In this week’s blog, Fr Paddy reflects on the often silent and hidden grief from the loss of a child before, during or soon after birth and the need for healing.eastercross

Fr Paddy Byrne has a weekly column in the Nationalist Papers.

This column appeared on 16th September 2009

Last Sunday, in Ballinkillen Church, Co. Carlow, a prayer service was held to remember babies, who died before during or after birth and were once buried in the cemetery adjacent. A new altar was erected as a visible permanent memorial to honour this painful reality in the lives of many families. A large amount of people attended including elderly women who have once gone through this traumatic circumstance.

When a child dies, at any age, parents are inconsolable, and much traumatized by this most painful reality. One lady shared with me the pain that was contained within her heart for over fifty five years because of the loss of her young baby. In times past there was little opportunity to ritualize and publically grieve and remember the loss of a child, particularly when miscarriages took place. Parents had very little support and indeed as Church, we offered very little in terms of ritual or practical help to families involved. Often such losses were made more burdensome, because of silence and the lack of sensitivity that were part of our culture in times past.

No mother or father, who has gone through such a loss, ever forgets the fragile and vulnerable memory of a life that never was fully realized. I believe it is very important to offer rituals and occasions where we can gather to remember and pray for healing because of such loss. The pain and grief can be consoled and comforted by our God who accompanies such burden in peoples lives.

I am sure that every graveyard, sacred places of memory, houses the remains of many babies who died before, during and after birth. God wants to offer healing to the loss of parents especially who never had the chance to formally or publically grieve such loss. Many graveyards now have public monuments to remember such babies, and these can indeed give a necessary voice for lives that were perhaps once remembered with a silent grief; known only by those who carried such loss.

The following poem was written by a lady who continues to grieve the loss of her child who died as she carried in her womb. The poem tells the heartfelt emotion and thoughts that many readers will and may well continue to carry. My prayer is that as you read this poem God’s gentle hand of friendship will strengthen and console.

Forty-three grams

Too early to name, you were too unfinished in the womb for anyone to love but me.
At fourteen weeks your stubbed appendages denied you proper meaning to the world.
Yet I imagined then the promise of your touch and flying fingers some day glancing on piano keys, or toes that curled like leaves in winter after frost.

Behind those swollen sockets, I would never know the colour of your eyes, if they were brown or blue or hazel like my own.
But somewhere past a sea of years I watch you dance beneath a safran sky on meadows crusted yellow in a summer sun or hear your footfall whisper soft on winter snow.

Yet now your nearly heartbeat grieves in me its pulse the baby miracle I never knew.
Just three and forty grams, a single letters weight of life unfinished in the womb.
Too early then to name so I completed you inside my head and loved you just the same.