I recently moved and had to find a new hair salon. I walked into the empty salon and got right into washing my hair and engaging in small talk with my potential new stylist. She asked all the normal new-person questions. She asked if I lived in the neighborhood and how I was enjoying it. Then she asked if I was married and I braced myself waiting for the usual follow-up question and it came… “Do you have any children?” I said, “Yes, I have two beautiful twin boys in heaven,” and she replied “OH!” Then the conversation went silent. I started to ask her questions and continued the friendly, light-hearted small talk as she styled my hair. All was well and I left a satisfied customer.
In May of 2017, less than a year into marriage, my husband Michael and I found out we were expecting a child. We had prayed so much for this and it happened. God heard our prayers. Less than a month after that, we found out that God had blessed us with TWO babies— identical twins! We and our families were thrilled. I immediately started knitting a blanket. My niece/goddaughter started knitting booties. Michael and I went to Fatima to thank Our Lady for this great gift. We waited until I was out of the first trimester to share the news on social media.
All of this joy and excitement came to a shocking halt on August 16, 2017. That is the day our babies were born and the first and last day we got to hold them. It was the day we found out they were boys. We named them Francisco, after St. Francisco Marto of Fatima and St. Francis of Assisi, and Pius, for St. Padre Pio and Venerable Pius XII.
Since that day, it has been, and continues to be, a journey of grieving and healing. Although death is such a certainty for ourselves and all of those whom we love, there is always something so shocking about it. Because death is inevitable, grief is a reality that all of us will face at some point in our life. Grief can be a powerful teacher. I wanted to share some of the things I have learned in the process.
1. You have a right to grieve.
A week before we lost our boys, a young family friend died unexpectedly and it was shocking and heartbreaking. I thought about her parents and how torn apart they must be. Just a week later, I was the torn apart mom but I thought maybe I was making too big of a deal. I thought these other parents had more of a right to suffer than I did. Then I thought miscarriage is so common and women seem to “move on” so easily. What was wrong with me? Why was this so big?
After finding a great therapist and reading so much about it, I accepted that I had the right to be grieving. My grief was just as valid and real as those other parents that lost their daughter. How a miscarriage may or may not affect other people is not my concern. I did not need to justify the depth of my grief to myself or others. When the death of someone hurts and stops you in your tracks, no matter what the relationship was, how long the relationship existed, how close or distant you were, you have a right to grieve. Period.
2. Feel what you are feeling, not what you wish you were feeling.
After the miscarriage, I watched a YouTube video of a young Christian couple that shared the beginning of their pregnancy and then vlogged about their miscarriage. While still in the hospital, they both shared that they were sad but were trusting in God; that He has a plan, and they could rejoice knowing that God is good. I wanted to break the computer screen and scream as loudly and violently as I could. This may have been this couple’s legitimate, sincere reaction, so I can’t knock them for that. What it brought up in me is the expectation in the Christian world that when something truly devastating happens, we are just supposed to act like it’s not a big deal and keep it moving because we trust God.
I tried for about a week to say “praise God”, “it’s His will”, and “it is well with my soul” but that just ended in tears and rage. That’s the truth of how I was feeling: sadness and rage. I told the Lord, “I am heartbroken and angrier than I’ve ever been at You. I wish I could say I trust You and Your Will, but right now, that’s just not where I’m at.” That was the start of a deepening of my relationship with God. It really stinks to feel the hurt and anger and sadness. That Cross is heavy, but we can’t bypass it. In order to ever sincerely get to that place of “trust” and “thy will be done,” Jesus himself had to admit His real feelings to the Father. So do we. We can admit them to others and create a culture in our faith where it is ok to say, “I am not ok right now.”
3. Give others the chance to love you.
In times of grief, our loved ones can often shine, if we give them the permission to. So many people showed us deep love and compassion: my family came to our apartment, hung out with us, and gave us space to go off by ourselves to cry. Friends sent kind gifts or gestures to show they care, and so many people prayed for us. The kindness of people is the cheering squad in the middle of grief, they are like the women of Jerusalem or St. Simon of Cyrene who showed compassion on the way to Calvary. We still have to carry the Cross of grief, but having them there makes it more bearable. People surprised me with their desire to be there for us and show us compassion. When we grieve alone and don’t let anyone in, we rob ourselves and others of something truly beautiful.
4. Love never ends.
In my first therapy session after the miscarriage, I just blurted out, “I hate that I can’t show them my love. I have all this love I want to pour out and I have nowhere to put it.” Boy, was I wrong. I couldn’t love them the way I wanted to, but I have learned that there are so many ways to love them. The Church’s teaching about asking for the help of our beloved dead has been such a source of healing. I ask my boys for their intercession all of the time and my two little saints always come through.
I also learned that to do physical things to show them love is ok. On their due date, Michael and I went to a baby store and got them a few outfits. It was hard and painful but it gave us something to do. I’ve gotten them outfits on a few occasions and now have a nice donation to give to a pregnancy crisis center in the name of our boys. I’ve made meals thinking of them but served them lovingly to my husband. However we choose to show love to those that we grieve for, the point is they still love us and we still love them. That’s a truth we can hold on to.
5. Grief doesn’t have an expiration date.
Time definitely helps in the grieving process, but grief has no shelf-life. You could have spent months without one tear or anger surge, and then a Facebook post, a comment, or a TV commercial can send you into a whirl of emotions AND THAT IS OK. It doesn’t mean you haven’t healed, it means there was a loss and that loss affected you profoundly. Holidays or special anniversaries (for me the due date and their birthday) might always cause some sadness or maybe it will just be for a little while longer. Either way, just feel what you feel and bring it to the Lord.
Pope Francis once said “Sometimes in our lives, tears are the lenses we need to see Jesus.” There is an intimacy with Jesus that happens in suffering. God became Man and dwelt among us and suffered and grieved, so that when we pass through that dark valley, we can know God knows this both as God and as Man. May we have the courage to carry the Cross of grief with Him.
Christy Vaissade was born and raised in Brooklyn. It has been Christy’s personal desire to bring others to come to know the Mercy and Love of God that has changed and is changing her life. Christy works for the Office of Young Adult Outreach of the Archdiocese of New York. She and her husband, Michael, live in New Jersey with their Pembroke Welsh Corgi puppy, Daisy. She loves cooking food from all over the world, going on hikes, and watching Downton Abbey.