Last week, I attended the Annual Convention for the National Council of Catholic Women. I have been serving as President of our Peoria Diocesan Council since October of 2016. Over the years, I met many amazing women, including new friends made in Atlanta. There were many highlights, but one in particular stands out for many reasons. I had an opportunity to share my heart about Gabriel.
The opportunity arose out of the National Spirituality Commission, on which I served over the last year. We were given the task to create reflections for praying the Rosary for particularly special intentions, including for people who have lost a child. (The Peace & Healing Rosary is a resource available to NCCW members.) During our numerous conference calls, commission members shared their own experiences of grief and loss; it was truly a personal project. As we were planning our presentation for the Convention, I was asked if I would like to share a little bit about Gabriel. I would only have five minutes, but I said yes right away.
I was a bit nervous; I haven’t spoken to such a large group for a long time. But my heart knew that the message of hope which God has given me needs to be shared. Among other things, I told the women that it is perfectly okay to grieve a child lost due to miscarriage or stillbirth. These are real babies, and a mother’s grief is real grief. I reassured them that emotional and spiritual healing come through prayer and rest in the Presence of God.
After our group presentation, there was a brief break. Many women found their way to thank me for sharing. Then, many shared their own stories – the loss of children and grandchildren, the sadness on behalf of their daughters who are struggling with deep grief, the fear that it will never be “okay” to bring up the name of a baby who is now in the arms of God.
Acknowledging their hurt and fears, because I know them all too well, I let them know it will be okay someday. And then one day it won’t be. Another day it will be fine all over again. Grief doesn’t have an on/off switch that is easily found. Once we accept that, our healing can truly begin. I had to let go of so many kinds of fear over the years. Fear that I will never stop crying. Then fear that I will forget the details of the few moments I had to hold my son. Learning to cling to the love and light of Christ was absolutely essential to my healing, as it is essential to my life day in and day out.
I shared at the Convention that this coming October 6 will be Gabriel’s 25th birthday. I don’t anticipate a horrible day; a bit of melancholy perhaps. But that is okay. Milestone birthdays tend to be difficult for me, but I am no longer fearful. I am a woman who will cry a little and (hopefully) smile a lot because Gabriel is the little boy who made me a mommy.