There’s no such thing as grieving well or grieving badly. Grief is grief, and it hits us all differently. But it’s hard, too, to feel that we’re alone in our grief. It’s not a topic that many of us know how to talk about with any clarity. That’s understandable, given the tremendously personal nature of grief, but it leaves parents who have lost a child feeling more alone than ever.
There’s a new book out that can help parents through the sense of confusion and aloneness. Cassie Everts and Patrick O’Hearn collaborated to writeNursery of Heaven: Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Loss in the Lives of the Saints and Today’s Parents, and it’s a resource that could be a help and comfort to parents in the middle of one of the hardest experiences they’ll ever go through.
Cassie Everets told Aleteia, “When I was experiencing my own miscarriages, it was difficult to find Catholic resources to help me through the grieving process. I’d find myself wondering if it was okay to feel so much sadness for a baby I never met. I co-authored this book, because I wanted to provide women and couples with a sense of comfort, peace and hope. I wanted them to know they are not alone in their journey, either physically or spiritually. In what is one of the most difficult times God has not abandoned them.”
Just the painting on the cover, an original by Michael Corsini, is tremendously uplifting. There is Our Lady in heaven, surrounded by our own children — her children, too — whom we are longing to meet. The kids are clearly happy and peaceful with their Heavenly Mother.
Everts and O’Hearn begin by telling stories of the saints. St. Gianna Molla and her husband Pietro had two miscarriages. Sts. Zelie and Louis Martin, the parents of St. Therese, lost three children as babies, and one as a young child. St. Josemaria Escriva lost siblings at a young age. These saints, and others, are real people in heaven who know this particular kind of suffering better than anyone. It’s so good to have intercessors we can relate to.
The authors go on to give us the stories of family after family. Mothers and fathers both are given a place to tell their stories — stories of early and late miscarriages, stories of stillbirth and infant loss. It’s one of the most heart-wrenching things you’ll ever read, but if you’re familiar with the pain of losing a child, it’s comforting, too. In these stories, we remember that every person has a different experience, everyone grieves in their own way. Everyone loves their children, and everyone expresses that love differently. Stories of pain and anger come along with examples of hope, and trust in God.
Everts and O’Hearn also offer practical answers to questions any parent would have. They have tips on how to cope, and how to reach out for help. There’s advice for people supporting a friend who’s grieving. They include a funeral rite, and a rite of naming a child, and prayers, novenas, and meditations to guide us through this dark time.
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