What do I do now? A question all families of loss ask themselves the day after the funeral. Family members are going back to work. The house is a mess. You have no energy and find yourself not caring. You’re desperate for some quiet time, but at the same time, the silence scares you. Life as you once knew it is gone.
Losing a child brings a wealth of emotions that take up a lot of headspace. Grief becomes a task in itself and is all-consuming for parents of loss. Learning to move forward is challenging and overwhelming. Those who are natural go-getters may find themselves feeling utterly useless and even out of control.
Grief is at the same time incredibly tangible for us and yet so invisible to others. We feel so unseen and forgotten as time moves on. These invisible wounds desperately need to be healed, but we don’t know where to go and who to trust. Our family is equally lost, and no one knows how to help us.
We have provided a list of 10 things parents of loss want the Church to know to provide insight into what we struggle with the most. After you read through this list, I hope you can better understand how to receive and support us after loss.
10 Things Parents of Child Loss Want the Church to Know
- Child Loss. Did you know that 1 in 4 families sitting in your Church pews will lose a child during childbearing years? Of the 71M self-identified Catholics in the USA, 18M Catholics will need help after losing a child.
Losing a child isn’t limited to only losing young children. Losing a child at any age, regardless of if the child dies in the womb or at 40, is a life-altering experience. A priest once summed it up after having performed funerals for both a young child and a 70-year-old man whose mother was still living, “the look in the mother’s eye was the same.”
- Miscarriage. Please be kind and understanding when you learn a baby has died before 20 weeks. Even though the government may not acknowledge that child’s life and require burial, as members of the Mystical Body of Christ we should acknowledge the value of that child’s life by serving the family in their grief. Offering a Mass of remembrance for the baby is a good place to start.
- Couples of Loss. We know that women and men grieve differently. A man and a woman’s brain is scientifically hard-wired to respond to crises differently. We found ourselves in this same situation, so we created a resource to help families like ours called Restoring Love. This resource helps couples unpack grief in the privacy of their home.
- Divorce. Did you know the divorce rate for couples of loss 5-10 years post-loss is a staggering 70%? Statistics prove that only 5% of those who experience a loss will get the help they need and deserve. This leaves 95% of families silently suffering in their pews. Most families will not reach out to the Church or find help until their marriages are falling apart.
- Family & Community. Don’t wait to be asked for help. Just show up. We can barely remember if we brushed our teeth this morning. It’s not because we don’t want to move on or that we are lazy. It is because we just cannot make one more decision, even small ones.
- Broken Relationships. After our losses, there have been strained relationships among family members. Some simply ghosted us because they couldn’t handle our child’s death. Even personal longtime friends and family members could not stand by our sides after our child died. We need mentors.
- Faith. Our faith may be strong, but we still need support. We do not want to be a poster child for loss. We need to know that sometimes it is okay not to be okay and feel how we feel while we are grieving. Sometimes I just need to be given permission to grieve – as long as it is healthy.
- Pastoral Care. Our clergy may not truly understand the role they play in our healing journey. In our times of great sorrow, we trust that you will provide us clarity and love as we lean into the Lord.
- Spiritual Direction. Spiritual direction helps us to navigate our grief journey in prayer with Jesus. A good, trusted spiritual director will be a light that allows us to move forward, not forgetting where we have been but holding Christ’s hand as we attempt to take that next step. Spiritual direction after loss is a critical part of a parent’s journey and can provide key insights to where a parent is struggling to let go and let God.
- Therapy. Finding a Catholic therapist after losing a child makes a big difference for those who experience the loss of a child. If you know someone who has experienced loss and you are mentoring them, please speak up and help them find a trusted Catholic therapist that will adhere to the teachings of the Church.
This shortlist may help you to get a better insight into what families of loss face, and it can provide critical insight into some essential needs. To read the full blog post on our website, please click here.
“A gift is freely given and expects no return. Its reason is love,” writes St. Thomas Aquinas. The Holy Spirit comes forth as the substance of love, and gift is his proper name. This gift was called Parakletos, which translated into various ways: counselor, advocate, helper, literally means “one called alongside” to aid, exhort and encourage. If you have felt called to serve in this capacity as a Red Bird Ministries Chapter Advocate, please reach out to us and bring RBM to your area.