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Guest Posts Loss Parenting Respect Life Series The Crossroads - Where Faith Meets Mental Health Vocations

Here I am, Lord…Broken

Here I am Lord Broken

“That next day I sat in Adoration for an hour. Instead of reading or writing, I just sat there staring at the Blessed Sacrament, fixated on it as a life source. I was all out of ideas. I wasout of energy. I was losing hope. Something far stronger than me had its grip on my son.” ~ My 13th Station, memoir

When I was young I naively believed that all I needed in preparation for the big bad world was a college degree, a solid resume, and a little luck. As a poorly catechized Catholic, I was never taught the immense richness and beauty of the faith, nor did I learn about the essential need for forming an intimate bond with Jesus. These concepts were simply foreign to me growing up. I eventually left the Church at age 18 to spend the next twenty-two years flailing about—getting that college education and building my resume while living the cycle of sin.

At age 40 I came limping back to the Church, tail between my legs. Life had humbled me. A powerful hunger for knowledge about the Church of my heritage launched a years-long process of self-teaching. I devoured books as if they might evaporate before I could finish them, such was the sense of urgency. I gobbled up books on the Saints, writings of the Church Fathers, the Doctors of the Church, Scripture, and became pretty well-versed at apologetics. I was on fire.

It was during these early years after returning to the Church, about twenty years ago, that I discovered Eucharistic Adoration. I will never forget entering that dim little chapel and immediately, instinctively, falling to my knees in front of Jesus, present there in the
Blessed Sacrament. Thus began a deep love for spending quiet, special time with Our Lord in Adoration.

Who knew that these weekly visits would become my number one most important survival tool? It was as if Jesus timed my discovery of Adoration just in time for the exceedingly difficult years that would follow, unknown to me of course. I looked forward to my Wednesday evening “dates” with Jesus with such devotion and love in my heart. I began journaling while I sat there immersed in the warmth of His graces. Over the years I filled multiple journals with the details of my faith journey. I jotted down gushing passages about my children, as well as sorrowful entries about my crumbling marriage, while in His loving embrace.

For a few years there I gave up my weekly commitment and just popped in to the chapel at will. Funny, because looking back it is clear that those were the years that I should have committed to several hours per week. The wheels had come off. Spiritual warfare raged in my home, my marriage ended, and my dear son was overcome suddenly with depression at age 19.

Throughout the six years that my boy battled depression and, subsequently, alcoholism, I relied on just about every tool the Church provided. I found sources of strength in a daily rosary, Adoration, intercessory prayers, novenas. Still, my son’s illness worsened and his life began to unravel. I would go to that little Adoration chapel seeking solace from the Source of all graces, relishing those times when I was alone in the room with him so I would just wail and cry with abandon. Jesus was there for me.

Tragically, my beloved son didn’t make it. He lost all hope and took his own life at age 25 on October 23, 2013. I can say with all sincerity that without my deep faith and ironclad bond with Christ and His Mother I would not have survived the grief. Over these last six years since losing my son I have leaned on Jesus even more for the strength to go on. Now each week in Adoration I plead for His Loving Mercy on my son’s soul, to eventually allow him into Heaven.

I am a different person now when I visit Him. I still write in my journal and pray my rosary in the little Adoration chapel, but I am a depleted version of my former self. Even so, I know on some level that getting that dose of time each week with Jesus is helping to sustain me, even propel me. He still has plans for my life, and this time I realize how much I will need Him.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Theresa Anthony is a freelance writer who specializes in writing within the addiction and mental health space. Her recently published memoir, My 13th Station, offers a transparent journey into her son’s battle with alcoholism and depression, culminating in his suicide, as well as intense spiritual warfare. My 13th Station is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble in both ebook and print formats.


RESOURCES

DBSA {Depression, Bipolar Support Alliance}

NAMI {National Alliance of Mental Illness}

NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE

MTHFR {genetic mutation associated with depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia}

Categories
Fatherhood Ink Slingers Loss Martina Motherhood Parenting Respect Life Vocations

Your Ultimate 2019 Pregnancy & Infant Loss Resource Guide

Your Ultimate 2019 Pregnancy & Infant Loss Resource Guide

Each year, on October 15 – National Pregnancy & Infant Loss Day, Catholic Sistas has made it a priority to share the vast and varied experiences of our writers (and friends writing guest pieces) on the impact of the loss of our children. This year, we thought we would share past posts (scroll down to the bottom of the post for a link to our archives on this topic), but take a different direction. Oftentimes, moms and dads have no idea what to do after they’ve been told of their baby’s loss. Add to this, many medical establishments (and sadly, even some parishes) are ill-equipped to even answer practical or spiritual questions, leaving the grieving couple (and children, too) to grapple and muddle their way through the trauma feeling isolated and alone.

This guide is intended to be thorough and give parents a place to through according to their needs, be it spiritual, in solidarity by reading through others’ accounts, or simply finding resources to work through the logistics of planning a burial, finding a Catholic cemetery that has a garden specifically for lost littles, and the steps for finding a priest to handle the burial rites. To make this guide simple, the information will be linked by category. If you have any additional resources you feel fit the scope of this post to be considered for next year, please don’t hesitate to email me at Martina@CatholicSistas.com.

 


NAVIGATING GRIEF

How do I break the news to my other children? This book, Loving Baby Louie, was written by grandparent and Catholic apologist and author David Currie and his wife Colleen. This family is close to the hearts of Catholic Sistas because their daughter, Alison, is a friend of Catholic Sistas. She wrote about the loss of Louie a couple of months after his death and before the book was written because she understood how important it was to not just share her story, but to reach other women and families dealing with similar tragedies. I invite you to read her story, and then purchase the book to support this wonderful family. Consider buying several copies to give to others in need.

My spouse and I are grieving differently. How can we best support each other through our loss? Grieving Together: A Couple’s Journey through Miscarriage, a book written by Laura and Franco Fanucci might be of some comfort.

How can I go about asking friends and family to remember our children through their grief? Though this was written for grief in times of sudden loss, there are some practicals that can be easily implement through the loss – miscarriage and infant loss.

A friend suffered a loss. How can I help both she and her family? Read this to find some good ways to help and read about some things to avoid doing in this time of great loss.

What if I don’t know if the baby was a girl or a boy? Prayerful discernment of a name is really all you need. It’s less important that you know the sex of the baby and more important to name the baby. If it’s something that is really pressing on your heart and mind, you can always pick a name that is gender-neutral. 

Should we name our baby? Ink Slinger Michelle does a beautiful job of sharing her own story of losses and the names they discerned. You can also share the name of your lost littles through the Shrine of the Unborn’s book of life in New York City or the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Remember that this child had an impact on your life, and naming allows you to acknowledge his or her unique identity, as well as your own grief. You can pray for the soul of your child by name, as well as ask them to pray for you. Your child is now an intercessor for you, before God in Heaven, and a part of the communion of saints: according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: ‘Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,’ allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism” (no. 1261).

A few options for naming your child:

  • If you are concerned that you might name the baby the wrong sex, try to find a gender-neutral name.
  • Look at the day the baby died, the day you found out you were pregnant, or his or her burial date, and choose from the list of Saints who have that as their feast day.

We weren’t able to baptize our baby before the loss. Now what? The CCC states in 1261: As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: ‘Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,’ allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. The Hope of Salvation for Infants who die without being Baptized is also a good read.

Is it possible to get PTSD from the stress of miscarriage and infant loss? Absolutely, and it’s not something you want to take lightly. If you or someone you know or love is showing signs of PTSD, PLEASE seek help. There is nothing wrong with asking for help. Read more about the connection between PTSD and miscarriage and infant loss here.

Read a father’s response to the loss of a child herehere, and here.

How do I normalize my loss/es? It’s hard. Grief is a weird thing that, truthfully, will take as long as it will take. You can’t rush it, but you also don’t need to let it drag on. If you are constantly in prayer about it, ask God to place that peace in your heart when the grief comes to a level place. One thing we did as a family was to talk about our babies whom we had named. We ask them at the end of our evening prayers to pray for us. We talk about them as though they are part of the family – because they are! And when referring to how many children we have, I will – depending on the type of conversation and how that is going – share about our losses. I have never felt right keeping that a secret, and it also models to my other children that our small army of saints IS a part of our family, every single day. Here is one of my witnesses about our third loss.

People keep referring to my lost baby as an angel, or saying “Heaven gained another angel,” but I know this is untrue, as angels are pure spirit and humans are both body and soul. Should I ignore or say something? It’s tough and I know people generally are trying to be supportive and kind in those moments and comments, but you are correct that people in heaven are not angels. All in heaven are called saints, though, which is why we can refer to Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel as saints. But man is not and never will be considered an angel. We humans are unique in creation and have a special dignity. It would seem that we have to change from human to something else in order to enter heaven and that can inadvertently have a lot of negative consequences, philosophically and theologically speaking.


PREGNANCY & INFANT LOSS RESOURCES

I just found out I am miscarrying. What do I do next? First, I am so so sorry for your loss. Whether this is your first loss or not, the grief you are feeling is real and raw. I’ve found the best way to move through the grief in a healthy way is to simply BE in those moments of emotion. It will lessen with time, but if you allow yourself to have those emotional moments, it ultimately helps you to process. As for the practical side of what to expect with your body in terms of pain, how long will it take, how do I collect the baby, this link may help you out.

What do I use to catch the remains of my miscarried baby? Heaven’s Gain sells a miscarriage kit that will help guide you through the process, both spiritually, and physically.

I don’t have anything to bury – I had no idea I was supposed to collect the baby’s remains. You know what? It’s OK. Seriously, it can be disheartening and a huge source of stress to not bury your baby – this happened with one of my lost babies and I was looking. If you need to, grieve as part of healthy coping, but know that you did NOTHING wrong. You can still have a memorial said and a marker made that honors that sweet little soul. If you look at our family marker, notice that the wording for Michael Christopher is different than the other lost babies, Felicity and Sarah. There was nothing I found to collect, so the wording simply reflected that. Ultimate Pregnancy & Infant Loss Resource Guide 2019

BOOKS

Loving Baby Louie: Hope in the Midst of Grief by Colleen and David Currie

Blessed is the Fruit of Thy Womb: Rosary Reflections on Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Loss by Heidi Indahl

PINTEREST

Miscarriage.Infant Loss board

 


BURYING MY BABY

Should I bury my baby? Yes, although it is not required. “The local ordinary can permit children whom the parents intended to baptize but who died before baptism to be given ecclesiastical funerals.” (Code of Canon Law, Canon 1183.2). The graces and healing that come from the closure of a burial are worth prayerful consideration as well.

Do I need to bury my baby in a cemetery? This varies from state to state, but depending on the gestational age of the baby, you may, in fact, be able to bury your child on your property. As someone who buried in my own backyard, and later came to regret that decision when we moved, please feel free to email me about specifics on why I ultimately found this to not be the best decision. Martina@CatholicSistas.com

Who do I contact to have my child buried? You have a few options, which will be further explained below. You can call your parish priest and leave a message, contact the person in charge of bereavement at your parish (which in some cases may still be the priest depending on the size of your church), or you can contact a local Catholic cemetery and ask for help. 

I’m overcome in my grief and the hospital is telling me I can’t take the remains of my miscarried child home. What are my options? Read this post first, as it will be a good first step in going over your options, from arrival to the hospital, what to pack, and how to treat those who give you both stellar and subpar care in the hospital.

ADDITIONALLY: If you give birth at a hospital, make sure you tell the staff (ahead of time if possible) that you want to take the baby home. Sadly, some hospitals treat younger gestation babies as medical waste and will dispose of them accordingly unless you request otherwise. Older gestation babies (the age will vary, but starting at around 18-20 weeks) are usually kept in the hospital morgue and are easy to request for burial. Even if you requested genetic testing, you should still be able to come back to the hospital to retrieve the baby.

How do I contact a priest to help me with the burial rites? Contact your local church and ask to speak with or leave a message with either the person in charge of bereavement or with your priest directly. If a receptionist tells you that’s not something the priests handle or that they don’t really handle miscarriages, insist on speaking with or leaving a message anyway. You will find plenty of personalities that may not speak to your grieving heart – push through, anyway and leave that message. The person who coordinates funerals or the priest directly will get back in contact with you. Additionally, you can contact the cemetery and they will be able to assist you in locating a priest.

How can my parish best serve grieving families? This article is a MUST READ for all parishes. Many times, Catholic churches do a good job of assisting families in times of death and burial – the pastoral element MUST be present, but when it comes to miscarriage and sometimes even infant loss, it can be a challenge to bring solace and help to the family. 

How can I assist other families in their time of grief? This article by Heidi Indahl provides great insight into the role Catholics play in supporting others through these times.

Can I even buy a casket small enough for my child from an early miscarriage? Heaven’s Gain is a good place to start – they carry caskets for first trimester through third trimester losses as well as infant urns. Trappist Caskets will also send you a FREE casket and an engraved cross when the parents speak directly with the Monks.

Resources and help burying your baby in TexasMary Claire Project

Resources from the Arlington Diocese (Virginia)

 


ARCHIVES

General collection of articles of Ink Slingers and friends of Catholic Sistas of both pregnancy loss and infant loss.

 


A BIG THANK YOU

Heidi Indahl of Work and Play, Day by Day

Catholic Miscarriage Support

Mary Claire Project

Heaven’s Gain

David Currie

 

Categories
Feast Days Loss Mary Victoria K

A Space for Grief: A Reflection on Our Lady of Sorrows

our lady of sorrows

A Confusing Feast

On first look, Our Lady of Sorrows is confusing. It’s a whole day, a whole “Feast” Day, devoted to sorrow. How does one celebrate and commemorate sorrow? What’s more, Mary’s the Queen of Heaven, and Heaven’s a place of eternal happiness. How does that fit with this Lady of Sorrows? She’s a woman, draped in dark clothing, a tear falling down her cheek, a sword of sorrow piercing her heart. What do we, on our journey towards Heaven, have to learn from this woman, filled with grief?

Our Lady of Sorrows made no sense to me for a long time. But there was a lot for me to learn from our mother Mary in her time of grief. What’s more, I found that I need her in my own sorrows.

 

A Self-Realization

For me, Our Lady of Sorrows was particularly confusing because I’m really bad at experiencing sorrow. Even now I’m trying to find a joke I can attach to that statement. Like, “I know, I know, how can someone be ‘bad,’ at being ‘sad?’” Or, “I’m the life of the party at funerals.” But I’m working to not gloss over this self-realization with humor.

This realization came to me at a very specific moment. A little over a year ago, my grandfather passed away. He was joyful, intelligent, and quick with a sly smile. You never saw him without a book in hand, reading on topics ranging from ancient Greece to films from the jazz age to the intricacies of ocean sailing. As I grew older, I would listen to him explain the books he was reading at great detail, forming my budding ability at critical thought.

On the day of my grandfather’s heart attack, my father called me while I was working, overseeing about a dozen middle school students working on their homework. I ignored the first call, and then he called again, and again. On the forth call I picked up. I remember distinctly not understanding what my father was saying, I knew the words but I couldn’t piece together the meaning.

After a time, his meaning finally clicked. My grandfather, while shoveling the Minnesota snow, collapsed from a heart attack. I acknowledged that I understood what my father was saying, and little tears fell down my cheeks. After hanging up, I wiped those tears away, and got back to work.

It was like nothing had even happened.

 

No Space for Sorrow

I ignored the event, and went on with my life. So, that on its own would not have been such a big deal. Sometimes it’s important to compartmentalize, to be able to get the job done, to not fall apart.

But I never gave my sorrow any space. At all. I went home. When I told my husband, it was like I was sharing another piece of news. I prayed for my grandpa, but it was mechanical, something I did because I was supposed to. The next day I went to work, never mentioning it to anyone.

I buried it and moved on.

Everyone experiences sorrow in their own way. There’s no right or wrong way for grief to appear. But the way I had buried it inside myself was not healthy for me. I loved my grandpa immensely. I still love him, and at times I miss him with a sharp pain (A sword of sorrow pierced her heart). To go on, pretending nothing had happened, was a lie. It cheated the love I felt and owed my grandfather.

 

All the Grief Came Gushing Forth

At my grandpa’s wake, I didn’t want to approach the open casket. I had so successfully buried my grief, and I knew, I just knew, that if I saw him it would all fall apart.

But I loved him. Like Mary, longing to be close to her son, I longed to be close to my grandfather. Therefore, just as Mary stood at the foot of the Cross, I approached my grandpa’s casket.

As I did, all the sorrow, all the pain, all the hurt, all the grief, came gushing forth. I wept. After burying everything for so long, I wept in front of everyone.

Shortly thereafter, we prayed a rosary in the funeral home. My attention was caught by a particularly beautiful image of Our Lady of Sorrows on a prayer card. I felt very strongly our Mother’s compassionate presence beside me, praying for my grandpa with me.

Our Lady of Sorrows, who had confused me for so long, started to make a lot more sense.

 

A Necessary Part of Love

Now when I see Our Lady of Sorrows, I understand. In our fallen world, where death and sin are our realities, grief is a necessary part of love. If we love, we will experience loss and hurt. For our hearts to be pure, sometimes, they will be broken.

Our Lady of Sorrows gives us a place for our sadness, our distress. She sits with us in the moments that can’t be fixed, that can’t be made better by ignoring them. Like a loving friend, she empathizes with our grief. She doesn’t judge or chastise, or tell us to “cheer up” or “get over it.” She listens, all the while pointing back to the hope that only her Son can provide.

Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us.

 

Looking for more reflections on this beautiful devotion?  Check out two reflections on The Seven Sorrows of Mary, Remembering Our Lady’s Sorrows and Seven Quick Takes: The Seven Sorrows of Mary.

You can also find a beautiful prayer and reflection here.

Categories
Alyssa Azul Ink Slingers Loss

Loss and Legacy

 

2019 has so far been a year of many losses. I lost my great aunt, my mom’s good friend, and my boss (may they all rest in peace). Losses also came to me in the form of losing a mentor to a layoff, and losing a friendship. I think one of the most sorrowful losses I experienced this year was one that I saw coming: the death of our Lord during Lent.

This Easter was tough for many reasons. All of my losses seemed to fall one after another during Lent and afterwards. The most recent one was quite jarring for me.

I lost my boss this week. I write this in honour of him, who honoured my writing. He was a brilliant architect and an insatiable storyteller; a creative mind that couldn’t be contained. He understood me on that level, and that need to create something that changes the lives of others in whatever form that may take.

I don’t like funerals for obvious reasons. I sit there with a lump stuck in my throat that doesn’t seem to go away. It’s the kind you get when you try not to cry, and it swells up when you attempt to get out a few words. It feels like there is nothing in the world at that moment that can make the pain go away. You look at the faces of the people grieving, and you realize just how loved this person was. That there’s a love even death cannot conquer.

I can’t help but reflect on Jesus, and what it must have been like for Him, who had to die without a ‘loving’ send-off or a funeral. How lonely and devastating His death must have been. Yet he knew that His suffering would have purpose.

Through death I begin to understand what it means to honour someone else’s legacy. Oxford dictionary tells us that a legacy is “something left or handed down by a predecessor.”

What did Jesus leave us when he left this earth? He gave us forgiveness and salvation. As Christians, we understand that we cannot have those two things without love. Jesus left us with perfect love. Just like heirs to a throne, we are called to honour that legacy and pass it on. We pursue holiness through the cross – the passion of His perfect love He left us with.

I picture a brazen warrior suited in gleaming armor on a steed, taking down foes with her bare hands to defend and uphold the king’s legacy. Unfortunately, this is not typically what happens immediately when “moving on” from a great loss. There are days when we are indifferent. Days when we are angry. Days when we forget. Days when we grieve all over again.

At my beloved boss’ funeral, many beautiful tributes were shared, and the word “legacy” came up. They said he left us with a very important legacy- not his awards or accomplishments, but his children. This man left the world suddenly, but not without leaving us his pride and joy, and what one might say, his idea of perfect love itself.

Perhaps in some similar small or big way, we as children of God are a legacy. We have purpose upon being brought into this world. The legacy doesn’t end when the person leaves this earth. We continually deepen a relationship with a God that is not “physically” with us right? Just as my boss’ children will not forget who their father was and what he did in his life.

The future holds a lot more for the people left behind by great tragedy, but I am also of another perspective. I think that part of moving on means never forgetting. It means looking back every once in a while to remember who came before us. Memories are powerful, in that there is a constancy to them. As if a snapshot was frozen in time. We draw on those memories to remind us how important it is to live for others. The resurrection of Jesus transcends this lifetime and the next, and as heirs to the kingdom, how do we make our father proud?

One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. – Psalm 145:4

 

Loss and Legacy
Categories
Faith Formation Ink Slingers Loss Mary Michelle Hamel Parenting Prayer Respect Life Saints Vocations

When Our Lady Reaches Down to Us

WhenOurLadyReachesDowntoUs

I gave one of my sons the game Bananagrams for Christmas and it became an obsession for some of us. We’ve played over 100 times since Christmas day, including a “Bananagrams Madness” tournament at our little New Year’s Eve gathering. (I admit that I am one of the people that look forward to playing whenever someone else is willing. Scrabble has always been one of my favorite games and Banangrams is similar with a quicker pace!)

Keeping on the topic of favorite things, one of my favorite feast days recently passed; Our Lady of Lourdes. Growing up, I really didn’t learn much about the saints despite attending Catholic elementary school. It wasn’t until I was a young adult that I started to read more about my faith, which included the lives of the saints.

About 21 years ago and only about 2 years after my reversion…I am a cradle Catholic who, beyond going to Mass on Sundays, didn’t really have a relationship with God until I was about 20…my husband, Jay, was going through a rough time with his first of three grad school clinicals. He had been placed in a setting where his supervisor was unprofessional and had an issue with men. It was a very negative atmosphere and a very stressful time. At the time of the clinical, we had three little boys under 5 and I was pregnant with our first daughter. I was working part time and really worried about Jay and everything he was going through.

My introduction to Our Lady of Lourdes seems to have been a happy accident, but I prefer to see it as a Godincidence in my life at the time. On February 11th, 1998, I felt the pull to go to Mass before going to work that day. I walked into Mass carrying all of my worries and still very new to my faith. During Mass, the priest announced that it was the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. All that I knew about Our Lady of Lourdes was from the CCC video on St. Bernadette that we had bought for our sons. But, just knowing that is was a Marian feast day brought me comfort. I left Mass feeling a deep sense of peace and I thought it was a sign that God was telling me everything would turn out all right.(i.e. the way I wanted it to!)

Now that I’m not so new to my faith, I understand that a deep sense of peace and knowing that God is in control does not mean that things will turn out the way I hope they will. Sometimes when we bring our fears and worries to God, He takes them completely away from us. Other times, God gives us the grace to carry them and the consolation that we are not alone. He is always right there with us.

The next few months of 1998 taught me a lot about suffering and faith. Jay’s clinical did not turn around, and the school removed him from the terrible situation but he had to repeat the whole clinical and had to wait three extra months to graduate. My pregnancy developed problems and I delivered a baby girl that May, who we only got to love in this life for 16 days. Yet, throughout all of the discouragement and suffering, God carried us. He helped us to survive such traumatic experiences and, over time, healed our broken hearts.

This year, I prayed a novena to Our Lady of Lourdes and I was able to attend Mass for the feast day. At Mass, I remembered the peace that Mary brought me all those years ago. I am so grateful for a Mother in Heaven who reaches down to console me when I bring my hurts to her Son.

Is there a time in your life when you felt Mary’s presence or intercession in a special way?