Coping With Loss

Road to Nowhere Josh Hrkach (1)

“Road to Nowhere” copyright by Josh Hrkach, used with permission

My new article at Catholic Mom speaks of ways to use loss to increase in virtue.

Loss might entail the death of a loved one, the loss of an unborn child, an accident that causes us to lose an ability, the discovery of a child’s handicap. It can be a difficult divorce or an adult child who’s lost his faith. It can be the loss of a beloved pet. It can be a parent with Alzheimer’s who has lost her memory; it can be the loss of a job or even the loss of innocence.

St. Faustina assures us that God “uses EVERYTHING to effect our transformation… that He wastes not one little trial to bring about good.”

I’ve experienced my share of losses over the past five decades.  These are a few guidelines I try to follow when dealing with loss.

  1. Be Prepared for the Unexpected

This point became evident to me with the unexpected death of my father when I was 18.  He was only 49 years old and died suddenly.  My family walked around in shock for weeks.  Because he had died suddenly, I had a lot of regret: If I had only told him one more time that I loved him, if I had only been more attentive the last time he was talking to me.  Life is full of enough trials and losses without focusing on regret.

  1. Trust

When my husband and I were first married, I had hoped that God would bless us with ten children.  So when we became pregnant, we were ecstatic.  Soon, joy turned to sorrow when I miscarried.  Several days later, I was rushed into emergency surgery because there had been another baby in my fallopian tube, and I was bleeding internally. We had conceived twins, but I left the hospital with neither baby in my arms.

St. Padre Pio said that when you pray, pray with an attitude that God will answer your prayer if it’s His will.  My husband and I prayed a thanksgiving to God that He would allow us to conceive another baby and have a successful pregnancy.  We were blessed to have three sons in five years.  When our third son was ten months old, we were pregnant again, this time with another ectopic pregnancy, but this time, I found myself with dangerous complications, in the back of an ambulance, hemorrhaging internally and drifting in and out of consciousness.  Instead of trusting, I panicked. I was in a great deal of pain and I was worried that my three little boys would have to grow up without a mom.

As I panicked, I prayed a Hail Mary with those last words taking on powerful meaning, now and at the hour of our death. Amen. I felt peace, serenity and God’s grace. My anxiety and worry was replaced with peace and joy.

  1. Embrace the Cross

God uses trials to make us better people. CS Lewis once said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, but shouts in our pain.” God has shouted to me many times.  In this case, after the peace, joy and trust I felt in the ambulance, I woke up in the recovery room, happy to be alive only to be greeted with a different excruciating pain and violent vomiting. Nausea medications did not work. My husband was away, and I felt so alone. “Please God, I can’t do this anymore.”  Within minutes, a good Samaritan nurse came along and sat and held my hand for a short while. Her presence was the consolation I needed.  I was then able to embrace that cross.

  1. See Beyond the Moment

When you’re caught up in the middle of a loss, it’s hard to see beyond that particular moment. Some losses seem too much to bear.  It’s important that we acknowledge the pain but also to try to see beyond that moment. You will never ‘get over’ any loss, but the pain will eventually be easier to manage.  We were eventually blessed with two more sons in our family.

  1. Forgive

Sometimes a loss will be the direct result of someone else’s actions: an accident, a murder, abuse. When Christ taught us to pray, he taught us to “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  He didn’t qualify it.  It doesn’t matter what the person has done to us or the heartache they caused; it doesn’t matter whether they want to be forgiven. We must forgive them.  It’s not an easy thing to do. However, forgiving someone is for our benefit.  Holding onto anger and holding onto a grudge hurts you. Pray and fast for the grace to forgive.

  1. You Are Not Alone

As Catholics, we believe in the spiritual presence of The Father, Son and the Holy Spirit and our guardian angel, the saints and angels. Our Lady is also a precious maternal presence in our lives.   In terms of human presence, our parish priest, close and supportive friends, relatives, counselors and those in support groups can be helpful in listening.  Thankfully my husband is a very patient empathetic listener because grieving and dealing with loss is much easier when you don’t feel alone.

  1. Prayer life/Sacramentals

Prayer life and the sacraments are vital to our day-to-day journey as Catholics whether we are experiencing loss or not.  But a strong prayer life is even more essential when grieving or going through difficult moments in life.  Attending Daily Mass, reciting the daily rosary, consecrating ourselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, wearing a scapular and/or miraculous medal, using holy water and candles are all instruments of grace.

  1. One Day at a Time/Take Time to Grieve

Taking one day at a time is crucial.  One can become overwhelmed with the sheer immensity of any particular loss.  This isn’t an article on grief specifically, but allow time to grieve.

  1. Take care of your needs

St. Thomas Aquinas once said, “Sorrow can be alleviated by good sleep, a bath and a glass of wine.”   Grieving can be hard work emotionally; some days you have to just remember to breath, let alone make meals, do housework, homeschooling, etc.  If a friend or relative offers to make you a meal or take your younger kids for an afternoon, accept the offer!

Finally, it’s important to reiterate that God is and always will be trustworthy. In the beginning of this article, I shared that I had hoped to have ten children when my husband and I were married.  God in His generosity gave us more than we asked for, he gave us 12: seven babies in heaven and five sons we’ve had the privilege to raise.  When you ask for something, be assured that, if it’s in your best interests, God will provide it. The biggest consolation with the loss of our seven babies through miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy is that I will get to finally hold those babies one day in eternity. My friend’s mother passed away years ago. She had had four miscarriages. When this woman was close to death, she said, “They’re singing to me.”

My friend asked, “Who’s singing, Mom?”

“My babies.”

Having my babies sing me into eternity  is a beautiful, consoling thought.

Copyright 2019 Ellen Gable Hrkach

 

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day 2019

pregnancy-infant-loss-remembrance-day

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day but the entire month of October is devoted to Infant Loss Remembrance. James and I feel very blessed and grateful to be the parents of five young adult sons (ages 20-32) and one beautiful grandson. We are also blessed to be the parents of seven precious babies we lost through miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy. This month, we remember in a special way these seven little souls (and intercessors) in heaven.

Here are a few of my reflections on pregnancy loss:

Among Women Podcast Episode 89 (Pat Gohn interviewed me about miscarriage and pregnancy loss)

Ecce Ancilla Domini, an article on openness to life.

Five Little Souls in Heaven (This article was written 25 years ago and published in the Nazareth Journal)

Difficult Anniversaries/Responsible Parenthood

One of the themes of my first novel, Emily’s Hope, is pregnancy loss.

This excerpt describes Emily’s loss of baby “Seth.”

“I need to push.” She wanted so desperately not to push, to allow her baby to stay inside of her, and for her to continue to nourish and nurture her child, but her body wouldn’t allow that. She pushed only twice and her small child was born. Emily heard a sound like a kitten crying, then realized that her baby had let out a small, soft, weak cry.

As soon as the umbilical cord was cut, the nurse immediately carried the baby across the room as the pediatric staff attempted to work on their child. Emily and Jason sat quietly, their hearts heavy with emotion. A few minutes later, she felt another contraction and her placenta was delivered. She could hear a nurse referring to “him,” and realized that their child was another boy. After a few minutes, the doctor brought him back, his small form still hidden in the blue hospital blanket. He spoke in a hushed, almost apologetic voice, “There is nothing we can do for him.”

He handed the tiny one-pound baby boy to his mother. Jason held onto Emily’s shoulder and watched as she cradled the smallest baby they had ever seen. He was so perfect and looked identical to their oldest son, Jake. His small body was covered with minute white hairs. He was perfect as he struggled to breathe. He was perfect as he opened his mouth to cry. Emily held her new son as gently as she could. Jason reached over and poured a few drops of water on him and said, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Emily could feel the vibration of his tiny heart beating fast.

The nurse came in with a Polaroid camera and asked if they wanted her to take a photo of their child. Emily nodded as the nurse took a photo of her and Jason and their tiny son. She gazed in awe at this miniature human being and marveled at the fact that even though he was tiny, he was so perfect. His little hands looked like a doll’s hands. She removed the baby blanket and laid his small, warm body on her chest. She could feel his heart beating rapidly. After several minutes, she wrapped him again in the small blue blanket.

Then, in an instant, he was still. She could feel that his heart had stopped and he wasn’t breathing, but he continued to feel warm and soft. He looked like a sleeping angel.

(End of excerpt.)

If you have lost a baby through miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth or infant death, please click on the link above “Baby Loss” for resources and helpful links.

Here is a list of other novels that include themes about infant/pregnancy loss:

In Name Only by Ellen Gable

A Subtle Grace by Ellen Gable

Stealing Jenny by Ellen Gable

A World Such as Heaven Intended by Amanda Lauer

Rose, Sola by Carmela Martino

The Rose and the Sword by Gina Marinello-Sweeney

Bane’s Eyes by Corinna Turner

Passport by Christopher Blunt

Ornamental Graces by Carolyn Astfalk

For Eden’s Sake by T.M. Gaouette

Life-Changing Love by Theresa Linden

Image and Likeness: Literary Reflections on the Theology of the Body edited by Erin McCole Cupp and Ellen Gable

 

In memory of our seven little souls in heaven:

Baby Hrkach Twins (June 1986)

Baby Hrkach (February 1991)

Baby Hrkach (June 1991)

Mary Elizabeth Hrkach (June 1993)

Seth Hrkach (April 1998)

Lucy Hrkach (March 2006)

#FREE on #Kindle Emily’s Hope #NFPWeek

My first book, Emily’s Hope, is free on Kindle until Friday!

Emily's Hope

 

Amazon Synopsis: Emily’s Hope is the gripping story of one young woman’s physical, emotional, spiritual journey from high school to adulthood. Interspersed throughout the story are flashbacks to Emily’s great-grandmother’s troubled life, with a climax culminating in the surprising revelation that Emily and her great-grandmother are connected more deeply than by ancestral ties alone.  Based on a true story.

Reviews:

“I would encourage everyone to read this book, certainly young women.” David Beresford, Catholic Insight Magazine

“While this book is definitely about Natural Family Planning, it is also about the love of husbands and wives, the love of parents for their children and the agonizing moral choices we sometimes face. It is also about real people…and about being witnesses to a culture of life in a world overshadowed by the culture of death.” Kristie Wellman, One More Soul Magazine

“There is so much to love about Emily’s Hope: the innocence of young love, the beautiful, miraculous, healing power of love and the beauty of sacrificial married love and its life-giving splendor. This story is not a fantasy, but is a tender and sensitive portrayal of what makes love real and lasting.” Jean M. Heimann, blogger, Catholic Fire and author

To download Emily’s Hope for FREE on Kindle, click here:

Rebuilding a Culture of Life #prolife


In John Paul II’s encyclical, Familiaris Consortio, (On the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World), he states (p. 45) “The Church is called upon to manifest anew to everyone, with clear and stronger conviction, her will to promote human life by every means and to defend it against all attacks, in whatever condition or state of development it is found.

Our society has become a culture of death. This is most obvious now that several states in the USA allow for abortion up to the moment of delivery.  In January, Gov. Cuomo signed into law the Reproductive Health Act, which expands abortion rights and essentially allows abortion up to the moment of delivery.  In the photo of the signing, every person is smiling joyfully. Crowds cheered when the news came that New York would allow abortion up to the moment of birth. World Trade Center 1 was lit in pink to “celebrate.”

I’ve been pregnant eleven times with twelve babies (five living sons), and I just cannot comprehend how anyone could be elated and happy that a baby can be killed up to the moment of delivery.   Just 20 years ago, President Bill Clinton said that abortion should be, “safe, legal and rare.”   What happened to that attitude?

Since 1969, Canada has had no restrictions or law regarding abortion. Killing an unborn child is legal right up to the moment of delivery.

Until recently, the movie “Unplanned,” was banned in Canada. Based on Abby Johnson’s compelling book , theaters here in Canada initially “claimed” that it was too controversial. However, these same theaters also regularly show movies with graphic sexuality, language and violence. Thankfully, Landmark and others have overturned this decision and we will be seeing Unplanned at theaters in Canada beginning July 12.

Our own grandchild is currently weeks away from being born and yet here in Canada, my daughter-in-law could legally walk into any clinic or hospital and kill her baby. Thankfully, she and my son are staunchly pro-life.  But thinking about the innocence and defenselessness of a small baby being murdered at any point in pregnancy breaks my heart.  How has our world gotten to this point where such an evil act can be considered a good thing and something to rejoice about?  And can anything be done to turn the tide back to embracing all life from conception to natural death?

“The ultimate test of your greatness is the way you treat every human being, but especially the weakest and most defenseless. If you want equal justice for all and true freedom and lasting peace, then defend life.” St. John Paul II

What about cases of rape?  That’s what my husband and I are always asked when we talk to high school students about the evil of abortion.  First, pregnancy from rape is rare.  Yes, it happens, but it’s less than one percent of all abortions. Second, seventy percent of women who are raped and become pregnant decide to continue the pregnancy. Some keep their babies; others give their babies up for adoption.  The innocent baby does not deserve the death penalty for the sin of his father.  For a compelling story, watch this beautiful testimony from Jennifer Christie.

We must do more to fight against the culture of death by rebuilding a culture of life. Here are a few ways to do so:

Prayer and Fasting
Never underestimate the power of prayer and fasting. Daily Mass, the daily Rosary, a weekly fast (especially on Fridays) and other forms of prayer have more effect than we can possibly realize. Spiritually adopting a baby in danger of abortion is a beautiful way we can build the culture of life. Try to recite the Litany of the Saints daily. We can never know the effect that our prayers have had (until we die), but be assured this is one of the most important ways to rebuild a culture of life.

Chastity, NFP and Openness to Life
All Christians (not just Catholics) are called to practice chastity and be open to life. Being chaste before marriage and practicing marital chastity (faithfulness) is essential for building a culture of life. Contraception is “intrinsically evil,” (CCC 2370) it harms marriages and separates couples physically and spiritually. Natural Family Planning (www.ccli.org) is a safe, moral and effective way to avoid and plan pregnancies.

Some contraceptives are actually abortifacient (cause early abortions), rather than preventing conception. In certain parts of the world, abortion is used as a contraceptive and pre-born baby girls are being killed by the thousands simply because they are female.

This also includes treating children as blessings rather than burdens.  Children are a gift from God.  Is parenthood hard work?  You bet it is.  But these little human beings deserve our attention, love and respect.

Vote Pro-Life
Make sure that your voice heard. Register to vote and vote often and whenever the opportunity arises. This can be no more evident than in our upcoming presidential election. Although I have been living in Canada for 37 years, I remain a US citizen and I have continued to vote in US Federal Elections.

Corporal/Spiritual Works of Mercy
Performing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy will also help to rebuild a culture of life because these works will help build spiritual character. When we are closer to Christ, we are closer to a culture of life.

The corporal works of mercy, based on Matthew 25:31-36, are: 1. feed the hungry 2. give drink to the thirsty 3. clothe the naked 4. shelter the homeless 5. visit the imprisoned 6. care for the sick 7. bury the dead.

Being pro-life doesn’t mean that we stop support for women with unplanned pregnancies when they have their babies. Donating clothes and food to crisis pregnancy centers and spiritual support are essential in rebuilding a culture of life.

And being pro-life also doesn’t just mean being against abortion; it also means respecting and defending life at all stages. Donating blood (if you’re able to), visiting the elderly, the sick and those who are confined to their homes are all wonderful ways to rebuild the culture of life.

The spiritual works of mercy, commanded or encouraged in many places Scripture, are: 1. admonish the sinner 2. instruct the ignorant 3. counsel the doubtful 4. comfort the afflicted 5. bear wrongs patiently 6. forgive all injuries 7. pray for the living and dead.

Peaceful Pro-Life Events
Attend peaceful pro-life events like the National March for Life (in the USA it is held every January; in Canada, it is held every May around Mother’s Day), the Hike for Life and other Pro-Life rallies.

Patience and Charity
It’s important to be patient and charitable when speaking to, interacting with, or debating with, those who are pro-abortion. Many of these fiercely pro-choice women have had abortions.

St. Teresa of Calcutta said, “If you judge someone, you have no time to love them.” Try not to be judgmental of the person (always separate the person from the sin). In some cases, these women were coerced by their partners or parents (those who should’ve been protecting them) into having an abortion.

Be a Good Example
Being a good example of Christian virtue is another great way to rebuild a culture of life. Volunteer at or support a pro-life crisis pregnancy center, embrace faithful Catholicism and donate money to causes that will rebuild the culture a life.

Helpful Pro-Life Resources:

Familiaris Consortio by John Paul II

Persuasive Pro-Life: How to Talk About Our Culture’s Toughest Issue by Trent Horn and Fr. Frank Pavone (foreword)

Abolishing Abortion: How You Can Play a Part in Ending the Greatest Evil of Our Day by Fr. Frank Pavone

Pro-Life Answers to Pro-Choice Questions by Randy Alcorn 

Pregnant from Rape: Jennifer Christie

EWTN Pro-Life Weekly

Unplanned by Abby Johnson

If each of us does our own part, we can rebuild a culture of life, one in which every life is respected and valued from conception to natural death.

Copyright 2019 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Win a Free Audio-book of Stealing Jenny

Would you like to win a free audio-book of Stealing Jenny?  Just leave a comment below to receive a code for your free book.  The first ten to comment will receive a free audio-book. This is not a contest. All you need to do is leave a comment and I’ll send you a code.

Stealig Jenny AB cover RGB.jpg

After a difficult pregnancy, Jenny and Tom are days away from having their sixth child. But when Jenny is kidnapped by a deranged woman, the family must summon all of their faith as Jenny fights for her life.

Stealing Jenny will keep you on the edge of your seat and probably destroy your sleep pattern as you stay up to find out what happens.” Sarah Reinhard, author, blogger

Open Book – May 2019 #openbook #prolife

An Open Book 800W

I’m joining with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for Open Book!  Here’s what I’ve been reading for the past month!

 

Unplanned

Unplanned by Abby Johnson

Amazon Synopsis: Unplanned is a heart-stopping personal drama of life-and-death encounters, a courtroom battle, and spiritual transformation that speaks hope and compassion into the political controversy that surrounds this issue. Telling Abby’s story from both sides of the abortion clinic property line, this book is a must-read for anyone who cares about the life versus rights debate and helping women who face crisis pregnancies.

My review: Wonderful, but heart-wrenching, book to read. I wanted to read it before I saw the movie (it still isn’t available in Canada).  I’ve spoken to one of the writers/directors and he assured me they’re doing everything they can to bring the movie to Canada and worldwide. I’m praying that this book and movie will change hearts and lives.  Highly recommend!

Foot of the Cross

The Foot of the Cross by Fr. Frederick Faber

Amazon Synopsis: This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it. This work was reproduced from the original artifact, and remains as true to the original work as possible. Therefore, you will see the original copyright references, library stamps (as most of these works have been housed in our most important libraries around the world), and other notations in the work.

My review: I read this book during Holy Week. It’s a wonderful book (written in the mid-1850’s by Fr. Frederick Faber) that highlights the Sorrows of Mary being intimately connected to the Sorrows of Our Lord.  I cannot recommend this one highly enough!

DVDyke

The Official Dick Van Dyke Show Book

by Vince Waldron with Dick Van Dyke

Amazon Synopsis: The most acclaimed comedy of TV’s golden age, The Dick Van Dyke Show comes to life in this fun-filled and impeccably researched book, the first and only authorized biography of television’s most influential comedy. Readers are afforded full backstage access at the making of one of America’s most beloved comedies in a book that’s packed with exclusive behind-the-scenes anecdotes from the show’s entire cast and crew, including Carl Reiner, Mary Tyler Moore, Rose Marie, Morey Amsterdam, Larry Mathews, and, of course, Dick Van Dyke himself.  Illustrated with more than 150 rare photos–many of them never before published–this indispensable companion to The Dick Van Dyke Show also features the first and only complete viewer’s guide to all 158 episodes of the show, including Carl Reiner’s Head of the Family, the pilot film that started it all.  Written in an engaging style by the Emmy-winning writer and journalist Vince Waldron, The Official Dick Van Dyke Show really is the definitive book on television’s definitive comedy show.

My review: This is one of my favorite classic TV shows (tied only with “I Love Lucy”). I’ve had this book for a few years, but when Amazon Prime added the Dick Van Dyke Show to Prime, I decided to re-read it along with watching all these old episodes. Highly recommend this to all fans of the Dick Van Dyke Show.  It’s a show that the entire family can watch and enjoy.

Tortured

Tortured Soul by Theresa Linden

To be published May, 2019. Goodreads Synopsis: A single woman evicted from her family home. A terrifying specter that only she sees. A dark connection between his past and hers…   After her father’s tragic death and her mother’s recent passing, loss leaves an emptiness Jeannie Lyons can’t fill. Now she must leave her family home, the one place where her parents’ memory still lives.

An old house on the edge of town becomes Jeannie’s new home, one too big for her and her three-legged cat, but she soon gets the impression she’s not alone. Her brother blames her overactive imagination. Her sister-in-law suggests counseling. Her would-be boyfriend is the only one who believes her, but can she trust him? With nowhere to turn, Jeannie must face her inner demons and confront this soul from beyond the grave.

Set in modern times, this supernatural thriller is loosely based on the apparitions to Eugenie von der Leyen (1867-1929).

My review: Like the author’s other books, I was enthralled with Tortured Soul, a supernatural thriller. As usual, I was completely caught up in the story and characters.  Read it in two sittings. Highly recommend. 5/5.

The Lion Audible

The Lion by Nelson DeMille (John Corey)

Amazon Synopsis: John Corey, former NYPD Homicide detective and special agent for the Anti-Terrorist Task Force, is back on the trail of Asad Khalil, the notorious Libyan terrorist known as ‘The Lion’. Corey and his partner, agent Kate Mayfield, tracked Khalil across the US after his threats to wipe out the US in a horrific wave of terrorism. But after methodically eliminating his victims one by one, Khalil disappeared without a trace. Now, years later, Khalil has returned to America to take care of unfinished business. ‘The Lion’ is a killing machine on a mission of revenge, and John Corey will not stop until he rids the earth of this tyrant once and for all.

My review: I read this book years ago, but I downloaded it the Audible book so that my husband and I can listen to it when we go on hour-long road trips (which is just about every time we drive!)  We’ve listened to about one-third of it and we are both enjoying it immensely.  DeMille is a remarkable writer and his characterization of John Corey is brilliant, believable and likable (even though he would be considered racist by today’s standards.) Highly recommend. 5/5.

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When the Wood is Dry: Call of the Innocent by Joseph Cillo, Jr.

Amazon Synopsis: “Sometimes we must suffer if we are to save souls.” Jesus’ words echo in a recurring dream to Lali Russo, a seventeen-year-old Catholic school girl.  Lali wakes and asks, “Why that dream again?”

Two thousand years ago, the scourged and bloody form of a man who claimed to be God carried the wood on which he would be crucified.  Coming upon some distraught women, He says, “Women of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but for yourselves and your children.  For if these things are done when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

When the Wood Is Dry is published in three parts: I. Call of the InnocentII. Crucifixion, and III. Resurrection.  In I. Call of the Innocent, Lali is called to walk a path of suffering that she struggles to understand.  Praying at an abortion clinic, she encounters the pregnant girlfriend of a notorious gang leader.  She confronts the girl’s boyfriend, the ruthless Ralo as he sharpens his machete.  “Go away, little girl, this is no’ ju beesness.”

As the subtitle, An Edgy Catholic Thriller suggests, When the Wood Is Dry is Edgy – Intended only for mature audiences, Catholic – includes overtly Catholic religious imagery and perspectives, and Thrilling– “full of twists and turns, action and heart-wrenching moments,” as one reader commented.

Some readers who may love the first and third parts may find the second part too intense, so we are recommending that such readers read I. Call of the Innocent, then skip the second part and read the synopsis included in III. Resurrection. More daring readers can journey with Lali in II. Crucifixion.

My review: I helped to copy-edit this series and the story is compelling and the characters, for the most part, well-developed.  The entire series is available in print here. The first book in the series is FREE on Kindle here.