Welcome to our Blessed Chats series! Each month, we will dedicate an entire week of blog posts to a topic that affects many of us. These conversations often come up in our Facebook groups and in our real life friendships. We want to share a variety of perspectives on the topic at hand, so we’ve asked women to share their stories and how the teachings of the Church have guided and comforted them. In this series, we’re talking more about grief. We’d love for you to join the conversation!
Before we had children, I knew someone who lost a baby after her premature birth. She posted photos of her dead daughter on Facebook. She wore a necklace with her child’s name engraved on it. She included the baby when people asked how many children she had.
I thought all of this was weird. And creepy. And unhealthy.
Years earlier I had heard a radio program about a father grieving for his six month-old son and starting a non-profit foundation to help other parents facing similar loss. I can still picture the stoplight where I was sitting in the car as I thought to myself: How can you grieve a child you only knew for six months? My brother died when he was two decades old. We knew him. That’s what real loss is.
How clearly I understood the world before I had to understand it.
Now I know this is normal.
It’s All Normal
One weekend shortly after our newborn daughters died, a stranger came up to us in the parking lot after Mass. He knew our story. He wanted to thank us for sharing it with our community. And he wanted us to know that he understood our loss. Because he and his wife had a daughter who was stillborn.
She would be 25 this year.
Of course he knows how old she would be.
Of course his eyes would well up decades later, behind thick glasses and greying temples.
Of course he wanted to reach out to a couple whose wound was fresh and raw.
Because he knew this was normal. All of it.
The Swells of Grief
I have days that are decent and days when I cannot get out from under the deep sadness. I cannot predict what any given day will be, and this is the hardest.
I wail loudest in the shower where the kids cannot hear me.
I let our sons see me cry, and we talk about how it is ok to feel sad because Maggie and Abby are not here with us. I let them see me smile, and we talk about how happy we are that they are with God now.
I let them kick my shins and pound angry fists on my arms because they are sad and small and confused and grieving, too.
Sometimes I still lose my temper and shout and slam the silverware drawer. Even though I promised my dead daughters that I would be a better mother because of them.
My husband and I talk about the girls every morning when we wake up. As the dark sky slowly blues into another daunting dawn. It is the only way either of us can get out of bed.
We go to a therapist and we go to bereaved parent support groups and we go to dinner afterward and we laugh that this is a lousy excuse for a date but hey, it’s still a date and we tear up over tacos because the rest of the restaurant around us (we assume for purposes of dramatic comparison) gets to have a normal Tuesday. And we just want our babies back.
We deleted the rest of the prenatal appointments from our calendars and we texted each other that this sucks sucks sucks. We talk about taking a trip to sunshine some time because we want to sit on a beach and pretend we are normal for two days. We make dark jokes to each other as we crawl into bed because gallows humor helps. A little.
I know now that this is normal. All of it.
Learn and grow in our Faith and love for the Lord.
Grief is a Lifetime
The honest truth is that hard days with jagged edges are just as real now as holy, hopeful moments.
I know this is normal. All of it.
I used to avoid stories of baby loss like the plague. Because I thought they were triggers for anxiety during my pregnancies. Because I thought prolonged public mourning was creepy and unhealthy. Because the seductive power of magical thinking whispered that if I avoided stories of tragedy, they might avoid me, too.
And because I had already made up my mind what Tragedy and Loss looked like. It was a 21 year-old boy who died from cancer. It was a son and a brother and a friend – an almost-adult that people knew and missed and could never be replaced. It was what I had decided to define as grief.
Now I know it is more. Now I know more of it is normal.
All of it is here. All of it is normal. This is the hard and honest truth.
If you’ve lost a child, know that our prayers are with you this day as you grieve them, however long it’s been. Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us.
Laura and her husband Franco have since co-authored a book about their experiences with infertility, miscarriage, and infant loss. Grieving Together: A Couple’s Journey through Miscarriage is now available from Our Sunday Visitor.
This post has been adapted from the original post in 2016 by Laura Kelly Fanucci.
If you want more on the Church’s rich teachings on these engaging topics, our best-selling study, “Blessed Conversations: Rooted,” dives into the Catechism’s teachings and now offers a video companion series along with it featuring Theological Editor Susanna Spencer and Managing Editor Nell O’Leary. Get it here.
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