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This post was written by my friend, Eileen Tully. Please read her story . . . and share . . .
In 2011, Eileen and her husband learned that they were expecting twin girls – but also that those twins were suffering from a condition called Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome. After undergoing in utero surgery, one of the girls left them for her heavenly home. What followed was an extremely tumultuous time of strict bedrest, countless tests, hospitalizations, a premature birth, burying the first twin, and almost seven weeks of their tiny daughter fighting for her life in the NICU. She finally seemed to be stable and thriving, but tragically, she caught a bacterial infection and died at 47 days old. In Eileen’s words:
“It was a traumatic experience, and we were completely undone. But we learned so much about ourselves, about God, and about living life on this earth while keeping our heavenly home in mind. Having experienced these losses as well as two miscarriages, I have a soft spot in my heart for people who are grieving and suffering, and for grieving mothers in particular.”
Dear beautiful woman who has just lost a child…
You are not alone.
Right now, you may feel like your grief will swallow you whole. You might feel physical, mental, and emotional agony like you have never experienced before.
Whether you have suffered a miscarriage, experienced a stillbirth, or lost one of your children from infancy to adulthood, the sorrow you feel is profound.
Watching the rest of the world go on with everyday life while you are suffering may make you feel like you are from another country – another planet! You might feel unable to relate to people as you used to, and it may seem like you’re a stranger even to yourself while you try to navigate the myriad unexpected ways in which this grief and loss has permeated your life.
You might feel afraid and alone, like no one else could possibly understand. Maybe not even your husband.
Perhaps you feel surprised by your grief, surprised that you are spending so much more time inside your own head now. Maybe you’re feeling irritable and angry, hopeless and helpless, with your mind churning on unanswered questions of why? and what if? and what now?
You may want to ask of God:
Where were you?
How could you let this happen?
Dear woman, I understand your pain, and you are not alone.
It may be helpful to find a counselor to speak to about your grief, to learn that none of what you’re feeling – no matter how strange it may feel to you – is uncommon. It may be helpful to find other grieving mothers to talk to, who understand just what you’re feeling because they feel it, too.
But it is also helpful to know that even when you are by yourself, you are not alone.
You see, we do not serve a God who has exempted himself from suffering. Filled with the agony that lay ahead for him, our Jesus sweat drops of blood as he begged the Father to let the cup pass from him without his having do drink of it.
He, too, suffered in order to redeem and to redeem our own suffering. He is there with us in the midst of it, weeping as he did with Mary and Martha when Lazarus died. Jesus knew he was going to raise Lazarus, and still he wept because he enters into our sorrow with us. He is full of compassion – a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.
Sweet mother, the pain of losing a child is like no other loss. But in his mercy, our God saw fit to provide us with a beautiful example of even this specific grief in our Blessed Mother.
She, too, suffered the agony of losing a Child. She, too, would have done anything to take away his pain, to put herself in his place. She grieved his death for his entire life and beyond, beginning when she heard the words spoken to her by Simeon. Yet she remained faithful to her fiat, the handmaid of the Lord, and trusted in God’s will for her and for her Child.
You may feel like there is no one who can understand your pain, but Our Lord and his Blessed Mother understand. They are with you. Our Lady desires to give you the grace to endure this terrible sorrow with faith, as she did – faith that God loves you, faith that He sees you, faith that He works all things together for our good.
Beautiful woman, you are not alone.
P.S. A note from Amy:
I noticed Eileen has this on her website, and I although she did not include it in her letter above, I thought it might help you to hear:
“I was surprised to find comfort in my pain by praying the rosary when prayer had become difficult after our losses. I used writing to help myself process what I was feeling. I learned that art and creativity brings healing to parts of us that we might not even be able to verbalize. And I recognized that accompaniment and patience were the most helpful things that people could give me during my grief, but that finding people who are able to offer those things can be difficult. These are the things that are incorporated into my Present in the Pain retreats for grieving mothers.”
If you are grieving the loss of a child, Eileen is hosting a Catholic healing retreat specifically for grieving mothers. The retreat, called Present in the Pain, will take a look at our experiences of loss through the lens of our Faith, drawing on the example of Our Lady of Sorrows as a fellow grieving mother. It begins on Monday, July 13 and is entirely online, done at your own pace. Come join with other bereaved Catholic mothers to find healing for your broken heart. For more information, visit eileentully.com/online_retreat