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Finding Union In Christ

alec vanderboom

This past Christmas I really missed the son that I miscarried in 2006. We buried Francisco in July. Somehow I always miss him the most at Christmas time, however, rather than the actual anniversary of his death.

To deal with grief this year, I search a lot of "infant loss" support groups online. It was still only a few weeks after Tessy safely returned from the NICU. Many stories touched my heart and I left a lot of supportive comments on different websites.

Over time, reading a lot of these stories "secular" websites got very draining and depressing. I found this tendency that was very striking.

This was this angry "fracturedness." Over and over again grieving parents said unless you've actually felt my pain, you can't know what it was like. It was so fractured the divisions were nonsensical. Parents said people who suffered from "stillbirth" couldn't possibly relate to someone whose premature baby died after 30 minutes. Someone whose kid died of a bone disease at 8 months couldn't relate to someone who died of a heart complication at 6 months.

There was this thought that unless your kid suffered in the exact same way, for the exact amount of time, you couldn't possibly offer compassion or understanding. "Unless you've experienced this exact same trauma, get out of here" was the message stated over and over again.

I found that experience of self-imposed isolation during grief very foreign.

There was a moment, immediately after Tessy's diagnosis, where I took a lot of comfort in visiting a website of her specific illness. There was one kind website where parents of doudenal atresia posted photos of their sick kids in the NICU next to a picture of the same child's one year birthday. See that dichotomy gave me hope on the rough day of her very first diagnosis.

Since that moment, I'm really surprised. I haven't been back to the "doudenal atresia" sites. Instead, I've found comfort and compassion very diverse sources.

For example, I bonded with fellow NICU parents with kids who suffered from wildly different issues than Tessy; premature birth, serious heart defects and hydrocephalus.

When I asked for prayers on this website, we had tons of people sending in prayers from outside of America.

And the best, most open heart people I found in my journey of grief over one dead son and one daughter born with a birth defect, are people who will never, ever face that grief themselves. . . .priests and nuns.

To be a Christian, means to carry a cross. It's heavy. It sucks. And when you run from it, usually by escaping into mortal sin, the results are catastrophic. And when you turn towards your cross, the results is luminous and beautiful.

The priests and religious have totally different crosses than us married folks, but there is a "union" in Christ.

As lay Christians, we can have radically different crosses than each other, infertility, unexpected pregnancy, miscarriage, "super" fertility, sickness, infant death. Yet there is a "oneness" in Christ. We can support each other in love, even if we don't understand instinctively the unique heart-ache of another's cross.

Those are my thoughts after listening to Deacon Mike in video posted below. His unique Christian journey is so "relatable" to mine.