The club for those who have suffered infertility, miscarriage, and infant loss is enormous, diverse, and unnecessarily secretive. How is it that we so often do not know who among us has been initiated? How is it that men and women being swallowed by the exhaustion of unfulfilled yearning or the hysteria of losing a life that has begun and vanished find themselves isolated? This grief, these griefs, though common, are so often lonely and unacknowledged.
Ministers, lay leaders, and family and friends often struggle with what can possibly be said or done. Saying the wrong thing can be incredibly destructive to those who are barely able to keep breathing. But failing to acknowledge the enormity of these griefs simply heaps wound upon wound to fragile bodies, and fragile spirits.
Mother’s Day will arrive this year, as it always does, without regard for those who cannot celebrate. Mother’s Day for members of the club is often something to be survived with blinds closed, covers drawn, and hard liquor at the ready. For weeks, advertisements for jewelry and craft projects and flowers and candy and other “perfect Mother’s Day gifts” chip away at the resolve of men and women whose families are incomplete. But the most difficult reality is often that worship on Mother’s Day fails to acknowledge this club. Worship cannot be whole if grief and hope are not bound together in our offerings to God.
Likewise, a faith community cannot be whole if grief and hope are not bound together in the fellowship and hard work of life together.
I participate in planning an annual service of Grief, Hope, and Worship held on the week before Mother’s Day. This year we were called to speak for and to those who are grieving infertility, miscarriage and the loss of children. Thank you to Shelley Woodruff, ThD student at Duke Divinity School, for this call (and for grabbing my imagination and informing this post with her image of a club.) I invite you to commit to the same, and to use the resources of Project Pomegranate and our new website in this ministry of presence, this ministry of naming and making space for grief. Consider these possibilities during Mother’s Day Weekend:
- Ask your senior pastor or worship planner to include a mention of this grief in the pastoral prayer (check the Forms and Practices section!)
- Place a white rose in the sanctuary in honor of those who are struggling or who have lost
- Be in touch with those who you know for whom Mother’s Day will be difficult.
- Choose your words carefully. But name their grief. They need to know that you know that it is real.
- Claim your place in the club, letting those around you know a bit of your grief so that you may be loved, and so that you may be a beacon of hope for those who will soon be initiated.
And then, commit to a sustained effort to address these needs in your faith community!
Beginning on Mother’s Day, and for the week that follows, Project Pomegranate will publish a daily blog dedicated to naming and making space for the grief of members of the club, our club, our enormous, diverse, and unnecessarily private, club. Please make an effort to re-post or share these blogs. We invite you to join us in our project by liking us on Facebook, following our blog, and watching for opportunities to get involved. Please stay connected with us as we grow, as we add resources, and as we create experiences together!
Kyrie Eleison. Lord have mercy.
Mary Elizabeth Hanchey