Spexarths to lead couples’ workshop for grieving families on Jan. 21 at the SLC

Joe and Carolyn Spexarth will lead a grief workshop Saturday, Jan. 21, at the Spiritual Life Center in Wichita. (Courtesy photo)

Grief workshop open to all who have lost a child

By Sharon Witzell

The grieving workshop is open to all families who have experienced the loss of a child from pregnancy through adulthood – those attending will be among their peers. Counseling and spiritual direction will be available.

Please share this information if you know anyone in and around the area that would benefit from this support. If your spouse cannot attend, or you are single and have no spouse, we will pair you with a mentor. Details about Red Bird Ministries is available at redbird.love.

The workshop will be begin at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 21, at the Spiritual Life Center in Wichita. It will conclude at about 6 p.m., after a vigil Mass. (The Mass will fulfill one’s Sunday obligation.)

Registration is $50 for couples, $25 for singles, and includes meals and materials. Scholarships are provided for anyone who cannot afford it. For information, call 316-685-5240 or email [email protected]

During the early years of their family life, Joe and Carolyn were parishioners of Church of the Magdalen in Wichita. They are now enjoying their empty nest at Sacred Heart Parish in Colwich.

Witzell is director of Senior Adult Ministries.

Spexarths share background to founding ministry

By Carolyn Spexarth

My husband, Joe, and I were over-the-top excited to bring our first born son, Eric, into the world. After hours of labor, however, it was determined that I should deliver via a C-section. Unfortunately, instead of the normal two minutes to deliver with surgery, it took 12. Our son was born with no sign of life. Instead of overwhelming joy after the birth, Joe and I collapsed into a pit of crushing grief.

Absolutely nothing prepared us for these next months of deep, unrelenting grief. I had quit my job to stay home with this new vocation of motherhood, so I had no job in the home or out of the home. I quickly learned that most people are uncomfortable with grief, and despite good intentions, were ill-equipped to accompany me. I felt so alone.

My cousin visited us soon after my son’s death. Her son died years ago from sudden infant death syndrome. She promised, “One day you will find peace. I don’t know when, but you will.” I clung to that with all my heart, because I knew she understood.

My uncle, the late Fr. Jerry Beat told me, “You don’t have to like it in order to accept it,” which gave me permission to be so full of conflicting emotions and still trust. Eric’s godmother prayed over me every week until I could finally surrender that ugly ball of grief that I clung to for nine months. That was all I thought I had left of my son.

Grief was a difficult journey

After three pregnancies that resulted in beautiful children, I miscarried the last two pregnancies, both at seven weeks. That grief was surprisingly different and still a struggle to journey through. My heart accused me of being a bad mom if I didn’t even know that my baby had died within me. Once again, people were unsure of what to say, so they said nothing. That added to the pain.

I wish Red Bird Ministries had been available at that time. It is a resource of hope and healing. That’s why my husband and I are assisting with it in our diocese. The organization was formed to help people understand grief, how to navigate through it and most crucially how to begin the healing process. They focus on all four aspects of grief: emotional, physiological, relational, and spiritual. Our Catholic faith plays an important and vital role and must be at the center of support.

If you need a place to share your story and help in navigating this journey of grief, I invite you to attend the Couples’ Retreat on Jan. 21 at the Spiritual Life Center. No matter how old your child was, no matter how long ago it was, grief has its proper place in your life. Red Bird Ministry has the tools to help you integrate this grief into your life.

I am so grateful to God that I didn’t wither up and die or allow the waves of grief swallow me up and take me away.