Carried In His Grace

By Maureen O’Connell

It was February 2017 and I was leading a group at church through Dr. Greg’s Catholic Mindfulness course. I was also 9 weeks pregnant with our fifth child. We had just started week 5 of the course. We were reading about how, when faced with difficulties, we tend to avoid them and how “in the midst of our deepest pain, we want to be in control. We want to be able to ask “why?” and have an answer that is acceptable to us.”

Week 5 of the Catholic Mindfulness course is also the week where the Father speaks these incredibly comforting words to us through the Trustful Surrender Novena: “When I lead you on a path different from the one you see or expect, I will prepare you; I will carry you in my arms; I will take care of everything, and you will somehow find yourself, like children who have fallen asleep along the journey in their mother’s arms, on the other bank of the river.”

My family and I were about to be led on a path very different from the one we expected. Different from the one we wanted. We thought we would be welcoming a new baby to our family in September. I had heard the baby’s heartbeat on the ultrasound. We were so happy and our kids were so excited. Looking back I vividly remember having so much peace. My four previous pregnancies had all gone perfectly. Pregnancy #5 would be the same—at least that’s what I thought.

On February 27, I had some bleeding. I made an appointment with my OB and went in right away. As I waited for the ultrasound, I was so sad and knew in my heart we had lost the baby. When she told me she could not find a heartbeat, the grief came pouring over me like a tsunami wave. Thank God my Mom was there to catch me. “And you will somehow find yourself, like children who have fallen asleep along the journey in their mother’s arms, on the other bank of the river.” I was numb and in shock. I am not sure how I would have gotten home if she had not been with me. Thank you, Mom.

I had never known such grief. Waves of grief for our lost baby. At first the waves were unrelenting. Like a powerful storm at sea. Amidst the storm I found myself being carried. I was not drowning in the waves. Jesus was carrying me in His arms. He was carrying my family in His arms. I don’t mean that in a “pie in the sky” sort of way. I mean He was concretely carrying us through our grief and “taking care of everything.”

One thing I learned during my miscarriage is that many parents suffer in silence. So many people I knew shared with me that they too had a miscarriage. I feel called to write about my own experience and grief and want to share some of the ways I found peace. I hope this sharing brings peace to others who have experienced the grief of miscarriage.

Jesus did so much for us during this time; I can’t share it all because it would be more like a book than a blog post. I want to share the most significant ways He carried us in His grace.

First there was the priest from our church who came to our home, Fr. Schriber. He consoled us and prayed with us and for our lost baby. As we talked he shared that he had helped many families through miscarriage. We asked him, “Father what should we do to honor our child, should we have some special prayers said”? We truly felt lost. He encouraged us to have a funeral Mass and bury the baby at the Columbarium at our church. His suggestion brought us so much peace. We knew that’s what we wanted to do.

Next there was the spiritual grace of naming our baby. We did not know if it was a boy or girl. Through prayer we felt it was a boy. In my prayer time, I asked God to help us know his name. At first, nothing was coming. Except for the waves of grief. They continued to come. I remember crying pretty much the entire time at the hospital. I cried and prayed. Cried and prayed. Jesus, be with me in this great loss. Take care of my baby. Help us to know his name. I had my prayer book with me at the hospital and flipped to the readings of the day. I could barely focus but I felt drawn to read about the saint of the day, “St. John of Brindisi.” I thought, who is that? Turns out he is the patron saint of women experiencing difficulty in labor. After reading those words, I felt God tell me his name was John. When I shared the reading with my husband he agreed.

Over the next few days I watched as Jesus continued to “take care of everything.” Our family provided so much love and support and helped care for our children. I received flowers and roses (thank you St. Therese), cards that brought consolation, and meals to feed our family. Our church planned every detail of the funeral Mass. The funeral home made memorial cards with John’s name. Sister friends from my women’s ministry put together a reception with donated food. We were truly carried in His grace. It felt like buckets of grace were being poured upon us.

Over time, the waves of grief got smaller and less frequent. More like ripples in a lake than a raging ocean storm. As the waves continued to come, sometimes out of nowhere, it helped to talk to John and tell him everything that was in my heart. It helped to talk to my husband and let myself cry. It also helped to talk to Jesus and pour out my grief to Him.

My heart grieves for everyone who has had a miscarriage. From what others have shared with me and the different stories I’ve read, I know people often feel very alone after a miscarriage. They don’t necessarily feel carried by God’s grace. I believe in God’s promise to take care of us in everything. I believe in His words from the Trustful Surrender Novena. The Lords wants to carry us throughout our life, especially in times of great sorrow. I pray for all those grieving a loss and ask Jesus to pour out His grace like the waters of the great flood.

When you walk through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep you over (Isaiah 43:2).

I will always grieve for my beloved baby John, but not as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). I know our Mother Mary is taking care of him and that I will someday hold him in heaven.

  • Anne Costa
    Posted at 06:22h, 09 March Reply

    Thank you. I had three miscarriages. It’s such a profound loss and yes, it is hard to share with others. I felt very alone and even my husband was very silent and distant. But I love my babies, can’t wait to see them in heaven

  • Maureen O'Connell
    Posted at 15:06h, 09 March Reply

    Thank you for sharing Anne! I’m sorry for the loss of your three children. Peace of Christ!

  • Dr. Greg
    Posted at 20:03h, 09 March Reply

    Here’s a comment from someone who wanted to remain anonymous:

    Maureen, thank you for your story and testimony of love.

    Siblings suffer, also, though not anywhere near the way a mother does. My six older brothers and sisters were closely spaced, and then between the twins and myself was a 3-year gap. Something about that never seemed right to me when I was a child. Then when I was in junior high, around 1964, my mother told me that she had had 3 miscarriages.

    Years later, after learning more about the psychological effects of losing a child, a light went on. My mother was for many years emotionally distant. I had a hard time relating to her. (This was to change greatly in later years.) I realized that she probably felt fear of losing a fourth child, and so would not allow herself to feel close to me, who could easily have been the fourth to die through miscarriage.

    We never talked about things like this in our family, which was typical of the times, I guess. It would have helped my mother so much had we all been able to share this loss openly. But even when someone we knew passed away, it was never talked about.
    I understand that when a child dies without sacramental baptism, the mercy of our Father sends the angels to baptize him or her. Can you imagine being born directly into the glory of eternal life without having passed through this world? I have felt the intercession of my three “little” brothers/sisters as a protection over my life and in helping me to find my vocation as a religious.
    Thanks again and may our Father continue to bless you, your family, and your ministry.

  • Laurie Derry
    Posted at 09:02h, 10 March Reply

    Beautiful and inspiring. Thank you Maureen for your wisdom and generosity in sharing your experience. God bless you and your family.

    • Maureen O'Connell
      Posted at 08:46h, 11 March Reply

      Thank you Laurie and may God bless you and your family too!

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