Women, couples, families – they all suffer when a baby dies by miscarriage. Often those suffering feel isolated because not many people know of the loss. Great comfort comes when someone says “we had a miscarriage, we are so sorry for your loss”.

A miscarriage is defined as “the spontaneous loss of a fetus before the 20th week of pregnancy”. This is a loss of life. The parents already love this child and have hopes and dreams for this baby. Statistics say 25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. That means there are families around us, in our community mourning the loss of a child.

In the Diocese of Saskatoon, a Miscarriage Awareness Committee works to  encourage dialogue about miscarriage and work for awareness and education. We pray for those who mourn especially those who feel alone in their grief. For more information, please contact: Shannon Granger, (306) 955-0089 or dsgranger@shaw.ca

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,

before you were born I set you apart.” –  Jerimiah 1:5

 

Stories from the heart:

Carol's Story

By Carol  Kostiuk

Miscarriage is a spontaneous loss of a fetus before the 20th week of pregnancy. Stats show that 25% of all pregnancies end with a miscarriage. This is reality. Miscarriage has implications of emotional aspects, loss and grieving factors as well as physiological implications such as hormonal imbalances within the body – think about it – depending on how far along you are when you miscarry, your body may be producing milk and the baby you so desperately wanted to love and nurture is suddenly gone.

My name is Carol Kostiuk – I am one of four Parish Nurses in the Saskatoon RC diocese. I feel part of my ministry encompasses awareness around miscarriages – both in the capacity of information and programming for the congregation as well as for the priests. Looking back on the stats, complete with the knowledge that a loss of a life is vitally important – no matter when it happens, gives us the momentum to move forward. Looking behind us at all the people who had nowhere to go in their time of loss, makes us stronger in our commitment to be supportive of the family that will be affected by a miscarriage and the emotional repercussions that will come to pass. We need to be available to not only the 25 % of the congregation which will experience this type of loss, but also just as importantly to support the priests with medical knowledge and info on available existing services. Remember – this does not only affect the parents who lost the baby – this also affects their family unit, friends and neighbors too. We as a church community need to be not only compassionate and empathetic but responsible in our outreach to help the healing of 25% of the people we see at our church gatherings. Some barriers may be simply not knowing what to say, where to refer people or what to recommend. Barriers are transformed by building bridges of knowledge, compassion and healing services to help both the grieving family – or the single teenage parent – who hasn’t even found the courage to tell anyone they were even pregnant in the first place.

I feel it is important to let congregations know what options are a
vailable and who to talk to if they find themselves in this same situation. Bob and I did not know that an option even existed in our church community, miscarriage was simply not talked about. We dealt with it on our own, without support and with many questions about our possible future children. It would have meant so much to us, if we could have just talked to someone in our parish who had experienced a miscarriage too. I feel it is also important to encourage the priests to reach out to their parishioners by having this subject mentioned in sermons, or validated in the Book of Remembrance in November – etc. By giving voice to the idea of miscarriage ministry, people will feel more comfortable broaching the subject, or asking for a service in their time of need. A miscarriage service (and there are several available options) give a semblance of closure to this chasm of hurt and loss, which in turn helps the healing process.

Promoting prayer for grieving families in prayer circles, prayer for the babies while knitting prayer shawls or simply knowing that it is O.K. to ask a priest or PLD to say a blessing, brings healing to the reality of miscarriages.

Help our Miscarriage Awareness Committee be present for our Saskatoon parishioners by not shying away from the topic of miscarriages.

You are now aware and it is your responsibility to help others by making this subject comfortable, so healing can begin.

Thank you.

Shannon's story

By Shannon Granger

Hello, my name is Shannon and I’m married to my dear Dan, and we are blessed with children. We have named 4 babies but have met only 3 of them. We have two lively boys, Nathan who is 6 and Simon who is 4.

In the fall of 2009 we were expecting our third baby and everything was going well. We looked forward to meeting this new member of our family in the summer time, making plans and dreaming of our new life. I was healthy and check-ups were normal, I even heard the baby’

s heartbeat in December. At an appointment in January my doctor could not find a heartbeat and so we went for an ultrasound that confirmed, there was no heartbeat, our baby had died, most likely 3 weeks earlier. 2010 did not start out well for our family.

We were very fortunate to have told our family and friends early about the pregnancy, so when we had to tell them we lost the baby we experienced an enormous outpouring of love and support.

Since Dan and I have been married we have had numerous family and friends who have lost babies through miscarriage. I had been rather dismissive and unsupportive of these people saying common phrases like, “Oh, you can try again”, and “at least it was early” not understanding how hurtful those words were until it happened to us.

The more people we talked to about our loss the more stories we heard of miscarriage. Dan’s boss and the supervisor both shared that their families had experienced miscarriages. Some of my friends in ministry shared their stories as well.

Through these conversations we decided we wanted to have a service to gather with our family and friends and pray. Fr. Lawrence was so supportive and he was open to whatever we wanted to do. We prepared a Liturgy of the Word, a celebration to remember our dear Frances.

A few months later, in very early spring of 2010, Dan and I were able once again to share with family and friends that we were awaiting the arrival of another baby.

Though this was a joyous time for us it was also an anxious time. We hoped and prayed that we would hold this baby. I also knew it was time to do something to raise awareness about miscarriage. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the grief of miscarriage can be overlooked and is often not shared outside of the immediate family, which means many couples and single moms suffer alone. Also, in preparing for our liturgy Fr. Lawrence had said he hadn’t been part of a service or celebration in the case of a miscarriage in all the years he has been a priest. This was stunning to me considering how many families experience this loss. The richness of our tradition and liturgical worship and the power of communal prayer are underutilized when grieving a miscarriage.

After many conversations with Blake we gathered together people who we knew would be passionate about this issue and we formed the Miscarriage Awareness Committee. The committee is very dedicated and has been working diligently to gather information, put together materials for the website, prepare for and be here today. I personally want to thank them for giving their time and sharing their stories. I appreciate that we have been given the opportunity to speak to you today and hope that we can, with your help, let families know that it is ok to share news of pregnancy and if the precious, tiny life is lost in miscarriage we can support them.
As for my family, 2010 ended very well with the birth of Alexis.

Shirley's Story

By Shirley and Russ Hannan, 2011

 

Lighting a candle
Credit: sxc.hu

We joined this 25% of the population back in 1981, and again in ’82 and ’85 and then again in 2004. We tell you this not for a reaction or for anyone to feel sorry for us but to let you know that these are etched in our lives. For so long no one ever talked about miscarriages. I don’t really think people thought of it as a loss for a family, because there was no birth and death.

We have been taught that life begins at conception and we really need to step up and show that we believe this by recognizing them at their time of loss with compassion and understanding.

Russ and I really did not talk to many people about our losses until the last one in 2004. I guess maybe this was because we were older and our situation was different. Being that we were both about to enter our fifties when this happened, having three grown children and two grandchildren this miscarriage came as a complete shock to us. We ended up in emergency with the remains of a tine baby that fit in the palm of our hand. We were very fortunate that we had a wonderful nurse that explained some option for us, it took a while for everything to sink in as everything happened so fast. Not knowing that we were even pregnant and now dealing with what needed to happen next. Not everyone is as lucky as us to have someone explain options and how hard that must be for them.

Our options were explained that we could donate the remains to science, arrange a service of our own, or have it interned to the shared garden plot. We could either be there when it was interned or not be there. Our choice at the time was the shared plot and not be there. As we were still in disbelief as to what had just happened.

Steering Wheel
Credit: sxc.hu

After about a week we were driving down 33rd street and saw Woodlawn Cemetery and it was then it hit me. I felt like we had given them our baby to throw away, and then we looked into the shared plot and found out about the June service they have. That June I attended the service by myself as Russ was out of town. Father Kevin McGee led the service that day. When I went, there was a lot of people, more than I could have thought, it was nice to know that we were not the only ones to have gone through this. Each person’s story is different but they all have a loss of life, whether it was 2 weeks or full term, it was a life began and a life ended. The pain is all the same.

POSTSCRIPT:

With tears of sadness and hope in the resuurection we said goodbye March 26, 2015 to our brother in Christ, Russ Hannan.

Russ and his wife Shirley were Marriage Awareness Committee members from the very inception of this ministry.  They committed together to offer their own stories of miscarriages to help other couples and family members know they are not alone.  Most recently Russ was instrumental in the Tree of Hope project.  Russ’ willingness to offer support to other dad’s who too experience miscarriage and to help others understand a father’s perspective will be greatly missed.

We ask for your prayers for the repose of Russel’s soul and for strength and courage in this time of mourning and grief for Shirley and her children; Jenifer, Mike and Anna and their families.

Shirley, we hold you in prayer.

The following passage from Romans was proclaimed at Russ’s funeral Mass:

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Resources:

Supporting parents who are grieving a miscarriage:

What you can say:

“I’m sorry about your miscarriage.”
Simple words that mean a lot

“I know how much you wanted this baby.”
Acknowledging that a precious life has been lost

“It’s okay to cry.”
This lets them know they are not being judged for their tears and sadness

“I really don’t know what to say.”
Being honest and letting someone know you are there for them

What you can do:

Send a card or flowers.
This lets them know you are thinking of them and you care.

Do let her talk as much as she needs.
Sharing helps people heal.

Do offer to help with the other children and housework.
This lets her know that you understand that her body has been through a big change and you will help where you can.

Do call and check up regularly for a while and see how things are going.
Grieving takes time and knowing someone cares helps immensely.

What NOT to say:

Do NOT say: “You can always have another.”
They want this baby! And maybe they can’t have another. This comment is often very offhand.

Do NOT say: “Now you have angel looking after you”.
They didn’t want an angel. They want their baby back!

Do NOT say: “It’s for the best”
How? The best is a successful healthy pregnancy!

Do NOT say: “At least you didn’t know your baby!”
Whether the baby was held in the parents arms or their minds, it was real in the hearts of her parents.

Do NOT say: “There must have been something wrong.”
Don’t try to find the “silver lining”.

Do NOT say: “Did you do something you weren’t supposed to do?”
This is not the time for blaming or finding guilt.

Do NOT say: “Have you ever thought of NOT having children?”
That’s just hurtful.

Do NOT say: “Be grateful for the children you have!”
I am, but I still need to mourn the child I lost!

Do NOT say: “It probably won’t happen again”
But it can happen again! So this is no consolation.

Do NOT say: “Be brave; don’t cry”
Why not!?

Do NOT say: “Get on with your life. This isn’t the end of the world!”
Right now it feels like that though.

Do NOT say: “You should be over it be now!”
Why? This is not something you just ‘get over’!

Do NOT say: “You’re young, you’ll get over it”
What does age have to do with pain?

Do NOT say: “Time will heal.”
Time will make the pain easier to bear, yes, but that is no help at the moment.

Do NOT say: “At least it wasn’t older”
This loss still matters and it still HURTS! In general it’s best not to start with “at least” as it can sound as though you are trying to brush off the tragedy.

Do NOT say: “It was Gods will” OR “God wanted him/her with him” OR “God needed another flower in his garden/angel in heaven”…and so on!
Such comments can have the effect of making a parent very angry and bitter with God; which may block a possible source of comfort.