About 35 people gathered in semi-darkness on October 15 to light candles in memory of precious lives lost in pregnancy and infancy. Four people gave testimonies at the service about miscarriages both recent and decades ago, a stillborn child, and a child lost at eight months old. They read from Bible passages including Psalm 139 and the story of Jesus and the children.
The Pregnancy and Infant Loss Memorial Service was the first such event ever held at Grace Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Mich.
“Grief can feel very isolating, especially when we are grieving the loss of a child whom others did not have an opportunity to know,” said Irene Kraegel, one of those who shared personal stories at the service. “It is so important for us to talk about our grief, to remind each other that we are not alone. The body of Christ is uniquely suited for this kind of mutual support.”
Emily Helder initiated the event. Helder and her husband have mourned two miscarriages, and they have found it meaningful to light candles at 7 p.m. on October 15th, along with thousands of people across the country, as part of National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day in the U.S. When Emily had friends experience miscarriage and stillbirth this past summer, she approached her pastor and worship committee with the idea to share the practice in a community memorial service. Her friend Ryan Scheiber offered to colead the event.
“One in four women have a miscarriage. Infant loss is less common,” said Helder. “But both are not losses that you forget.”
Miscarriage can be an especially lonely loss, according to Helder. “Often there is no funeral or memorial service, which leaves an unresolved feeling. Sometimes people don’t even tell friends and family. And when they do, it’s common to get responses that are trite and unhelpful, such as ‘This must be part of God’s plan.’”
Church members who want to help should “recognize that the person is grieving,” said Helder. “I’m hoping this service could be that community recognition.”