Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch
The five stages of grief are shock, bargaining, anger, depression and acceptance. The four tasks of grief are accepting the reality of your loss, processing your grief and pain, adjust to the world without your loved one in it, and finding a way to maintain a connection to the person who died while embarking on your own life.
How easily they are listed, how much more difficult they are to live.
When I was twenty weeks pregnant with my fifth child, an ultrasound revealed she had anencephaly. My body supported her growth inutero, but without a brain, she would die during or soon after birth. We learned this in the fall of 2016. I chose to carry her until she was full time and deliver near her due date, in early March.
How different that Thanksgiving was! We faced such loss that year.
How strange it was on Christmas to celebrate the birth of the Christ child, knowing what would happen to my child.
A counselor from the palliative care team spoke with me weekly to help me process my grief and pain. I knew of no reference books to help me. Instead Facebook groups kept me informed. Like my miscarriages from early in my marriage, we looked for resources where we could find them, and developed a helpful array of tools to keep in our spiritual backpack, so to speak.
Having found my answers from unexpected lines by C.S. Lewis and an unexpected Lutheran hymn set to a song about a planet and a pagan god, it is with awe and deep appreciation that I read a new publication called Grieving Together: A Couple’s Journey through Miscarriage, by Laura Kelly Fanucci and Franco David Fanucci.
I thought I had all I needed. I have grieved and life’s demands have helped propel me forward with a current focus of applying all those good things I learned to live at home.
Grieving Together had more to teach me. Never have I encountered a book that aims so high and hits so successfully grief from a spiritual perspective. The authors are Catholic and offer Catholic resources. But it is the material that is not directly Catholic that amazed me most.
The Fanuccis examine that physical process, known causes of miscarriage and the types of miscarriage. I cannot recall seeing a theoretical spiritual resource decide to go ahead and hold all the information you might need in one place.
In the second section, relying heavily on stories rather than drawing lines on theoretical gender differences, the Fanuccis explore the different ways mothers and father process their grief and how these differences can lay a strain on the relationship in an already difficult time. My husband and I grieved differently. He withdrew to play online video games with his best friend while I talked through my grief with women in my life and my counselor. His silence was not a sign of a lack of feeling, it was his process.
In the third part, the authors offer insightful understanding to the cliches many, if not most, in grief will hear, and presents some better and more on point alternatives to those cliches. Sometimes we unintentionally try to push a person past their grief to peace or happiness with sayings intended to comfort because the suffering makes us uncomfortable. There is beauty in staying put with your grief for as long as you need. To let the reality unfold, to let the process take its place, to let the presence of the loved one cement in the heart. Often those who grieve just need someone to walk alongside them, rather than try to fix the thing that is broken.
After a series of prayers, rituals and role models from the Catholic Church, the Fanuccis consider ways to memorialize the life of the infant the parents never had a chance to meet and encouragement for those seasons following the tragic event.
The entire book is written with such clarity, empathy and support, that, once again, I am daring to recommend it to you even though this is not a column focused on religion.
It has been almost seven years since my last miscarriage. Reading this book, I found wounds dressed and questions answered. It is a remarkable little book.
Laura Kelly Fanucci writes at the blog, Mothering Spirit, where I found a great deal of hope leading up my daughter’s birth.
You can listen to Laura and David share more about their story here.
You can read an excerpt on that excellent section for those seeking to support someone in grief here.