The other day, my daughter and I were having a conversation about Heaven. She thought that everybody in Heaven were “grandmas and grandpas”, innocently assuming that people only ever died of old age. I reminded her that people pass away at all different ages, including her little brother who was not even born when he passed from this life.
The thing about death is that it can happen to anyone at any time and can even feel random or unfair. As believers, we know that God is the Author of life, and that even though death may not make sense to us at the time, we have confidence that God has his reasons for allowing it. But does that ease our grief?
There is No Heartbeat
I’ll never forget that moment when I looked up at the ultrasound machine and there was a deafening silence. The ultrasound tech couldn’t say much, but I already knew. We lost our baby.
It’s hard to say what I was feeling at that moment, but a few days later, I was overcome with guilt and anger. I wondered why God would take away something so special. I wondered if He had done it because it was an unexpected pregnancy and I was initially regretful about having another baby so soon after my first. I wished I could go back in time and not waste any second feeling worried or anxious. I felt like I deserved my miscarriage because I was so selfish and unwilling to trust God with my body and with my family.
I know what I was feeling was grief, and some days I was sick to my stomach with it. Other days, I just felt nothing. It was a bitter emptiness caused by an empty womb and an empty heart.
A Word from Saint Zelie
Around this time, I started to read more about an amazing and quite ordinary saint named Zelie Martin. She was a wife and mother to some incredible children (including Saint Therese of Lisieux), but she also experienced the excruciating loss of four out of her nine children.
I couldn’t begin to imagine her pain and grief until I read some of her letters. I knew Saint Zelie was reaching out to me in those moments of grief to give me glimpses of hope and to guide me through the grieving process she had been through so many times. She had, what I believe, a gift from the Holy Spirit to gain beautiful insight into her vocation as a mother and the deaths of her children.
When I close the eyes of my dear little children and when I buried them, I felt great pain, but it was always with resignation … I don’t think the sorrows and problems could be weighed against the eternal happiness of my children. So they weren’t lost forever. We’ll see them again in Heaven. // Saint Zelie Martin, Letter 72
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Despite our sadness, my husband and I wanted our baby’s presence to be known. We knew that he had a special purpose, despite his short life on Earth, and we had to give him a name, an identity, and a special place in our family. We named him Francis Nathan and we made it a habit to ask for his prayers every day. As time went on, my grief certainly didn’t just go away, but I was able to find a lot of healing and blessing at the thought of Him being perfectly content and fulfilled in the next life.
What a blessing it is to know that from the moment of conception, my son was as physically close to me as he could possibly be. What a blessing the Church gives us in the reasonable hope that we will once again see our babies when we, by God’s grace, experience the Beatific Vision!
Finding Joy Again
Whether you experience the loss of a child, a parent, or a friend, I pray that you are okay with feeling grief. It is a completely natural and normal part of the healing process, and grief can look like something else entirely from one person to another. But I also pray that you don’t suffer in silence. Don’t believe for a second that your grief doesn’t matter or that others will find it too difficult to listen. Whether it’s through conversation, or writing, or creating art—whatever it is, tell your story.
I pray that you find consolation from your friends and loved ones, I pray that you are able to mourn through this emotional process with someone you trust. I hope that we can honor the people we have lost because they deserve to be known.
I’ll never forget the moment when someone reached out to me online and asked if it would be okay for her to ask our little baby for his prayers. It was a moment of absolute pride and joy. What an honor to be asked such a thing on behalf of my son. It clicked for me then, that while I was grieving, I also had an opportunity to rejoice.
The Body of Christ
Jesus reminds me that it is okay to grieve—that it is possible to grieve and have faith at the same time. He Himself grieved when Lazarus died. But He also raised Lazarus from the dead and showed us that joy can come from suffering, just as redemption came from His crucifixion and Death. He reminds us that He loves us more than we can imagine and wants nothing more than to be with us for eternity.
One of the greatest joys of being Catholic is knowing that there are a Communion of Saints who are cheering us on. I know that my son is not alone. He was never alone when he was with me in my womb, and he will never be alone now.
When is a time in your life when you felt sadness and grief? What was your mourning process like? How has your faith helped you during that time?
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