Yesterday afternoon we got to hear from Kathy, a nurse who heads up the Perinatal Bereavement program here at Capital Health System, and whom I’ve had some opportunity to work with on the antepardum unit. She’s really passionate about what she does and compassionate in her work, so it was moving to hear her stories about infant loss and her reflections on how to provide care for those who experience these tragedies.
As we discussed grief in general and its various stages (shock and numbness, searching and yearning, disorientation, reorganization/resolution–which Kathy likes to refer to as reconciliation, instead), I recalled circumstances in which I had experienced these stages in my life and reflected on how the Church cares for those who are grieving. When we found out how common infant loss is (25%-35% of mothers have a pregnancy loss), it became apparent that it’s just not talked about, and that’s painful given that silence in the Church is often a signal to those in pain and grief that their feelings are abnormal.
One thing Kathy stressed is normalizing the experience of loss for our patients, and I think also humanizing–recalling their dignity and humanity in their feelings and in their questions is particularly important. Our group discussed the need for pastors to preach messages that value the grieving process with all its time requirements from the pulpit. As a Church, as a society, as a world, we want to fix people quickly and move on, we want to cure and avoid death, but death is part of the harmony of life, and living is in harmony with death.
When I write stuff like this it always sort of causes me to do a double-take, because it’s really scary stuff. But it really pains me to consider the Church’s absence in accompanying the grieving, in accepting all the feelings associated with grief, in wrestling with where death makes our faith particularly poignant. As a pastor, I want to be invited into spaces that seem hardly appropriate for the Church or for faith, because those are the places I know God already dwells, places were Jesus resides. It strikes me that such an invitation may not come easily, quickly, or apparently, but when I can simply be there, I will–and God-willing, as a witness to a spirituality that isn’t so afraid of death but of life that goes unexamined and unexplored.