s go across the hall and do a quick ultrasound.” Even at that point, I was sure everything was okay. I asked her if she was concerned, she said it was strange we couldn’t find the heartbeat as quickly as previous times but that everything was probably fine. I lay down in the dark room as the fuzzy screen came up. “There’s our baby,” she said and moved the wand around my belly. It was then that I could feel the oxygen leave the room.

Those next moments are full of white noise and a descending weight so heavy I can palpably feel it even now as I write, over 2 years and 1 baby later.

She said, “Rickelle, there is no heartbeat.” I could not contain or understand her words. I went into full-fledged panic attack mode. My sweet, wise, insanely cool midwife just held that space with me. The next moments were a blur of the doctor coming in and confirming what we already knew; nurses asking me Caleb’s phone number so he could come and me utterly helpless in the shock of it all.

The baby, our sweetest Lake, 6 months old in utero, had been gone for 3 days.

I delivered him the next morning at 2:14 a.m., surrounded by Caleb, my mother-in-law and my own mom. Caleb watched the birth as the moms held my hands. They held me up. Lake had gone to be with Jesus. I wished so many times that I had held him so much longer. Two days later we had a memorial for him in our backyard and just this last April, we spread his ashes in a rushing creek underneath a cherry blossom tree.

There really are still no words for the magnitude of that heartbreak.

I write to you with all tenderness on this subject of grief.

Maybe as you find this letter, you are in the very first days of a loss. Maybe you are years down the road. Or maybe you know someone who is in the throws of grief. Its ridiculously hard, this grief thing. Seemingly impossible, really. I don’t know what your loss has been. I wish we could sit together and share our stories and say to each other all the things grieving people need to say, “What the hell; How am I ever going to survive this; How can I even keep going; What will life look like on the other side of this” over a cup of coffee or a really strong margarita.

Since I don’t know you or your story, however, my prayer is that sharing our journey might breathe something into your loss. That one sentence or phrase or thought might bring a tiny shade, an inch of fluorescent color to a black and white backdrop.

{breathing in and out}

The first days after losing lake were a blur. There was the all encompassing fog of that first stage… shock, no sleep, no appetite, a flurry of flowers, sad cards with white lilies and italic writing, meals and family and the sounds of people clanking around in our kitchen. I just breathed. In and out. They say it’s a blur. It was. I wrote every single messy, tangled, unraveled thought that would be strung out later like a ball of yarn, knit into something with order and meaning. But at the time, I just wrote.


In many moments, there was absolutely no solace and I could not see past the hand in front of my face. It hurt so much seeing my husband hurt. Everything echoed and my world had turned gray; the color sucked out and I could not imagine feeling anything different. Ever. It felt like there was a blanket between me and the world and I imagined all the worst things, that our marriage would fall apart, that I would never ever get to be pregnant or have children, that there was something terribly wrong with me. I am a bit prone to catastrophic thinking anyway, so needless to say, it was all compounded. I felt like I had lost my naivety and innocence, I was quieted and sobered by the vastness of what can happen here. What we can live through and survive. I took Tylenol p.m. to get a few hours of sleep, I drank protein shakes and tiny bits of food, like a little chipmunk.

I was irritable, and oh so raw and at every minute I felt sadness in my bones, right down to my toes. It was impossible to bear.

And in the midst of that flurry, something very real was streaming steady just under the surface, something I would not have words for until later.

{learning to swim}

In those weeks that followed, I swung on a large rope from a great height. Grief is so sneaky. In some moments I would be surprised by buoyancy and light. In others I had never known such pitch black.  I started planting in our backyard. I watered our flowers and I got a tiny orange kitten named Everett. I needed things to nurture. I longed for that baby; I was ready for him. So I needed something alive to take care of. I wrote, “I believe” on my hand every morning. I got out a big power tool and sanded and painted and distressed furniture in my hoody listening to reggae.

Reggae? I know. Those first days, just do the things that soothe you and that are life giving for you. Listen to your heartbeat and just do whatever makes you feel even an inch closer to putting one foot in front of the other. Anything that reminds you there will be beauty from the ashes.

{diving in}

And then slowly, slowly

I just started sharing the mess.

We had a particularly dear couple that made a mandatory Tuesday dinner date with us.  We had to come barring a catastrophe. Week after week, we shared meals around a table. I remember trying to show up put together and then just collapsing on the couch with my sister in her living room, sobbing like a child. Our friends just held that space for us with a colorful table set each week; sharing meals and sharing the details of that season with food and wine and presence.

And one of the single most important things I learned during that time was to

say it out loud.

Inviting others into the mess has never been my strong suit.  Quickly, there had never been anything more important. I had to say things out loud every single day. The fears, the tiny bits of light, the longings and disappointments. I could not show up pretty and skinny; I was a mess, a train wreck, the scary grieving girl, prone to break down at any given moment.  Some days, I felt I was employed full time with the task of grief.

We don’t pick our friends out of a Nordstrom catalog; they aren’t perfect, they can’t deliver us, but a tribe to fight for you is absolutely essential. Oh, how I learned who my tribe was during that time. Who our people were. They simply showed up and they believed for me when I could not believe for myself.

{battling the current}

Never in my life was it ever more important for me to fight for my heart. And that is something I wish I could type up and put on your mirror.

Your heart is at stake, brother, sister. I deeply believe that you are on holy ground when you are mourning.

There is no greater time to engage in the battle for your heart than when you are raw with grief.

I think whenever we lose something dear to us there’s the temptation to start to see our world or tie up our identity with that loss, i.e. I’m the girl shit happens to. This is not truth. Keep a very short line on your thought life and when these self deprecating, toxic thoughts arise, say them to someone you trust to tell you the truth about who you are and to refuse to accept the lies on your behalf. To remind you that you are going to make it. You are going to get through this. It might mean counseling every week or a grief group or putting verses or quotes on your mirror or in your cupboards where you will see them every time you do the dishes or brush your teeth.

Fighting certainly means being intentional in every way you can to stay afloat. Do anything that reminds you that it won’t always feel this way.  Invite a friend in, chant the truth, make some coffee, sob your eyes out, get your pen, plant a flower, put on your running shoes. Keep moving, keep feeling it. I wrote on my hand words I had to stare straight at everyday to remind myself of what was true.

I can say with complete confidence, although there may be nothing inside of you that believes these words right now, that this very thing that happened to you. This unthinkable thing. Is the very thing that will give you keys to something you would not have otherwise been able to open.

Whatever it is, this crisis is a turning point, a trajectory changer, a catalyst, the very thing Jesus wants to use to use to make you new.

{trusting the water}

Leeana asked me to write about how this affected my faith. Such a great question. I think I can try to sum that up by saying that before our loss I knew Jesus but I don’t think I really believed Him until that spring. Because He was there.

He simply showed up. And I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He fought for me and my family and if I know anything, I know He will show up for you. You don’t need to fight any harder right now, you just need to live and walk and breathe. Let go of what you can, lay it down. Lean into Him; press into Him, walk it out.  I found so much comfort in the fact that the Word is so full of people losing, grieving, mourning and that Jesus himself was a man of many sorrows. He was not unacquainted with any one- tiny-single thing I was feeling. And in that, I felt safe.

I believe now in the abundance of God’s economy. He doesn’t leave us bankrupt. Well meaning people would say things that I didn’t agree with, “God has a plan. This is His will.”

What was true is that He is the author of life, not the author of death.

In our losses, He doesn’t leave us withdrawn. He’s always making us more whole, using our shattered pieces to draw us closer to Him as He puts us back together.


Even now as I write this, some days and some months I am so poignantly affected by our loss that I feel like I have gone back to square one with learning to swim. Like I forgot all the things I worked so hard to gain and that I’ve lost all the ways I have changed. And that it’s all doomed. The darkness threatens to steal every ounce of joy and truth from my day and I feel like I’m treading in deep water. Keeping my head just above the surface.

Our son, Gunnison, is 10 1/2 months old now. I love him so fiercely it sometimes scares me. I am definitely triggered by the loss of our first baby in the day-to-day ins and outs of being Gunn’s mama.  I have to fight the lies of the economy of deficit. I have to hang things on my mirror and say them out loud.  I have to be ridiculous and irrational and let my tribe in. And then I have to pick up my sword; I have to start right back over. I have to be brave. I know somewhere, even on days like today that are so hard and the sun hasn’t come out, that I am strong. Absolutely safe. I am taken care of.


Lake’s life was and continues to be, a powerful gift that now, I simply cannot imagine my life without.  For us, grief was our story of waking up. Our grief woke us up out of a long winter’s slumber. We rubbed our sleepy eyes and chose to open them wide.

My prayer for you in your journey of grief is that you will tenderly allow yourself the process, eyes wide open. The only way across is through, you have to let yourself feel. The temptation to shut out the hard emotions out will be great, but if you let yourself feel the pain and let it teach you, the healing will be more whole. You are capable of this. Oh, how you will never, ever be the same and you will never forget because you have been changed, refined, broken in that surf. Beauty is wrought in the soul when we let ourselves feel the pain of grief and walk through it and refuse to shut our eyes.

Fight for your heart; share the mess. You are irrevocably changed because of what you lost; let Him show you who you are because of that…what you are gaining and the beauty that will be wrought in your soul.

You are a warrior – strong, able, fit and ready even on days when you are sure that is not true. This is your story; your journey. There are soulful gifts of grace, bravery, wholeness, hope, healing, and love there to meet you.

You will make it.



Think of someone you know who is walking through grief. What could be more beautiful than to send them Rickelle’s words . . .

Is there a line from Rickelle’s letter that resonates with you?

Join me on Thursday for some of my own reflections on Rickelle’s interview.

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