October 15th is the feast day of Teresa of Ávila, a saint whose words have often spoken to my heart. On the days when we feel oh so weary, so very bone weary, this imagery of allowing God’s presence to settle in our bones and the releasing of ourselves to sing and dance and praise, and love, it is like a balm and healing ointment.
Not all days feel like days to sing and dance. Not all days feel like days to praise. Some days are heavy laden with memories, with hurts, and sorrows. Some days the sorrow reaches the bone and it aches deeply and you are short of breath, spiritual breath, emotional breath, mental breath.
But then a thing happens. Slowly, the breaks begin to heal. The sorrow, enveloped by time, cradled by love, nurtured in patience, begins to make way for new beginnings. The scars, not always visible, will remain, but life invites us to try again, to welcome the new day with a new hope.
October 15 is also Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. This past September marked ten years since my traumatic miscarriage at 16 weeks. That day, a decade ago, I lost my son. His name is Luca Olivier. He was my second, his big brother was so excited for his arrival, my husband and I were so excited to see our family grow.
I held him in my hands for a brief moment. A moment so brief that even a decade later it hurts to know that it wasn’t nearly long enough. For so many years, I was haunted by the trauma of that day, by the things that felt like they were my fault, by the moments that that couldn’t be undone, by the heart crushing sorrow that penetrated every cell of my body and settled deeply in the depths of my soul as they took his tiny body from me. It was one of the darkest moments in my life.
The seasons that followed were not linear. There were highs and lows, there was much healing, and yet there were moments that felt as though I was being pulled back to the earliest days. After a decade I am in a completely different space with my grief. I have been able to hold the hand of others who have experienced loss, I have told my story, and I continue to speak about Luca, because he existed and he was mine and I am grateful for even those brief months we spent sharing this body of mine. I have organized prayer services, I have written about loss, I have raised awareness. Through it, and in the midst of it, there has been healing.
And then, last year, on the anniversary of the day I lost him, the day came and went and I forgot that it was the day. And this year, it wasn’t until the day after that I remembered. And I was consumed by shame, by guilt, and by a different kind of grief.
But then I realized that sometimes healing means no longer needing to relive the pain in the same ways. And in some ways the pain has morphed into an honouring memory rather than a gut wrenching experience. I will never forget the way I was treated in that hospital that day, it traumatized me deeply and still makes it hard for me to walk into a hospital without anxiety, I will never forget the pain of labour, the utter distress of having my water broken by the doctor and knowing that there would be no turning back and that everything about that pregnancy was over in that moment.
I don’t want every memory that I have of this sweet boy of mine to be marred by the darkness of that day. From the moment I knew I was carrying his life within my womb, there was pure joy and wonderful anticipation. There were dreams of family and there was the excitement of a little boy who would talk to my belly so excited to be a big brother. There was love, so much love. There is love … deep and abiding and it has not ceased.
And so when faced with guilt or shame, I also realized that the darkest parts of my sorrow have had a chance to heal. I can think of Luca now without the very raw feelings of those early days and years. I would not begrudge my body when bones and muscles and joints heal in the aftermath of an injury. I would rejoice in the moments when I no longer needed crutches or a cast, or the day when I realized that I was no longer limping but walking at full strength again.
It has to be okay to walk again. It doesn’t mean that you didn’t love enough, or hurt enough, or that it wasn’t a big deal. It means that healing has taken place. It means that the sorrow has made way for hope, for joy, for new beginnings and for more love. It means that you have taken the pain and allowed the presence and peace of God settle deep into your bones, and hold you when you thought you couldn’t carry yourself any longer. And in the surrender of the pain and the sorrow a new road has emerged. It doesn’t erase the one that brought us here, it simply offers a new way. And along this path you may find others who need you to walk alongside them so that they too can walk towards their own healing. May we always be open to that journey, for the road of grief is to often lonely and overwhelming, but the yoke when shared makes such a difference.
Luca, sweetheart, mommy and daddy love you dearly as do your big brother and little sister. Thank you for touching our lives so deeply even in your brief time in our lives.
Warmly and with Love,