What surprised me most was not that she had carried her grief quietly for half a century.
that she could tell me exactly how old her babies would be today. Not
that her bright eyes brimmed with tears as she shared her story with a
What shocked me was that after we finished talking, I
looked up to find another woman waiting to speak to me about her own
losses. Then another behind her. And another. And another.
speaking and writing publicly about infertility, miscarriage and infant
loss, I have gotten used to the fact — indeed, the grace — that whenever
one shares a story, others come forward to tell their own.
still carry the memory of that first night, in a parish not far from
mine, where woman after woman waited to share their same silent sorrow.
one taught me how the heaviest stories are made lighter when we carry
them together. We sat and talked for nearly an hour. Nothing was fixed
by our conversation or tears, but we left lighter.
another’s burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ,” wrote St.
Paul (Galatians 6:2). The same exhortation holds true for us today,
especially this month.
As Catholics, our call to family life —
within our own families and the wider body of Christ — commands us to
carry out these works of mercy. To comfort the sorrowful. To pray for
the living and the dead.
October is Respect Life Month. It’s also Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month and the month of the Rosary.
A perfect time to take up our call to pray for those who are grieving the loss of life at its very beginning.
those at the end of their earthly life, the wise ones who have learned
much from their length of days, still carry the weight of this grief.
Their stories, buried for decades, are wounds that can burst open with
Generations past often endured the added
burdens of secrecy and shame. Doctors who whisked away their babies
before they could hold them. Spouses who never spoke of the stillbirth.
Relatives who told them to forget about the miscarriage, move on and try
“At least now people are talking about it,” they tell me,
dabbing at eyes welled with fresh sorrow. “No one helped me. No one
Facing the pain of the bereaved is daunting for all of us.
Even after writing a book on miscarriage for Catholic couples, I still
hesitate each time I pen a sympathy card or wait in line after a
funeral. What can I possibly say?
But October reminds me to serve
with the simplest acts of love: respect, pray and remember. To be the
Church that reaches out with mercy honors each life lost and continues
to care for the bereaved.
When people ask me what to say to
someone who has lost a child, I offer four simple phrases, the four I
fall back on every time. “I’m so sorry. I love you. I’m here for you.
You and your child will not be forgotten.”
This is how we grow
into greater compassion for those who mourn. Respect the depth of their
grief, pray for their healing and remember their pain over time.
have thought about my babies every day since,” the last woman in line
told me that night. Bent over a walker, she leaned forward with a shaky
whisper. “Every day since.”
I cannot forget her words. I hope you will remember, too.
is a mother, writer and director of a project on vocation at the
Collegeville Institute in Collegeville, Minn. She is the author of
several books, including “Everyday Sacrament: The Messy Grace of
Parenting,” and blogs at www.motheringspirit.com.