Bishop shares the sorrow of parents and families who have lost a child

Fr. Aaron Spexarth, pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, accepts candles of remembrance from those who have lost children during the Mass of Remembrance March 10. Behind him is Fr. Jon Tolberd, the parochial vicar. (Courtesy photo)

Losing a loved one to death is an experience everyone has or will have, Bishop Carl A. Kemme told those attending a Mass of Remembrance Sunday, March 10, at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Wichita.

“Loss is simply a part of the human condition,” he said. “But those who lose a child, either by miscarriage or in the birthing process, or sometime after the child is born or even when the child is older, are losses which bring unimaginable, and for most of us, incomprehensible pain. No one could ever be ready for it. And no one can explain it, nor should they try.”

Sorrow takes time to lift

The loss of someone who is elderly or who has a terminal illness is anticipated, he said. “But when our loved ones are taken from us suddenly and without warning – especially if they are babies who have never seen the light of day or have only lived a very short time on this earth – a certain darkness enters our world that takes a long time to lift. What can we do but hold onto our memories and ponder them for the remainder of our lives?”

Everyone experiences the death of a loved one differently, Bishop Kemme said.

Dads grieve, too

“Mothers of children who have died will process their grief differently than their fathers. That is why I would recommend a book coauthored by a friend of mine, entitled ‘The Grief of Dads: Support and Hope for Catholic Fathers Navigating Child Loss.’ Dads often get overlooked in the loss of their unborn or newborn child because our culture expects them to be strong and protective in the family unit. But they have a right to their own sadness and pain.”

Bishop Kemme said he has shared that sadness and pain in his own ministry. “I once celebrated the funeral of such a child, when with our eyes so full of tears, we witnessed the dad carry a little coffin out of the church to the tiny grave.”

How could this happen?

The bishop said he has known mothers and fathers and close relatives who go years, if not until the end of their lives, living with the questions: Why? What if? How could this happen? “Those questions seemingly have no answers, at least on this side of heaven. Until then, we must hold onto our faith and our expectation that one day, we will be together again, and all the mysteries of this life will be revealed.”

The Mass of Remembrance helps those in mourning understand that they are not alone and that those memories are precious to God and the church, Bishop Kemme said.

Share your grief

“Grief that is shared and especially grief that is shared with others who have the same grief can often be healing. And the Lord wants to heal us, just as he healed so many in the Gospels, often of their physical pain and suffering but also their emotional and spiritual pain, like the pain you may carry because of the loss of a child.”

The bishop said that St. John reminds us that God is love, but that statement is often challenging to parents who have lost a child or children.

“How can a God of love permit such a thing? God’s love doesn’t always make perfect sense. It is often mysterious and incomprehensible, but it is the most real and truest reality in this life, and on it we can always depend, for as St. John said in today’s Gospel, ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave us his only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him might not perish but have eternal life.’”

God wants to share his life here, where life is temporary and passing away, Bishop Kemme said, but more so in his Kingdom, where life is eternal.

We will be together

“One by one, God is gathering his children, and one day, he will call us, who believe, to take our place in our Father’s house, where there are many dwelling places. Your loved ones and mine, your children, who have preceded you in death in this life are there, have no doubt, and there you will be together again, made whole and living what God wanted for us from the very beginning, a life of unending joy, peace, and love.

Until then, may the memories of your child or your children and the memories of all our deceased loved ones bring us healing and hope.”

Fr. Aaron Spexarth is pastor and Fr. Jon Tolberd is the parochial vicar of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish.