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A hope note

Several years ago, People magazine named James Van Der Beek one of the “50 Most Beautiful People in the World.” Just this year he competed on the 28th season of “Dancing with the Stars,” paired with professional dancer Emma Slater. Many considered them the couple to beat entering the semi-finals, where they were eliminated, finishing in fifth place.

Afterward, before the cameras, in tears, Van Der Beek blamed his poor performance on a devastating miscarriage he and wife Kimberley suffered over the weekend. “You never know why these things happen, that’s what I’ve been telling my kids. All you know is that it brings you closer together, it breaks you open, it opens up your heart and it deepens your appreciation.”

His spontaneous, from-the-heart confession can help school the rest of us in the nature of grief.

This “man’s man” has a tender heart and is not embarrassed to say “it opens up your heart” or to display his opened-up heart to the world.

This loss wasn’t for them “just a miscarriage.” Even though he and his wife have five children, this was the death of a much-desired child. Our society discounts the significance of a miscarriage for the parents with a well-intended interpretation like, “Oh, you can have other babies” or “Maybe it’s for the best,” discounting the loss of this baby. For many parents, like Van Der Beek, “It breaks you open” and is nothing less than a personal shattering, something like a walnut being violently cracked open with a club.

Long term, we know that this family’s well-being will depend less on finding the definitive scientific explanation to their “why” questions and more on being sensitive to each other’s ongoing woundedness, to each other’s need to be listened to, to be understood and to be held.