Ink Slingers Loss Rachel M Testimonials

When “I’m Sorry” Just Isn’t Enough…

Just as raising a child takes a village, it takes a community to grieve the loss of a child as well. These precious little ones are anticipated not only by their parents and siblings, but by grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends, neighbors, and fellow parishioners.

Too often when parents suffer a perinatal loss, friends and family members can feel lost as to how to help. Sometimes they are grief stricken as well and have to deal with their own pain. It can bring up memories of one’s own personal loss which can make these wounds fresh all over again. Perhaps, a friend doesn’t know the right words to say or feels that she may be inept to deal with the pain of another person. But, we are called by both the corporal and spiritual works of mercy to show the face of Jesus to those suffering and in distress. We’re called to take this agonizing opportunity to put aside our earthly problems, and tend to those who need us.

Recently, one of my dearest friends revealed to me that not only were we blessed enough to be pregnant at the same time, but our due dates were going to be only days apart. We discussed, as best friends do, about how our children would grow up to be best friends too; go to school together, tell secrets to each other, perhaps marry each other and bless us with many many grandbabies. We made plans.

A few short weeks later, my friend’s baby died while still in his mother’s womb. His little heart stopped beating. My heart was breaking. I watched my sweet friend suffer through gut-wrenching physical, emotional, and spiritual pain. I was scared. I felt guilty that my own pregnancy might somehow be making her suffering worse. I didn’t know if I should talk to her about it or keep the subject hush hush. I thought to myself, “I can’t even deal with my own pain from this, how can I help her?” But I realized, I was being incredibly selfish. No matter what anguish I was suffering over the death of her precious child, hers was immensely more tragic. She must wake up every day, and again face that her beautiful child is not here on Earth.

Knowing that I needed to help my friend, I turned to prayer. I asked for help to be a friend and confidant, a safe haven where my friend could share her feelings no matter what they were. I did what things I could to support her and her family, made meals, prayed, told her I was available. And of course, our Lord heard my prayers, and answered them in the way that only He can. I found out about a presentation at a local parish titled, “Healing After a Perinatal Loss: How You Can Help”! It is through my stumbling efforts and hearing the words of Ann Valdez, Mercy Hospital Perinatal Hospice Nurse and Bereavement Coordinator, that I got the confidence to try to become a good friend – A friend who could grieve alongside someone, and truly be Jesus for that person.

I humbly offer you these ideas to think about when and if you face this same situation. I of course know that there are many other ways to support someone grieving the loss of a child, and that this is not a comprehensive list. It is only through my experience, through the words of Ann Valdez, and prayer that these suggestions became clear to me.

Just Be There – Visit, call, write letters to the family. You don’t have to say anything special, you don’t have to have the right words, you just need to be there for them. Listen, and if you must speak, make your words from the heart. And, keep calling writing, texting, visiting.

Offer to help them around the house with meals, chores, or errands. Don’t just offer, make sure they know you mean it. Make them their favorite dessert, pick up a bag of groceries, mow their lawn, offer to babysit. Do those little things, the everyday mundane tasks that can seem overwhelming when dealing with such emotional strain.

Let Them Be in Pain – You don’t have to say something that will make it all go away, because you can’t. It will be hard to not be able to “fix it”, but why should it be fixed? The death of a child should be mourned, it should be hard.

Remember – Celebrate the life and death of the child. Offer Mass on the anniversary of the child’s death. Bring the mother flowers on Mother’s Day. Call that child by name in conversation. Do something that tells your friend that you remember and love their child.

Even among Christians who know that a baby in the womb is a person, it can be taboo to discuss miscarriage. Don’t let your friend feel that way. Bring their loss to the light where it can be cherished and remembered, not shoved away in some dark corner.

Pray – Above all else, pray! There is nothing we can do that will ever be more than our Heavenly Father can do. Offer sacrifices for your friend and her suffering. Say a novena to our Blessed Mother for your friend’s intentions. Have Holy Mass said for the child. Pray for the intercession of parent Saints.

Blessed Mother Mary, you above anyone know the pain of  losing a child. You who watched your Son die on the cross, and felt the emptiness of facing the world without Him. Pray for all families who suffer this same loss. That they may be healed through our savior Jesus Christ, and their hearts may someday feel whole again. Amen.

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Walking the Way of the Cross without Samantha

I didn’t make it to Mass last year on Ash Wednesday. I remember seeing a Mass schedule on the door to the chapel at St. David’s as I rushed past. I had just been to visit my daughter Samantha in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. She was 17 days old. She and her twin sister Hannah were born 8 weeks early. She had surgery 2 weeks ago and was in an isolet recovering well. I had to hurry to Round Rock Medical Center, at least half an hour away, to see Hannah during her feeding time. Then I’d rush home to see my 2 year old daughter at home and hopefully put her to bed. I went to bed as soon as possible because the next day it started all over again. As you may imagine, Lenten observance was not exactly on my radar at the time.

Five days into lent, at 22 days old they moved Samantha to RRMC and both girls were together. Ten days into lent, at 27 days old, Hannah came home. 23 days into Lent, at 40 days old, Samantha contracted NEC and passed away within 10 hours.

You can see how last lent was different. When holy week came around Father Danny asked us to carry the oils up to the altar. They had a special significance to us now, since Father Danny had given Samantha her last rites just hours after I baptized her. I didn’t know if I planned to go to Mass at all that week. I didn’t think I could handle being at the church so much. Mass was so painful.

As you can imagine, it was very difficult to relate to God at that time. All I could think about were those hours we waited during Samantha’s surgery to find out if she would survive. I desperately called out to God in my fear. I cried out to my Mother to beseech her son to heal my baby. I cried out and begged my loving and merciful God to spare my little girl. I never really considered that He might say no.

Now, every time I saw Him at mass I felt abandoned and alone. The security I knew before in my almighty God disappeared into a fear I had never known. This was a new world where my children could die. Where was God? “Where you there when they nailed him to the tree?” I saw myself holding my dying baby… were you there? The more I tried to consider Jesus’ sacrifice the more I wondered where his triumph was. My baby was dead! He let her die. Did Mary know my pain? Her son was God.  Did God know my pain? His son was coming home to Him, not away from Him. I knew in my intellect that God allowed His son to die so my daughter could be in heaven with Him. All my heart could feel was her absence.

All I could do was get my body there to the church and receive Him. Sometimes I could sing or pray, but mostly not. I could not feel compassion for my savior, only the pain of my loss. I could not feel the joy of Easter. Only the futility of my prayer.

It has been a long journey from that place. Writing about it now, the pain rushes back and I remember how God felt suddenly like a stranger. When Ash Wednesday came around this year it was a very different story.

A few weeks before Ash Wednesday, I heard a talk by Father Michael (a Legionnaire) at a Regnum Christi event, about many subjects, including hope. As he spoke about the power we have in our hope in Christ, I began to understand the implications of what he was saying. No one can ever take that from us. Not pain, not suffering, not death. I imagined myself again reaching out to God, and this time praying for my daughter’s soul instead of her body. He knew what she really needed. He knows what I really need.

On Ash Wednesday, I was really too busy keeping my children quiet to enter into the mystery of Ash Wednesday but I still thought back to last year when I was in such a difficult place. As I got out the coloring book and a snack for Hannah, I turned to God again in vulnerable desperation, but my prayer had changed.

During one of our encounters with Christ at Regnum Christi, we discussed a story about gratefulness and learned that some Jewish people thank God 1,000 times a day. We resolved to do the same for a week. As I started thanking God for the AC, my dishwasher, hot water, a breath, a snack, a cool glass of water; I began to see each moment I spent with Samantha as a gift. It was as if I had been looking at a negative of a photograph and it was finally in correct perspective.

One day last year on Relevant Radio I heard a priest try to describe our transition to heaven. He compared it to twins in the womb. They are so happy and comfortable in their home, and so content with each other. They play and swim and kick and love each other. But one day one of them is born. All the unborn twin knows is that her playmate is gone. She can’t understand what awaits her: a loving family and a life she couldn’t imagine. I felt like the twin left behind. Samantha was on the other side in God’s loving arms waiting to welcome me one day.

Later during lent I heard a beautiful talk by Father Jonathan about confession and about uniting our suffering with Christ. With each suffering we lift up to Him in reparation, we are spared some time in purgatory. I wanted to take advantage of every single chance Samantha had given me to draw closer to Christ. God didn’t allow her to die so that I could come closer to Him. I believe that whatever the reason He decided not to heal her, He is using this suffering for my good. I have given up soda for lent, and every time I want that soda, I practice relying on God for the strength, so that the next time I feel that agony of losing Samantha, I can turn to God instead of into myself.

With Holy Week approaching, I am now looking towards the cross. I heard a story of a woman who prayed the Stations of the Cross backwards. She said it was because someone had to walk Jesus’ mother home. Just as I had to go on with my life after my world seemed to end, so did she. Now every time I feel the agony of my loss, I am not alone. My Blessed Mother is there beside me crying with me. Jesus is there suffering with me so that Samantha could be in heaven and so that one day I could join Him and her.

I hope that God will continue to speak to me throughout Holy Week and Easter. I look forward to truly celebrating His victory over death which is the source of my hope that can never be taken from me.  Hope through gratitude, healing though Reconciliation, Redemption though suffering learned through fasting. Easter holds a new richness for me now.  It’s easy to praise God when you are spared suffering.  Now that I have walked the way of the cross I can truly celebrate the resurrection.



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Dear Bill

My first pregnancy ended in miscarriage on Mother’s Day in 1999.  I had announced the pregnancy during Easter week, letting everyone know immediately after seeing the unmistakeable “life line” on the pregnancy test.  We told everyone and it was the talk of all gatherings for weeks.  Fast forward to Mother’s Day Mass.  I remember the priest accidentally put two Hosts in my mouth.  I was filled with joy at the implication there and he was the one person I had not told about my pregnancy, yet.  We shared the news with him right after Mass.  The joy turned to fear that evening when I started spotting.  My sister reassured me that it was normal, but told me to go to the doctor on Monday.  The miscarriage was confirmed after two very long ultrasound sessions where the once beating heart could no longer be found flickering on the monitor.  I was suddenly filled to the brim with grief.  I can barely recall the days and weeks that followed. That father’s day, I gave Bill a card and I have kept it.  Here is what I wrote:

Dear Bill,

I know I have been beside myself with grief lately and it appears that I have lost hope.  I haven’t.  I know in my heart that we will have children.  I pray every minute of the day for that.  I know you are going to be a wonderful father.  You already are. XXxOOo

 I remember that I had to force myself to write that and to be positive and not give into the gnawing self-doubt and attacks on my faith in God and His mercy.

That summer, I prayed the rosary every day, accompanied by a recording of Pope JPII saying the rosary in Italian.  I prayed for the intercession of all of our saints and of course our Blessed Mother.  I spent that time in reflection of the time when Christ was in the desert and could have been prone to the same feelings of abandonment and doubt that I was experiencing.  I tried to remain calm and confident in God’s plan for my life.  I gave birth to Chloe the following May 18, on the pope’s 85th birthday.   It took me awhile, but what I learned from my miscarriages, (I’ve since experienced another loss) was that I needed to give up my need to control everything in my life.  I still struggle with that.  And now, I have five children who are still trying to drill that lesson into my head.

**Written by Shiela**