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Redemptive Suffering in the Care of Our Miscarried Children

By ASHLEY AND BILL SLACK
10/01/2021 | Comments

God does not ask the impossible of us,” my husband comforted me while I was in the throes of the first trimester miscarriage of our fourth baby, Bernadette Marie. I was grief stricken, not only over the loss of our child but over my inability to save her remains for proper burial.

“We have to trust in his mercy right now,” he reminded me.

Our small Vilnius Divine Mercy image of the Lord was propped up in our bathroom, the words “Jesus, I Trust In You,” inscribed across the bottom. Bill had gently asked if we could put it there through the miscarriage, for strength and comfort.

God’s mercy is great indeed. So must our trust in him be. In a world that is addicted to comfort and pleasure, it is our faith and trust in Christ that provides context to understand the power and purpose of redemptive suffering. It can purify the heart, drawing us into deeper love for God because godly love is one that suffers for the good of another, which Christ showed us on the cross.

It is in our suffering that we can also be thankful for the gift of the Church, the Catechism and Sacred Tradition, and for precious devotions like those to Our Lady and Divine Mercy. The richness of our faith is unlike any other, and it isn’t for show. It’s for actual use in real life, and it lights our path when all we can see is the darkness of despair. It is in these teachings of our faith that we are given a roadmap of how to care for our miscarried children logistically and spiritually.

The how, why and when of miscarriage, stillbirth and life limiting prenatal diagnosis varies greatly from woman to woman, family to family. The numbers are staggering and heartbreaking when you learn that as many as half of all pregnancies may end in miscarriage. The more families I speak to about their losses, the more I see our shared experience, as many have repeatedly said:

— “I wish I had known then what I know now about what our faith teaches about this.”

— “We’ve lost two children . . . four children . . . six children, to miscarriage.”

— “It’s been over 20 years and I still feel the loss. It doesn’t go away.”

No matter how long it has been or what the other circumstances are, we can rest with the knowledge of the following:

First, your child is a human being, and you have a right for their body to be handled with the dignity and care worthy of a precious child of God. You have a right to try to preserve their remains for burial or cremation, if it is physically possible, and also ease of access to the supplies and knowledge for how to do this.

An effort is currently underway in our diocese to make miscarriage collection kits available at no cost, to families who have the desire and the ability to try to save their child’s remains at home. While the Respect Life Apostolate works to establish more widespread availability of these kits, if you find yourself in need of such supplies, they may be obtained at no cost to families through St. Dominic Parish in Security. Father John Stearns requests that you contact him at 719-392-7653, ext. 1002, or at pastor@stdominiconline.org.

They can also be purchased from organizations like Heaven’s Gain (www.heavensgain.org) and Elizabeth Ministries (www.elizabethministry.org). You may find as I did, that even with the proper supplies, you are unable to preserve your child’s remains. That is okay. There is comfort and peace in the knowledge that you tried. 

If your doctor deems it necessary for you to have a surgical procedure to complete the miscarriage for your health and safety, please know that you have a legal right in the State of Colorado to your child’s remains, no matter how early in the pregnancy you were. Colorado Statute 25-2-110.5 demands the proper care of your child’s remains and that they be released directly to you or a funeral home when requested.

The specifics of who can receive your child’s remains will vary depending on a variety of circumstances. Both major hospital systems in our area have policies in effect in accordance with this legal statute, but be sure to ask your medical facility about your rights and options prior to any surgical procedure.

Second, there are several organizations that make affordable and beautiful caskets, vessels and urns specifically for our miscarried and stillborn children from the first trimester through the third. One such organization is especially noteworthy.

From the monks of New Melleray Abbey, we have available to us Trappist Caskets (www.trappistcaskets.com). Each casket and urn are handcrafted by these monks, with wood from their sustainable forest, and available at no cost to families who have lost a child. They are also available for immediate delivery. This is an invaluable resource particularly for families suffering a loss later in pregnancy or shortly after birth. For those experiencing an early pregnancy loss, Heaven’s Gains also offers appropriately sized vessels, caskets and urns depending on your need.

Finally, as Catholics, we do not need to sterilize the miscarriage experience down to a medical event or a meaningless loss in a cold and broken world. Rather, we can employ the richness of our faith in this suffering, not only to “get through it” but to offer it up to God, to offer it for souls in Purgatory or for the conversion of loved ones.

While that Divine Mercy image rested against our bathroom mirror, my Miraculous Medal dangled around my neck with the love and devotion to Our Lady behind it to assure me of protection and grace in the midst of my pain. My husband wore his as well, affixed to the rosary around his neck.

My husband and I tried to hide our pain from our oldest child, who though only five years old, knows and loves the Blessed Mother very much. It was she who presented me with the last splash of Our Lady’s Lourdes Water on hand in our house, declaring “I have something you need Mommy.” With a truly devoted heart, a drop is all you need for healing and conversion of heart, and that splash is what I believe spared me from a more prolonged or medically complicated miscarriage.

While on my knees at our home altar, I completed a Divine Mercy chaplet for Bernadette Marie. This chaplet has great promises from the Lord as given to St. Faustina, and I knew before my miscarriage even began that my baby and my family was being blanketed in his love and mercy.

God’s Divine Mercy is infinite and as his precious and beloved children, it is ours to tap into. Let us never forget this in the midst of our suffering.

(Ashley and Bill Slack are members of St. Benedict Parish in Falcon.)


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