by Brad and Libby DuPont
As we stood around the Batman cake, I felt a deep gratitude in my heart for the friends that had gathered to celebrate our son’s first birthday — because he had died nine months earlier.
While many people would have found such a gathering morbid, our friends supported us this day as they had for the previous nine months. They joined us in gratitude for the gift of Peter’s life, and shared tears with us over his absence.
In the United States, approximately 10-20% of confirmed pregnancies end in miscarriage, and five out of every 1,000 live births end in the death of the infant.
Unfortunately for us and other parents who have had this experience, the fact that it is common does not make it less devastating. There is a unique kind of suffering that comes from the loss of one so small, since we are left with only questions.
Would he have looked more like Mom or Dad? Would she have been a talented athlete or a skilled artist? Which sibling would he or she have been closest to?
In the case of early miscarriage, parents may even need to guess about the gender of the child. This makes grieving very abstract. How do you grieve for someone you never got to know?
Further, since we had such a brief window of time with the child, life quickly begins to return to what appears normal. The bassinet gets put away, or perhaps it is filled by another child. Our daily lives are again filled with work, school and chores.
Since there aren’t any memories to recount, friends and family mention the child less and less, sometimes leaving families to wonder if their child has been forgotten. This can add loneliness to the grief.
In grieving our son Peter (and later, his sister Gianna), we were blessed with friends who not only came to awkward birthday parties, but who texted us on the anniversaries of our children’s deaths.
They allowed us to tell the few stories we have of our kids in regular conversation. They asked our baby saints to intercede for their own families. In doing these simple things, they filled the space left by their absence with great love.
Do you have friends or family who have lost a little one? If so, we would like to invite you to our annual Mass of Innocents to be held on Oct. 24 at 1 p.m. at Holy Spirit Parish in Overland Park. Celebrated by Archbishop Naumann, this Mass commemorates the lives of these precious children, whose names are recorded in a book that he prays with during the month of November.
This celebration is a wonderful way to support grieving families and let them know that no matter how long they lived or how long ago they died, their children will not be forgotten.
Even if you don’t personally know a grieving family, you are invited to come fill the space left by the absence of these children with your love.