If you have experienced the pain of miscarriage, please know that you are in the prayers of our community. Your struggles and sorrows may present a unique cross in your life of faith that may be difficult for friends and family members to understand, but the Church is here to support you. The Lord has given us the gift of His own presence through the Church and in the lives of the saints and all the faithful.
While you might be asking yourself, “Why me? Why us?” as you explore these resources, we want you to know that hope and healing can be found. We pray that you experience the peace and consolation of the presence of the Holy Spirit. We especially encourage you to reach out to your community and consider joining (or starting) a support group at your parish. While you may feel alone, there is a grace-filled time in the fellowship of these communities to meet others who walk this way with you, who understand, and who share your burden.
Emmaus Ministry for Grieving Parents: retreats, events, and resources for parents experiencing the loss of a child at any age. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington has a local chapter run by the Office of Family Life.
Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Washington welcomes families who desire to bury the remains of pre-born children in sacred ground, following a miscarriage or stillbirth. Please contact Catholic Cemeteries for assistance.
Our Fruitful Love is a ministry through the Diocese of Arlington to accompany families experiencing infertility or pregnancy and infant loss.
Other resources from The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington include the End of Life Resource Guide and the Affirming Life Resource Guide. The Affirming Life Initiative helps priests and lay ministers offer support to parents expecting a child with an adverse prenatal diagnosis. Both documents are available in English and Spanish.
Finally, parents may consider beginning a parish devotion to one of the saints for the intercession of those who have suffered a miscarriage. A list of these saints can be found on the final page of the Affirming Life Resource Guide.
A Note for Catholic Ministers
Though it is difficult to know how many pregnancies end in miscarriage, an estimated 10 to 15 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage after the parents receive medical confirmation of their pregnancy. Many more miscarriages happen before a woman even knows that she is pregnant. When mothers and fathers grieve the loss of a child through miscarriage or stillbirth, it is paramount they find compassion and care during their time of grief. Parents may consider seeking out professional support during this time of grief and might also seek out spiritual care from their priest or parish community. It may be appropriate, according to the wishes of the parents, to offer a funeral Mass for the child. Catholic Cemeteries also offers options for burial of a pre-born child.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church on Miscarriage:
“As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God… Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: ‘Let the children come to me, do not hinder them’ (Mk 10:14), allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism” (CCC 1261).
Guidelines for Parish Ministers
Catholic guidelines encourage ministers to speak directly with the family about their experience and to provide pastoral support and healing during this difficult time. Our Catholic teachings remind us that an unborn child has a life that should be celebrated and honored. The following guidelines from the Affirming Life Initiative’s pastoral care resource guide are offered to assist in the pastoral care of a couple who has experienced a miscarriage:
Compassion: In a 2014 survey conducted by The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, many couples revealed that, despite knowing that family members and friends had also lost children, they did now know how to bring up the subject with anyone outside their immediate family. Many people expressed a desire for support groups and other conversations to open up the dialogue and share their experiences. When it comes to this type of loss, one of the best forms of pastoral care that we can offer is simply acknowledgement of the experience, and an openness to further conversation.
Healing: Some Catholic parents do not know that an unborn child can receive special burial rites. Many families are comforted with the knowledge that their child, like all unbaptized children whose parents intend for them to receive the sacraments, will be welcomed into God’s loving arms. Parents are encouraged to meet with their pastor and to celebrate their child’s life with a naming ceremony and burial rites. However, it is also important to note that some families might not yet be ready for a naming ceremony. Each couple might come to terms with their loss at a different time, and we should remain open to their individual path toward healing.
Catechesis: For many parents, a miscarriage can lead to serious questions about the Catholic Church and her teachings. Many couples express fear about their future and about God’s desires for them. This confusion is exacerbated by the language that some use to describe difficult situations: “This was God’s plan.” To understand our faith, we must emphasize that God does not provide challenges to test our faith. Rather, we are sometimes faced with challenging circumstances and God walks with us during these most difficult times.
Hope: There is hope after miscarriage. Studies show that a previous miscarriage has little to no impact on the parents’ ability to conceive in the future. Opening up this conversation and communicating about the challenges and fears that come from miscarriage will help the family to heal and recreate their own sense of hope.
Closure: Each family will experience the loss of their child in a different way and might find different ways to celebrate the life of their child moving forward. It is important that we, as ministers, acknowledge and encourage the different stages and different rates of healing across the spectrum of experience. We might consider sharing resources on spiritual direction and counseling to families. We might also consider checking in regularly with families who might be struggling to conceive and/or need additional counsel from their pastor. Finally, many couples will benefit from an annual celebration of their child’s life. Pastors might consider having an annual Mass for all pre-born children, or even consider remembering the loss of a particular child on the anniversary of her passing.