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Ink Slingers Loss Michelle Pro-Life Issues Resources Respect Life Respect Life Month

What to Say When a Friend Miscarries

what to say when a friend miscarries

The loss of a child during pregnancy can be one of the most devastating events in a person’s life. Not only do you lose your child but you lose all the hopes and dreams that you had for that child. Your life never feels the same. Things that brought you joy now bring you pain. Things you loved to do now seem trivial. Your heart feels empty as there is now piece of your heart gone forever. It can be one of the loneliest and heart-wrenching experiences you will ever have.

Perhaps you have never lost a child but you have a friend who has recently experienced a loss. As a friend it can be difficult to know what to say and what to do to help her through this traumatic event. Sometimes even those who have suffered a miscarriage or experienced a stillbirth will find it difficult to know just the right thing to say. For those who have never lost a child it may feel like you are wading through a mine field knowing that if you say the wrong things you might cause more harm than good. It feels like everything you say is not enough and nothing you do will help heal her pain.

However, there are things you can say and do that when she looks back on them, she will remember them with love and appreciation. Likewise, there are things that you should avoid saying or doing so that you don’t contribute to the pain she already feels so deeply. But how do you know what to say or what to do?

I thought it would be helpful if I gave a short list of several things to avoid saying and several things that I found to be helpful and comforting during my many miscarriages. I hope that they will help you to provide love and comfort to your friend as she experiences one of the worst pains imaginable.

What NOT to say…

  • This happened for a reason
  • The baby probably had something wrong with him/her
  • You can always try again
  • You are so young, you have lots of time to have babies
  • At least you have other children at home
  • At least you don’t have other children at home to console
  • You should be thankful for what you have
  • At least it was an early loss
  • The next one will be fine
  • You are so old, this must be a sign for you to stop having kids
  • You already have enough children, this is God’s way of telling you to stop
  • You need to stop grieving and get on with your life, you are missing so much out there

Things TO say…

  • I am so sorry
  • Is there anything I can do
  • I am praying for you
  • Can I take the kids sometime so you can have some time to be alone to grieve
  • Can I bring you dinner
  • My heart hurts for you, I am here to listen if you need me
  • How are you feeling
  • I know nothing I say or do can take away your pain, please know that I am here for you
  • I don’t know what to say
  • Would you like a hug
  • How is your husband doing
  • How are your kids doing
  • I know how much you wanted and loved this baby
  • I can cry with you if you need someone to cry with
  • I would love to hear about your baby
  • I love you

Helping a friend through a loss can be difficult. Your friend may not want you to do anything. She might need you to do everything. She may want to talk incessantly about her baby, her loss, and her experience or she may not want to share anything about it with you. She may need to go out and occupy herself with activities that don’t remind her of what she is going through or she may want to stay at home and away from everyone else.

Each person grieves differently. As a friend it is most important that you open your heart to her. Speak with gentleness and kindness even if she lashes out in pain. While you may have difficulty putting yourself in her shoes to know that she is going through, remember that right now she needs empathy and compassion.

Reach out to her not only in the first few days and weeks of her loss but in the months that follow. Important dates like her due date, holidays, and other events are sure to bring a new wave of tears and sadness. It will likely be hard on her to see others having babies. Be there for her as she is jealous and angry and sad. Tell her that her feelings are all right and they are good… she needs to work through them to help her heal.

More than anything, remind her that you are there for her. Don’t be scared of her pain. It will hurt you to see her cry, but allow your shoulders to be damp with her tears. While she may not be able to say thank you now, your acts of love and charity to her during the worst time of her life will be a part of the light that saw her through the darkness.

tears

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Ink Slingers Mary P.

True Mercy

True Mercy
 
One of my sisters-in-law is an elementary teacher in a public school. She once told me that one of the ways she subtly spreads a Christian message is by teaching her students that when someone apologizes, they should respond not with “It’s OK,” but instead with, “I forgive you.” When you tell someone they are forgiven, you acknowledge that what they did was wrong but also express that you love them anyway, and will let go of the hurt they caused. Conversely, simply saying “it’s OK” implies that what they did was not really wrong or did not hurt. I had never really thought about it like that before, but I immediately saw the wisdom in her approach. Through this simple instruction to her students, my sister-in-law teaches them true mercy.
 
These days, there is a profound misunderstanding of mercy in our culture – both the secular and Christian parts. People rightly sense that mercy is a necessary virtue, but they do not understand how to exercise that virtue properly. A common way that people attempt to exercise mercy is to excuse or explain away another’s behavior so that the other person won’t feel bad about it. The focus is on assuaging their consciences. There is a prevailing belief that feelings of guilt are caused externally, by others “shaming” a person. Mercy is an effort to relieve those feelings of guilt by telling people they have nothing to be ashamed of. For example, it is considered “merciful” to advise abortion for women in crisis pregnancies or who are facing difficult prenatal diagnoses, and the opposite of mercy to hold the position that abortion is wrong. An example within our Church is that many Catholics (including many priests) believe it “merciful” to tell couples that they may use contraception in difficult circumstances (or whenever they want!), and unmerciful to hold people to the teachings of the Church.
 
True Christian mercy, however, is about healing. Sin harms us, whether we realize it or not. If we want to show mercy, we must focus not on making others feel better about themselves, but on making them actually better. Jesus likened himself to a physician who came to heal those that were sick. His curing of physically ill people was to demonstrate the spiritual reality taking place when he ministered to sinners (the spiritually ill). Those who were already “OK” did not need him. Can we really say it is true mercy to tell sick people that they really aren’t sick and they don’t need to worry about getting well? Sure, it probably will make them feel better for a time. They might feel relieved and hopeful at first. But they will not be healed, and they may eventually perish because their illness was left untreated. When Jesus met the woman at the well, he gently called her out on her many “husbands,” making her uncomfortable with her behavior. When he saved the adulterous woman from being stoned, he told her to “go and sin no more.” Yes, he fellowshipped with tax collectors and prostitutes, but an encounter with Jesus never left anyone feeling like their life was just fine the way it was. 
 
Be_Merciful_Luke-300x196Mercy requires understanding and compassion, and the humble recognition that we are not “too good” to commit any of the sins for which we might feel tempted to judge others. Yet, it also requires Truth, because it is only in acknowledging the reality of a situation that we can begin to make it better. During this designated “Year of Mercy,” Pope Francis certainly has emphasized the importance of being compassionate toward others, “accompanying” them in their difficulties. But he has also emphasized the importance of going to confession for healing. He says that sin makes us blind, and confession is where our sight is restored. When we go to confession, we have to admit we are sinners (acknowledge the truth of our situation), profess that we are sorry, and vow to try to avoid sinning in the future. The priest is meant to respond how the Lord responds to sorrowful sinners – not by saying “It’s OK,” but by saying “You are forgiven; now go and sin no more.” Like Jesus, his job is not to tell us that we were seeing just fine, but to facilitate the recovery of our lost sight. 
 
The final document from the Synod on the Family is expected to be made public tomorrow, April 8 (which also happens to be the anniversary of the funeral of Pope Saint John Paul II, who introduced and promoted to the world the Divine Mercy devotion). Many people are expecting this document to contain a concession for Catholics who are divorced and “remarried” without an annulment to receive the Eucharist, despite the fact that they are remaining in an objectively sinful state. They believe that this would be in keeping with Pope Francis’s message of mercy. On the contrary, this would be the opposite of mercy. It would be akin to telling a sick person that they aren’t really sick, or a blind person that their sight is perfect. The Church has a sacred responsibility to stand in the Truth, even if the Truth doesn’t feel good. I am praying that Pope Francis is not swayed by the cultural misunderstanding of mercy, but will hold fast to the Truth so as to facilitate authentic healing by the Divine Physician. 
 
 
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Amy M. Domestic Church Faith Formation Ink Slingers Parenting Vocations

Our Catholic School Family

As Catholic Schools Week approaches in our diocese, I find myself reflecting on how we ended up choosing Catholic school for our children.

jack

Catholic school was not really on our radar when we started our family. My husband and I both grew up going to large public schools and did “fine.” When we bought our house, we made sure we were in a good school district and fully intended to send our children there eventually. Then the time came to send our oldest to kindergarten. Full of energy and with a love of story hours, our teacher and librarian parents strongly encouraged us to consider sending him to our parish school as it had full-day kindergarten. Great reason to pick a school, right? We knew we liked our parish, so we decided to try the school. We enrolled our son in kindergarten and our oldest daughter in the nursery school. Soon it was time for the first day of school. We barely knew anyone at the school, save for the few families we had met through church functions and common time spent in the crying room during mass (we had three children with one on the way at the time).

 

Grace

One of the first experiences that solidified our decision being the right one for our family was the first day of nursery school for our daughter. She was only three and cried when we got to school. Her teacher reached out and took her from me and carried her into the school. I took a deep breath and walked out of the school. I didn’t cry until I got to the van. When I picked them both up from school that afternoon, they asked me to pull forward to cone “0” for my daughter. Uh-oh, I thought. But no, her teacher met me at the van, carrying her. She had fallen asleep while waiting in the car line. I took her back from her teacher and buckled her into her car seat. She woke up and exclaimed, “Mommy, I LOVE school!” From that point forward, she jumped out of the car eager to learn and was sad on days she didn’t have school.

 

 

We quickly found that St. Mary’s, both church and school, was a second family to us. Through the years, the reasons have multiplied. Being in a Catholic school, the children attend from nursery school until eighth grade. The older ones look out for the younger children.

high five picbanner

The eighth graders walk the kindergartners to their classroom each day. The older grades “buddy up” with the younger grades; the classes interspersed at school mass. Oh, and school mass. The songs fill the air. The homilies bring out responses in the students. My first-grader comes home telling me who wrote that day’s gospel and what the lectionary is. They often talk about the saint of the day. Their conversations at home build on what they’ve learned at school and vice versa.

Our eighth graders have been playing basketball together for four years now. They have had enough players to have two teams of ten boys. The teams have been approximately the same for all four years. As the years have gone by, the boys have gelled as teams do. Watching them grow and become young men. They have been blessed to have coaches who care about helping them develop life skills as young men in addition to their basketball skills.

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Today we had three basketball games. At the first game, my first-grader was helping me video my fourth-grader. I suggested that she could help with her brother’s game next. She informed me that she had people to see when she was at school. The cheerleaders are very accepting of her and our preschooler and let them cheer along with them.

teampic

The basketball tournament started this weekend for our boys. The two teams played back-to-back with many of the boys and their families staying for both games. Classmates and fellow students also came to cheer everyone. The whole gym cheered as each of our ten players scored in today’s game. The comradery is unmatched by anything I’ve ever experienced. I know that these boys have each other’s backs regardless of social status or level of coolness.

With an almost two-year old, I spend much of my time chasing my  toddler up and down the bleachers and out into the hallway. Out in the hallway, some of the students were talking. They all stopped to play with my toddler, who ate up the attention. One of the players from the other team saw me coming in and out of the gym, trying to catch a glimpse of the game but make sure the toddler was safe. He told me not to worry, he would watch my toddler so that I could see more of the game. As he said this, the four other students made the same offer. These kids could have easily been bothered by this little brother running around where they were talking. Instead, they were quick to offer to help.

When someone is sick or hurt or in need, the whole school quickly steps up to help in whatever way is needed, praying, bringing meals, offering rides, anything. It is just one way we can open our arms to serve others, bringing God’s Grace to everyone around us. The faith-based education allows our children to pray in school, go to church and participate in the sacraments with their peers.

When we started out, we were looking for a sound academic foundation for our son in full-day kindergarten. We have not been disappointed with that. Our son is currently taking classes two years ahead of his grade level, an opportunity that may not have been available to him in a different school. What we have found in addition is that our children are also receiving a strong expansion of their understanding of our beautiful faith through the integration of faith into each of their subjects. We teach and try to model the faith at home and love that these ideals are being fortified through their learning at school.

Faith, Academics, Life Lessons, and Compassion are the reason Catholic school education has remained the best decision our family has made.

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Confession Faith Formation Ink Slingers Lent Michelle Sacred Scripture Spiritual Growth Uncategorized

A Penitent Heart

Have you ever wondered how God can love you so much even though you are a sinner?  It’s hard to imagine someone loving us even when we’ve done very sinful and terrible things.  And yet God loves us unconditionally.  It’s hard to wrap our minds around, especially when we have such a hard time forgiving others for the wrongs they commit against us.  Sometimes we may even find ourselves withholding forgiveness from those who have hurt us the most.  We want those people to suffer the way they have made us suffer.  We refuse to forgive because they haven’t asked us for forgiveness or because we don’t believe them to be contrite.  But does God withhold His love and forgiveness because we have yet to come to Him?  No, He is willing to forgive us the moment we sin against Him.  He wants more than anything to pour out His love and mercy upon us. He waits patiently for us, loving us the entire time.  He knows we are frail, weak of body, mind and spirit, and that we fall.  Still, He picks us up over and over, reassuring us of His love and His devotion to us.  He calls us to respond to others in the same manner that He treats us.

During the Lenten season we are called to have penitent hearts.  We are called to go to God and others to ask for forgiveness for our sins.  But are we only called to ask for forgiveness of our own sins or are we asked to delve deeper into forgiveness and what it entails?  We can look to the Gospels for this answer.  Christ told us over and over again that we are to forgive others as God forgives us.  But what does this have to do with Lent?  During Lent we are asked to evaluate our lives to see where we can make changes that will lead us to a closer and fuller relationship with God.  What better time is there than now, during this reflective time, to look at our lives to see where we may be withholding forgiveness; forgiveness that if given can bring us closer to the way Christ is calling us to live our lives?  Christ is very clear when He says, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15    He also doesn’t mince words when Peter asks, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times? “Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:21-22

We have to ask ourselves how we can go to God asking for forgiveness if we have not yet forgiven someone in our lives.  We expect God to show us mercy when we do not show others mercy.  Christ would tell us in Matthew 5:23-24 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”  and again in Luke 17:3-4  “So watch yourselves. “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says , ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”

Sometimes forgiveness seems almost impossible to give.  What if the person is truly not sorry for the sins they’ve committed against you?  Should we forgive anyway?  As hard as it sounds the answer remains a resounding yes.  Forgiveness is not saying that what others did to you was ok or right. It isn’t saying that you won’t safeguard yourself against getting hurt again.  It isn’t pretending that the hurt didn’t or doesn’t exist, but it is about surrendering the hurt to God.  It is saying you don’t need to hold onto the pain any longer.  It is giving it to Him as an act of trust that He will continue to take care of you.  When we give those hurts to God we cure our hearts of a sort of “cancer” that can take hold and destroy us.  Forgiveness is essential to our emotional health and well-being. When we refuse to forgive, our hearts harden.  A hardened heart has no room for God, it only has room for the hurt it clings to.  To have room in our hearts for God we must forgive others as God Himself forgives us.

Soon, on Good Friday, we will see the ultimate act of forgiveness as Christ, hanging on His cross, calls out to God, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34 If Jesus can forgive those who have sentenced Him to this horrible death we should be able to find forgiveness in our hearts for those who have hurt us as well.

This Lenten season, as you ponder what it means to have a penitent heart, remember that while we are called to search our hearts and souls to find where we need to ask for forgiveness, we are also asked to provide forgiveness.  When we provide others with the gifts of mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and love we benefit from the giving.  We heal our hearts and allow God a place to dwell.

“He who knows how to forgive prepares for himself many graces from God. As often as I look upon the cross, so often will I forgive with all my heart.”  ~St. Faustina