Parents who have suffered the loss of a child encouraged to talk

ROCK HILL—When a child dies, parents need to be encouraged to talk about the loss and celebrate their son or daughter’s life, not told simply to “get on with life” or that their loss was God’s will.

“The pain and hurt we feel is real, it may dull over time but will always be there,” Oratorian Father Joseph F. Pearce said in his homily at the annual Remembering Our Children Mass Nov. 12 at The Oratory.

“That’s when we need one another and the communion of the faithful to support us,” he said. “We also should remember our children are alive in heaven. They have been transformed. Their love for us continues to live, and they reach out to intercede for us.”

Father Pearce is the parochial vicar at St. Philip Neri Church in Fort Mill. About 20 people attended the Mass which was co-sponsored by the Dioceses of Charleston and Charlotte.

The priest said the loss of a child is something no one can prepare for, but communication and prayer are two ways to deal with the grief.

After the Mass, Kim Padan, a Catholic from Illinois, spoke about the loss of her son, Gabriel, 33 weeks into her pregnancy.

She said the experience, which took place 17 years ago, has affected her faith and entire life.

Padan is now executive director of a crisis pregnancy center, and she and her husband served as foster parents to 40 children.

She said it is especially important for parents of children lost to miscarriage or stillbirth to acknowledge their grief because sometimes society tends to ignore that type of loss. She encourages those parents to name their children if they wish, and to have Masses and prayers said for them.

Padan also said losing her son taught her important lessons.

“I do believe God has a plan for every child conceived, and our children often help us to learn how to walk in holiness,” she said. “Gabriel helped me grow in holiness. I had to learn to lean on Christ even more, to surrender to God’s will.”

Some of the parents who attended the Mass said it offered good lessons for how the faithful can respond to people who have lost a child.

“One of the best things someone can do to be a comfort to a mother who has lost a child is simply to listen,” said Julie Cook of Rock Hill, whose fourth son, Jon Blaise Cook, was stillborn in 2010.

“A mother, by nature, wants to show off her children, to talk about them,” she said.

“Don’t avoid the topic of the lost child. Don’t walk on eggshells. Instead, acknowledge the child and let her share her story.”