Miscarriage or stillbirth has touched the lives of many people; yet all too often, these tragic events remain unaddressed. Not only does this lack of response often lead to unresolved grief, it also contradicts our belief that, in sexual reproduction, a human being’s life begins at the moment of fertilization. For too many years, both society in general and the faith community in particular have ignored the deep grief families experience as a result of miscarriage or stillbirth. And how can we convince an abortion-minded woman that her preborn child has dignity and worth when we don’t proclaim that same message when a miscarriage or stillbirth occurs? Failure to recognize this type of loss has contributed to our country’s abortion mentality.
Miscarriage grief is compounded when parents later realize they didn’t appropriately honor their deceased child when the miscarriage occurred. This can happen as a result of having to make quick decisions in emergency situations and being in a state of shock. But it’s never too late to properly honor their baby, even if there are no physical remains, and there are wonderful resources available for this purpose.
Sometimes parents leave their baby’s remains at a hospital, believing they’ll be buried in a dignified manner. However, the hospital often disposes of the baby as medical waste, and if it does bury the remains, it generally comingles babies’ bodies. With the best of intentions, some families keep or bury the baby’s remains at home, unaware that Catholic teaching requires burial in an individual vessel and burial in a cemetery. Small casketssuitable for the dignified burial of miscarried babies are available from Elizabeth Ministry International (EMI). Made of high-quality styrene material, they can serve as both a casket and a burial vault.
While most miscarriages are unanticipated, some women learn that the baby’s heart has stopped. They must then wait for the body to be released from the womb—without knowing when or where the miscarriage will occur. EMI provides a miscarriage delivery aid kit to help these mothers deliver their child with as much dignity as possible. It can be carried discreetly in a purse for use when needed.
EMI’s Pastoral Guide: Miscarriage, Stillbirth or Newborn Loss and other resources provide funeral or memorial service suggestions, certificates, blessings, support group guides, books, and keepsakes that honor a deceased baby and support a grieving family.
It’s important to have a funeral or memorial service to give grieving family members a time and place to acknowledge the dignity of a baby who never lived outside the womb. This also gives the faith community a chance to grieve, and it reminds others of the significance of this child, who lives for all eternity with the Lord. Public mourning of miscarriages and stillbirths not only comforts grieving families, but also heightens awareness of the sanctity of preborn children.