Madison’s balloon escaped from her tiny hands and floated gracefully up to the sky. “My balloon!” she cried stretching out her arms as far as she could reach. I tried to calm her down but she wanted her balloon. I told her that we could get her another but tears sprang from her eyes as she continued to reach for her lost balloon. I turned her face towards me and said, “Let’s let that balloon go to heaven. That way our babies will have a balloon too.” She stopped crying and looked at me. She gave a crooked smile and said, “William and all our babies can have a balloon too.” I took her by the hand and we asked the man handing out the balloons for another. She smiled happily as I tied it to her arm for safe-keeping.
Shortly afterward we began our walk. We were participating in the Archdiocese of Atlanta’s embrace ministry’s Remembrance Walk. Slowly our family meandered our way surrounded by others who had also suffered through a miscarriage, still birth or the death of an infant. They were like us… missing their babies and doing what they could to make sure their little ones knew they were loved and missed. As we walked Madison looked up at me, her blue eyes searching my own and asked, “Mama, why did William have to die?” My breath caught in my throat. I worried about others overhearing her question. Would it bring up too much pain for them? Would my answer to her bring them comfort as well? I looked down at Madison and replied with a sad smile, “I’m not sure Sweetie. Sometimes babies just aren’t meant to stay with us. They are called back to heaven to be with God.” Madison smiled at me. That seemed like a good enough answer for the moment.
As we walked I contemplated all that we have been through. I thought about the pain, the suffering, the loneliness, the darkness, the healing, and the light. If someone had told me almost three years ago that I would be happy now I wouldn’t have believe them. How could we go through hell and still be ok? When I was there, in the deepest, darkest parts of suffering, the light seemed so far away. The pain ripped at my heart every second of every day. It felt like it would never end. In a way I didn’t want it to end. I felt it was all I had left to tie me to my precious babies. I was wrong. I had something so much more to remind me of the little ones I only held for such a short time. I had hope… the hope that one day I will hold them in Heaven once again.
I often wonder how people without faith are able to get through these kinds of “injustices” that life seems to hand out. I think I would have been shattered forever if I had no hope of ever seeing my babies again. However, I know that my babies wait for me in heaven and the very thought is what helped me many days when it seemed like all could be lost. That hope was light in the darkness and I tried my hardest to focus on that glimmer that shone constant.
Looking back I can clearly see the path that my healing took. It wasn’t a straight path but one that twist and turned and sometimes took me right back to the beginning. It was a long path, one I am still on and probably always will be for the rest of my life, but one that has brought me to this place in my life now. The place I am now is one of acceptance and peace. It still has many moments of sadness and a few of despair, but most days I can see and understand… this is something I never thought I would be able to do.
In the beginning it was hard to pray. I was sad, angry, hurt, and felt alone. I didn’t want to pray to a God that took my babies! Still, I knew that it was important to continue to pray. I also knew in my heart that God didn’t take them as a punishment but it was easier to think of Him as the bad guy when I just didn’t know what to think or believe. Thank goodness our Father is so understanding and loving… He took my accusations and shouldered them. He accepted my pain as His and held me even closer to Him. I began to pray the prayers I had memorized as a child. Thank goodness for those prayers as it was hard for me to pray in my own words at that time.
God knew my pain; He had lost His own Son too. He knew what I would need to heal. He sent me friends who had suffered as I had. My beautiful friend Ann would become a confidant and source of great comfort to me. She had lost her own son and knew just what I was going through. She sent me the book “Tear Soup”. I read it and cried. It gave me permission to grieve as long as I needed to grieve and in the way that I needed to grieve. While I shouldn’t have to have permission to grieve many times others make us feel like we are grieving too long or not in the right way. But who is to say what your grief should look like? Ann reassured me that I could cry as long as I need. She told me that some days would be harder than others and that one day I would not cry. I didn’t believe her then but I know now she was right.
God also helped me heal by sending me friends who had no idea what I was going through and yet loved me so much they wanted to be there for me. My wonderful friend Jeannie would be one that I have no doubt God hand-picked just for me. Always encouraging me and my big family she would also be one of my friends who would see me through the darkest times. She called and checked on me, she asked if I was ok, she prayed for us, and then she did something that meant more to me than she could ever know… she asked me for all of my babies’ names. Only one other person had ever asked me what all my babies’ names were. She told me that she wanted to make me something to remember them by. I listed off their names, my heart breaking while writing them down. She would go on to make me a necklace with all their names included in it. It was the most beautiful act of love anyone has ever done for me, for my babies. Knowing that someone else loved them too made my heart ache and fill with joy at the same time. How could she love them when she had never seen their hearts beating as I had; had never felt them move; had never held them after they were born? She loved them because she loved me. God knew I needed our children acknowledged in this way. Just asking what their names were gave validity that there were here, that they lived, and that they were loved. Wearing that necklace my heart could feel a little bit more whole again. Knowing that Jeannie still continues to pray for my children by name makes me feel like we are not the only ones who understand just how precious they are and just how much we love and miss them.
Healing comes slowly. When you lose a child you lose a part of yourself. It takes time to recover. For me there are many things that have helped me through the dark times. The first and foremost aspect to healing for me was to understand that all the feelings I have felt and will feel are legitimate. They are my feelings. No one can tell me what is right or wrong to feel. I have lost something so very special that it will have an effect on my entire life. When I embrace those feelings I can work through them easier.
Healing came through knowing that there are others who have gone through what I am going through. No one has gone through exactly what I have but they know the pain of losing a child, or in my case, losing many children, especially back to back. It’s important not to block out those who understand that pain. They can help you through. They know how very dark it gets but they have also seen the beautiful light that waits for you. They can offer advice to help you ride out those waves of despair and help you through what seems impossible to navigate.
Prayer is a powerful healing tool. Go to God. He knows your suffering well. He can comfort you like no other. His love is unending and all-encompassing. Go to Mary. She lost her child too. She knows your pain. Let her wrap you in the mantle of her love.
Acknowledge your child. Name him or her. Talk about him. Celebrate his life. If you have other children let them talk about their sibling. Hearing my children often talk about one of their lost siblings makes my heart so happy. They know and understand that just because we are separated doesn’t mean they aren’t a part of our family and loved so dearly.
Journal, seek counseling, become involved in activities that help others through loss, share your knowledge, comfort others, cry when you need to, feel happy and joyful when you can, love with all your heart and soul, pray, pray, and pray some more. Your heart will heal if you allow it. Don’t be afraid to heal.
My heart has holes in it that I can never fill. Those pieces will forever be gone. To be honest I don’t want them back. My children, those who didn’t get to stay for long, hold those pieces. It is one of the only gifts I can give them… a piece of my heart to hold forever. It makes me happy to think that they can feel the love I have for them in the beating of my heart that they hold in their hands.
This journey has been long and hard. I know it is not over. There will days I will cry and days I will smile. There will be days when I question God “Why me?” and other days that I thank God for the brief time I had with my babies. But, I will continue to heal and hold fast to the knowledge that in my suffering Christ is always there beside me.
“The Lord is near the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
Michelle Fritz is a daughter of God, a cradle Catholic, a Georgia peach, a devoted wife of almost 30 years to amazing husband Mike, and an eclectic homeschooling mother to eleven living children. She has experienced the loss of 16 babies in her call to be open to life, but knows that God is always loving and always gracious. She and her husband know that they have an army of Saints already in heaven!
In addition to her vocation as wife, mom, and homeschool teacher she also holds a Masters in Theology and has recently taken on the role of Youth Minister for both the middle school and high school groups at her parish.