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October 10, 2011
KIPLY LUKAN YAWORSKI
PRAIRIE MESSENGER

SASKATOON — The Saskatoon Diocese has launched an outreach to help those who are suffering the loss of a child through miscarriage.

Those who have suffered miscarriages often need healing and long for acknowledgement, said Elan Ehresman, who coordinates the diocese’s Marriage and Family Life office.

“I have learned much about the suffering associated with miscarriage, about the need for healing, and about the longing for acknowledgment,” Ehresman said in a presentation last month.

“It has become really important for me to celebrate life from its very beginnings.”

The diocesan Miscarriage Awareness Committee is working to help people know how to respond to those who have had miscarriages and to find resources to help.

When women delay in announcing a pregnancy, waiting until they get past the first few months, they may be cutting themselves off from much-needed support if their child is lost in a miscarriage, Ehresman noted.

“Let’s celebrate that life,” she said. “And if that child dies, we can be a compassionate people, and a support for those mourning the loss.”

Shannon Granger’s experience of a miscarriage led her and husband Dan to seek support from their faith community . . . and their journey prompted the establishment of the Miscarriage Awareness Committee.

“We have four babies, but we have only met three of them,” Granger said with emotion, sharing the experience of losing her third child.

“I was healthy, the baby was normal, and I even heard the baby’s heartbeat in December,” she said.

“At an appointment in January, my doctor could not find a heartbeat. We went for an ultrasound and my doctor confirmed there was no heartbeat. My baby had died, most likely three weeks earlier.”

She said that because they have told their friends that she was pregant, when the baby died “we experienced an enormous outpouring of love and support.”

Granger said experiencing this loss gave her new insight into the suffering of friends and family who had had miscarriages in the past.

“I never understood, saying common phrases, like ‘You can try again’ or ‘At least it was early’ — not understanding how hurtful those words were.”

The Grangers decided, with the pastor’s support, to hold a Liturgy of the Word to celebrate and remember their baby.

“In preparing our liturgy, Father Lawrence had said he hadn’t been part of a service or celebration in the case of a miscarriage in all of his years of being a priest.”

This was a stunning revelation, given how many families are affected by miscarriage, she said. “The richness of our tradition in liturgical worship, and the power of communal prayer are under-utilized when it comes to miscarriage.”

Through conversations that Shannon initiated with the diocesan office of Marriage and Family Life, the Miscarriage Awareness Committee was eventually established and has now gathered a range of information and resources.

Twenty-five per cent of pregnancies end in miscarriage, said committee member Carol Kostiuk, one of four parish nurses serving in the Saskatoon Diocese.

BUILDING BRIDGES

Kostiuk advocated building bridges of knowledge, compassion and healing services to help the grieving family, recalling her own experience.

“We dealt with it on our own,” she said of the loss of her baby. “It would have meant so much to us if we could have just talked to someone in our parish who had experienced a miscarriage too.”

It is important to ask priests and pastoral workers to reach out to parishioners, she said. That can occur by mentioning the subject, by offering services or through such measures as having miscarriages included in the Book of Remembrance in November.