My body is heavy this Advent

Post Author: Shannon E. Sullivan

Content warning: Pregnancy loss

white bokeh lights

My body is heavy this Advent.


Mary of Nazareth’s body was heavy

too, or so we imagine in Advent.

She is often shown so

young and beautiful, demure and obedient,


though that may be the halo more than the pregnancy.

If we have ever met a real live pregnant woman, we might more realistically imagine

the lumbered steps,

swollen ankles,

short fuses

In the spring, this is how I imagined my Advent: the glowing, the beauty,

and too

the weight,

the exhaustion.


but with my hand to my belly

I feel no movement, no kicking or dancing or shifting

I am empty


not empty like the tired tropes of Mary the empty vessel waiting to be filled by God

I am empty of life

so empty of the baby that was due this month but

was lost



still I am heavy,

and instead of a


the grief kicks at me


All around me parishioners and family go get Christmas trees, listen to Christmas music

            A few lone voices cry out for waiting, for settling into Advent,

            slowing down.


I resist




to set up an outdoor light machine in our living room just to say we decorated.

The world prepares for a baby

the way Mary herself could not on the road to Bethlehem:

scurrying, nesting, cooking, sharing glimpses of new life, celebrating with loved ones.


My baby would be coming this month.

I would be singing her Christmas carols and arguing with my spouse about

if we will teach her about Santa Claus,

but instead I am empty


my baby is dead.


I should have been heavy with something besides grief;

I should have been nesting and celebrating

or maybe binge watching Netflix with my ankles propped up

but instead I am out of touch with time

instead I sit on the floor


these stupid lights playing across my skin

I wonder how I can preach good news on Christmas Eve

how I can treasure words of scripture and ponder them in my heart

when my baby isn’t laying even in some makeshift crib like Jesus did

my baby is dead

and I am so empty


Comfort, oh comfort, my people, says your God.

Every valley shall be lifted up…


I may not spend this Advent or Christmas as Mary did.

I may not be able to gaze into a manger or read of wise men bringing gifts,

But there is



something in this time of waiting for me still



Maybe not hope for a baby.

But hope that God interrupts our pain to speak tenderly to us,

sit on the floor with us without even turning off the outdoor light display that shouldn’t be on indoors

that when God put on flesh,  

God felt grief kicking inside, God was weighed down by the heaviness of grief



If God is in a body like mine, a failed body,


maybe God is in me too.

Rev. Shannon E. Sullivan (she, her, hers) is a life-long feminist and United Methodist currently serving the community of Frederick, Maryland, as the associate pastor of Calvary. She is a proud graduate of Drew Theological School in Madison, New Jersey.

She is married to Aaron Harrington, her high school sweetheart, who is a pilot and all around aviation geek. They have no living children but have filled their home with cats, a boxer puppy, and chickens in addition to mountains of books and airplane parts. When they are able, they travel and find that their favorite adventures are usually unplanned.

3 replies
  1. Rachael
    Rachael says:

    This post means everything. I’m a fellow loss mom, my son passed away three months ago. I am a children’s minister..and yesterday during the preparation for our Advent family festival I suffered from flashbacks and intense grief. Our childcare coordinator, one of my closest friends..was pregnant at the same time, our relationship forever unfortunately changed due to our diverted paths, no matter how much we love each other. I am clinging to the mustard seed faith as my heart aches and my arms are empty. Prayers to you dear sister in Christ, may we hold each other up, with strength only God can provide.

  2. Marni Nancekivell
    Marni Nancekivell says:

    I have walked the same pathway that is voiced in this poem. I a, no longer a youngclergywoman but I remember being pregnant with my first pregnancy 29 years ago this week and still grieve the child that did not see this world. Thank you for giving voice to this grief. It is, for others, a gift to revisit our own lived experience.
    Blessings, Marni

  3. Rachael
    Rachael says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this…this means everything to me this Advent season. We lost our infant son three months ago. I’m a children’s minister at a large church, with a close friend and co-worker who was due the same week as me. She had her son strapped to her at the Advent festival, I kept busy serving the children with resolve to not break down. I keep telling my husband that I lean into Mary, because she knows what it was like to lose a son. Even if she had 33 years with him and we only had a month. Losing a child is unlike any other pain I have ever known. I pray you feel surrounded by love and peace beyond understanding. Your words did that for me. Blessings, dear sister.


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