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.
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.
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.
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 Texas – Mary Claire Project
Resources from the Arlington Diocese (Virginia)
A BIG THANK YOU
Heidi Indahl of Work and Play, Day by Day