Let’s Be Pen Pals

Good morning friends,

I missed chatting with you last week. Thank you dear ones for checking in to see If I was ok. The truth is, our family faced unexpected heartbreak and with the blessing of my loved ones I would like to humbly share a part of this journey with you. 

We are blessed with two amazing grandchildren. They also happen to live next door to us, which is an incredible delight. As the eldest is only five years younger than our youngest child, it is most definitely a seamless continuation of the generations. And yes, it is also a gloriously busy, messy life.

In December we were expecting a third grandchild, until a scan two weeks ago revealed that this precious wee babe was not going to make it. She was twenty weeks old. On the following Monday, sweet Willow Jerusalem entered Heaven. 

As I sit here trying to think of words to describe this journey, I struggle. Shock, disbelief, heartbreak, compassion, anger, confusion, sadness…none of them adequate. As most of you know, I have lived with grief since the death of our newborn son, Noah nineteen years ago. I am familiar with its ebb and flow. I know what to expect. I know it’s nature. But this is different. This time I am not the mother. I didn’t carry sweet Willow, I didn’t give birth. There was no hello goodbye. This time, I face grief as a grandmother.

The most overwhelming response I had watching my dear ones walk through this trial was helplessness. Mothers have a fierce drive to protect their children, willingly offering ourselves to spare them any pain. That mama bear roar is buried deep within our DNA. No way around it. It broke my heart to sit back, waiting on the sidelines, with no power to do anything to change the situation, rescue my children or stop them going through this.

They had to walk across the bridge, and they had to do it alone. 

When you come face to face with intense grief, it’s like the whole world is shut out. I knew Noah’s loss affected many people around me, but as I was in the throes of heart anguish I reasoned that no-one else was feeling the pain as deeply as me, so I was unable to pay heed to anyone else’s suffering. After all, I was his mother. Yet now as I stand on the outside of my son and precious daughter-in-love’s grief, I am keenly aware of how my own mother must have felt when she lost her grandchild. How isolating was it for her to carry the intangible weight of grief alone?

I felt anger. Anger towards God. Ironically, this is something that I didn’t wrestle with in losing my own son. I chose pretty early on to turn toward God in my pain, instead of away from Him in bitterness and anger. I knew this was a whole lot bigger than me and I needed Him. I was right. But not this time. I felt angry at God for letting my dear children suffer. It wasn’t fair. They didn’t need this. Plus, I told God years ago that He couldn’t have any more of my children. He couldn’t take any more of them before their time, and that included grandchildren. I felt violated. How dare He? 

With the passing of days and weeks however, and as the shock of Willow’s loss settled, my anger has turned into a familiar sadness. I try not to think too much, analysing the painful what if’s, or look too far into the future at the entire life her dear parents, brother and sister have missed out on. I find myself, once again, realising that this is all a lot bigger than me and I need God as much I did when my own wee babe went to Heaven. 

The thing about miscarriage, even late term miscarriage, is that there is so little closure, even for extended family. The baby isn’t seen or held, there are no memories and so little to hold onto. It’s all invisible. There is nothing tangible to grieve over. How can your heart hurt so much over a baby you have never met? And yet hurt it does. It aches, so deeply.

The pain is tangible.

All we have is a name. Her beautiful, sweet little name. Willow Jerusalem. I adore it. Since she went to Heaven I swear I have seen the name Willow at least half a dozen times in the most random places. ( A Bunnings garden shed catalogue?! Seriously! They have a ‘Willow’ shed!)

It is a great privilege to name a child, to give her an eternal identity that all of heaven will rejoice over. And until we meet again, our darling Willow will join her Uncle Noah and swap stories about how awesome their family is ( just kidding. Ha!) Well, you never know.

I want to leave you with words of hope. And these words come from Willow’s precious father, my son. At a time when my own heart scrambles to see past the fog, he has found the courage to lift his eyes, to look further, to look higher. I am deeply encouraged by the wisdom he speaks, which is way beyond his years. 

“Amidst the loss and the sadness, we experience in this moment the reality of a good world gone bad; a place in need of rescue. And yet, even as that Great Rescue has already begun, we find ourselves caught in the middle – between the now and the not yet: the world as it has begun to be, and the world as it will one day become. 

The name ‘Willow’ means ‘freedom’ and speaks to the shackles of chaos and decay that all of creation will one day throw off, finally entering into the glorious liberty we so long for. 

The new Jerusalem is the place where, at the end of our story, Heaven and earth will finally be united; God will dwell with His people and He will make all things new.

And while we spend our lives participating in God’s renewal and redemption of His good world, we live in the tension, and we anticipate with great hope the day when He will make everything right.”

Until next week,

Love Anna xx


  • Your wise son. Such precious words. Thank you for sharing ?

  • Some parts of our journeys are hard to understand this side of heaven. Willow Jerusalem is a beautiful name and one day you will meet in person. Hugs.

  • I’m so sorry to hear of your family’s loss Anna. Big hugs to you ox

    • A
      Anna Hogbin

      Thanks Thalia, it’s so hard watching your kids go through this loss. xx

  • This was so beautifully written. And yes I think it’s harder to watch our kids suffer than for us to suffer. Will be praying for you and your family.

    • A
      Anna Hogbin

      Thanks so much Lyndel, yes it really is. lots of love xx

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