Susanna Spencer has a masters in theology from the Franciscan University of Steubenville. She is a writer and the theological editor for Blessed is She, and writes on her own blog Living With Lady Philosophy. She is a homeschooling mother of four and lives with her family in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Laura and Franco Fanucci lead grieving parents through the loss of an unborn baby in their new book Grieving Together: A Couple’s Journey through Miscarriage explaining, “Our marriage has experienced three deep griefs: infertility, miscarriage, and infant loss. Though we are far from the first or the last to suffer such sorrow, each encounter with loss has changed us in ways we never expected—as individuals and couples.” (Ch. 3, p. 45)
Grieving Together is an invaluable resource that gently meets parents where they are at whatever stage of loss. It covers all aspects of miscarriage: the physical and emotional loss, the grieving process, the response of family and friends, the theological understanding of the Church, the liturgical rites available to bereaved families, prayers and devotions, ways to remember ones’ baby, difficulties in marriage, and looking to the future.
Instead of searching for information in a cold internet chat room or on a sterilized medical website, as many others and I myself have done, parents can read about the physical and emotional experience of miscarriage in the understanding words of a couple who has been through it. The Fanuccis anticipate and explain all different scenarios of what might happen in a loss of an unborn baby, and provide resources with sound ethical advice as well. They give ideas on what to do in the immediate days after the miscarriage, and explain options for reposing the baby’s remains while reassuring parents that it is okay if they were not able to find the baby’s body.
I was particularly struck by the idea that “the loss of a baby is at once a common suffering and a deeply personal loss.” (p.10) Many people have experienced the loss of a child, but, as each child is a precious individual human person, the grief we feel is as unique as the person we never met. The Fanuccis’ chapters on grief lead one through the emotions each parent might experience and how to handle the different aspects of suffering. They beautifully discuss the feelings of bereft mothers and fathers giving permission to grieve in her or his own way while encouraging them to stay close to each other in their loss.
One of the hardest things for me when experiencing my miscarriages was grappling with the Church’s teaching on what happens to babies who die before baptism. The Fanucci’s dive right into the heart of the issue and come up with the answer given by the International Theological Commission in The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die without Being Baptised: there are grounds for prayerful hope that these babies enjoy the beatific vision, but not grounds for sure knowledge. This response requires a radical abandonment of one’s lost children to God’s mercy and his immense love. One of my favorite parts of this book is the inclusion of prayers from the Order of Christian Funerals for a child who died before baptism, which emphasize the loss of the parents the Church’s trust in God’s mercy.
I often hear from women a few generations before me that people did not discuss miscarriages when they were having babies. The Fanuccis encourage couples to talk to others about their loss as they need to in order to love and grieve over their child, and that is what makes this book so beautiful. In addition to tell their own story of miscarriage and the loss of their twin infants, they gathered together many stories of sorrow, loss, and hope from couples who have also experienced miscarriage. It was so inspiring to read the words of these parents and how they viewed their loss but remained full of trust in God’s plan for them and their families.
The book is not just for couples grieving, but for anyone who is close to or ministers to those going through loss. It offers sound advice to family, friends, and parishes on how to support bereaved parents, and reminds us that losing a baby changes a family forever. Yet, this change is not one to fear, for Christ promises: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).