Offering spiritual, emotional and practical support to families who suffer miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss.
Welcome to ava’s grace, a ministry of the Diocese of Fort Wayne—South Bend which offers spiritual, emotional and practical support to families who suffer miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss.
Each year in the United States, about 25,000 babies are stillborn, and approximately the same number of babies die during the first year of life. About 15-20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, resulting in the loss of more than half a million babies before 20 weeks gestation. Parents who experience the loss of a child at whatever stage of pregnancy or infancy are often overwhelmed by grief that is intense and isolating, and sometimes invalidated by others. We who believe that every human life is sacred from the moment of conception need to surround these grieving parents with spiritual, emotional and practical support at a time when they might feel very much alone. Such support is a sign of our solidarity in the body of Christ and a manifestation of God’s abiding love which accompanies us in our suffering and invites us to unite it with His own.
ava’s grace seeks to bring the rich resources of our faith to bear on the heart-breaking loss of a child. Its patrons are Saints Zélie and Louis Martin, the parents of St. Thérese of Lisieux, who lost three children in infancy and one in early childhood. This saintly couple, whose path to holiness passed by way of this painful cross, can inspire and intercede for other parents who have experienced a similar loss.
If you are here because you have lost a child before or after birth, your suffering saddens us deeply. We hope that you will find in ava’s grace the support, consolation, empathy and hope you will need for your journey through grief. In the resources section below, we have compiled a wealth of resources to help you navigate your way through this difficult time, ranging from information on Catholic funeral rites and burial services for miscarried, stillborn and newborn infants, to grief support groups and other services throughout the diocese as well as online, to many inspirational articles and blogposts from women and men who have journeyed through the loss of their littles ones with the support of their faith.
ava’s grace also sponsors annual Memorial Masses for those who have lost a child during the month of October, which is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month in our nation as well as Respect Life month in our Church. We also host daylong retreats for couples who have suffered miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss, and we are developing a “companion” outreach in which women, men and couples can be matched with others who have shared a similar loss.
May Mary, who suffered the death of her beloved Son, comfort you in your sorrow, and may Christ, the Divine Healer, bind up your broken heart.
Saints Zélie and Louis Martin, pray for us.
Monthly support group for those who have lost a child
Open to anyone who has lost a baby before or after birth, whether recently or long ago
We meet the third Wednesday of each month from 8:00 PM to 9:30 PM via Zoom.
For more information, please contact Lisa Everett at [email protected] or 574-968-2439.
Annual Retreat for Couples
Sacred Heart Parish Center
(2022 date pending)
If you have lost a baby before or after birth, you are not alone. Come join others who have suffered miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss for a daylong retreat, free of charge, to help face your grief in the context of fellowship and faith. The retreat will be held at the Sacred Heart Parish Center on the outskirts of Notre Dame’s campus. Lunch will be provided. While this retreat is geared for couples, individuals are welcome as well. Sponsored by Marriage & Family Ministry.
To register, contact Lisa Everett at [email protected] or by calling 574-234-0687.
Memorial Masses for those who have lost a child:
(including through miscarriage and abortion)
Annually, please join us for a special Memorial Mass to pray together with others who have suffered the loss of their children, and to take home a silk rose in honor of your child(ren). Siblings and grandparents are also welcome.
SPANISH MASSES (2022 dates pending):
St. Adalbert Parish, South Bend
St. Joseph Parish, Fort Wayne
ENGLISH MASSES (2022 dates pending):
St. Thérese, Little Flower, South Bend
St. John the Baptist Parish, Fort Wayne
For more information, please contact Lisa Everett at 574-968-2439 or [email protected]
Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep: A national program that offers free, on-site professional photography services for parents who have lost an infant. To find a photographer near you, click on the tab “Find a Photographer” and enter a zip code; the names of the area coordinator and affiliated photographers and their contact information will come up. Website
Grace Personalized: The Etsy shop “Grace Personalized” creates keepsake necklaces using a photo or scan of a baby’s actual fingerprint. For memorial pieces, fingerprint copies from funeral homes can work. Website
Angel of Hope Memorial Garden (South Bend): Located in Pinhook Park, the Angel of Hope statue, garden, and brick memorial path offer a place of reflection, remembrance, and peace. Website
Fort Wayne Area: Divine Mercy: Divine Mercy Funeral Home and Catholic Cemetery in Fort Wayne are owned and operated by the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. They offer burial services at no cost to families who have lost a child at any point in pregnancy or infancy. These services include providing a cloth casket with silk exterior, burial space in the “Garden of Angels” section of Catholic Cemetery, graveside services and a granite grave marker. Please call 260-426-2044 to begin the process. Website
South Bend Area: In God’s Arms: In 2006, Palmer Funeral Homes in the South Bend area partnered with St. Joseph Regional Medical Center to establish the “In God’s Arms” program. Based on the belief that life begins at conception, “In God’s Arms” offers respect and care for fetal remains and compassionate service to parents and families who have experienced an early pregnancy loss. “In God’s Arms” recognizes the life of the baby and offers the option to bury the baby at no charge in the “In God’s Arms” section at Southlawn Cemetery. One stipulation for this program is that the baby is less than 20 weeks of gestation. There is a ceremony 3 times per year and parents are encouraged to attend. Palmer Funeral Homes recognize the importance of life, as well as the fragility of life. We are honored to be able to offer this program to our community. For additional information regarding this program, please click here.
Diocesan Wide Funeral Homes and Services: Many funeral homes understand the difficulty for parents who experience the loss of their baby in pregnancy and infancy and will work with families to provide services at a reduced fee (or free in some cases). There are also many cemeteries that will provide burial in a specially designated area. They want to accommodate your needs and wishes in this very devastating time. Please contact the funeral home provider in your area. List of funeral homes by city
Caskets: The Trappist monks of New Melleray Abbey in Iowa offer infant caskets in compassion and faith at no cost to families who have lost a child. They invite families in need of an infant casket to contact them directly so that they may assist in helping at this difficult time. Toll-free phone number: 888-433-6934 Website
Burial Vessels for Miscarried Children: Elizabeth Ministry International offers a selection of burial vessels for miscarried children. Website
Angel Gowns: The Angel Gown Program offers free burial gowns lovingly made by volunteer seamstresses from donated wedding gowns. Website
Burial of Miscarried Children: Indiana Catholic Conference and Indiana State Law on the Treatment of Miscarried Remains
Office of Worship Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend: Information and liturgical rites
Rite for the Naming and Commendation of an Infant – Archdiocese of St. Louis: Beautiful naming ceremony
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)
Local Grief Support Groups
Grief Support Groups within the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend click here for list
After Miscarriage: A Catholic Woman’s Companion to Healing and Hope by Karen Edminsten
An Empty Cradle, A Full Heart: Reflections for mothers and fathers after miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss by Christine O’Keeffe Lafser
Blessed Is the Fruit of Thy Womb: Rosary Reflections on Miscarriage, Stillbirth and Infant Loss by Heidi Idahl
Grieving Together: A Couple’s Journey Through Miscarriage by Laura Kelly Fanucci and Franco David Fanucci
Loving Baby Louie: Hope in the Midst of Grief by David Currie and Colleen Currie (A poignant story that will help small children understand the loss of a sibling and the eternal life that awaits them in Heaven).
The Way of Trust and Love: A Retreat Guided by St. Thérese of Lisieux by Jacques Philippe
Articles and Blog Posts
Loving Your Postpartum Body with No Baby: Learning Gentleness with Servant of God Catherine Doherty Article
Mothering Spirit: Encouraging blog with several helpful articles Website
“Can These Bones Live?”
“Eulogy for Maggie & Abby”
“Pregnancy After Loss”
“Power of Poetry (when words pale)”
“There’s a Wideness”
“This is the Story”
“To Have and Have Not”
“Yes that Breaks your Heart”
Saint Zélie Martin and Overcoming Grief in Hope: Article
The Hidden Face of Love: An Open Letter to Women (and Men) Who Have Lost Children and Those Who Know Them Article
The Power of “And”: How One Word Changed the Way I Grieve Article
Unless a Kernel of Wheat Falls: personal reflection on losing a child by Ryan Masters Article
Wanting One More: A reflection on the deep pain of recurrent miscarriage Article
Online Support Groups
Mommy To A Little Saint: Catholic Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support This members-only Facebook Group is for Catholic women who experience miscarriage, stillbirth and infant loss, for the purpose of providing prayerful and emotional support for one another. If you would like to join, submit a request here.
Websites and Organizations
Alive, Alone: Promoting healing to bereaved parents whose only child, or all children, are deceased Website
Bereaved Parents USA: A nationwide organization designed to aid and support bereaved parents and their families Website
Climb Support: For parents who have experienced the death of one or more of their children who are multiples Website
For Mom’s Only: A healing place to find other mothers who can help you on this difficult journey Website
Healing Hearts: Understanding, suggestions for coping, support, friendship, and hope to all parents who are struggling with grief Website
Luminous Light Studio: The Bereaved Mother’s Love Project (may require Facebook sign in)
Missing Grace: Resources and support for families that have experienced pregnancy loss, infant loss or infertility Website
Neo-Fight: 24-hour support line for those experiencing a perinatal crisis for all counties in Indiana 317-446-3013 Website
SHARE: provides support to those mourning the tragic death of a baby through early pregnancy loss, stillbirth or newborn death Website
Silent Grief: Support for all who have suffered miscarriage and later child loss Website
Still Standing: Surviving the Aftermath of Loss and Infertility Website
The Compassionate Friends: Supports families who have experienced the death of a child Website
Personal Retreats and Counseling
Jeremiah Retreats: Shaina Miller, a parishioner at St. Pius X parish in Granger, IN, has developed this half-day healing retreat program for mothers like herself who have experienced loss(es) due to miscarriage, stillbirth, and/or infant loss. The program features reflection, prayer, journaling, discussion, fellowship, and Mass. To find out more about the program and the possibility of either participating in a Jeremiah Retreat or bringing one to your parish, contact Shaina Miller at [email protected].
After Images Art Counseling Program: Many times grief is too deep for words. Developed by visual artist and counselor David Labrum in conjunction with the Center for Hospice, this program provides a unique opportunity for individuals to explore grief issues through a creative, expressive counseling experience. Please visit their website to find out more. The poignant artwork produced by some of the many men and women who have benefited from this program as they journeyed through their grief, are compiled in David Labrum’s book “The Hole in Me Since the Day you Died,” available at the Center for Hospice Care or through Amazon.
General resources on suffering and grief
Ethika Politika: “The Mass and Human Pain” Article
Questions During Suffering: short excerpt from “The Way of Trust and Love” by Fr. Jacques Philippe PDF
Salvifici Doloris: short excerpt from “On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering” by Pope St. John Paul II PDF
For Grandparents or Other Family Members
A Complicated Grief: Persevering in Faith in the Midst of Suffering: personal reflection by Kerry Weber on losing her niece Article
Grand Brigade: Alliance of grandparents, A Support in Tragedy (AGAST) for grandparents experiencing trauma/grief at the loss of a grandchild Website
Catholic Miscarriage Support: “Telling Children and Others”
CLIMB: Collection of Articles and Personal Stories Website
Mothering Spirit: What do do for kids when their sibling dies Article
Still Standing: Collection of Articles on Sibling Grief Website
A Blog About Miscarriage: Website
“Comfort for the Grieving Mother from Another Place and Time”
“Naming a Miscarried Baby”
A Father’s Prayer: Prayer of blessing for a miscarried child PDF
Aleteia: “Studies Acknowledge How Traumatic Miscarriage Is – So Why Doesn’t Society?”
“After a Miscarriage, With the Blessed Mother at the Cross”
“What’s the Right Way to Answer “How Many Children Do You Have?” When You’ve Miscarried?”
Emotional Healing After a Miscarriage: A Guide for Women, Partners, Family, and Friends Resource Article
Grieving Together: A Couple’s Journey through Miscarriage: Book by Laura Kelly Fanucci and Franco David Fanucci
Identifying with Christ on the Cross in Miscarriage: A letter from Cara Fleury Article
Mamalode: When Trash Tells the Story: Article
Miscarriage and the Challenge of Pieta: sharing suffering with the Blessed Mother Article
Miscarriage Care: A blog on miscarriage by the Early Pregnancy Loss Association Website
Miscarriage – personal reflection: Personal reflection posted in Faith ND Article
Not Lost Forever: Miscarriage, Grief, Hope: Simcha Fischer writes of ritual and a physical item to remind her of her baby. Article
Rainbow Babies: Dealing with the Pain of Loss and the Joy of New Life simultaneously Article
What to Say to a Mom After a Miscarriage: helpful article with suggestions for practical gestures of support Article
Miscarriage: How to Support Parents Who Have Lost a Child: brief support guide based on the book “Grieving Together: A Couple’s Journey through Miscarriage” by Laura and Franco Fanucci PDF
How Do You Help a Grieving Friend?: helpful video on grief support Video
What to Say to a Grieving Friend?: encouraging alternatives to “How are you?” Article
Still Standing Magazine:“How to Love Someone Who is Grieving Their Child”
The Compassionate Friends: supports families who have experienced the death of a child Website
Cards and Gifts
Miscarriage Sympathy Cards: Handmade sympathy cards featuring a quotation from St. Zelie Martin, the mother of St. Therese Website
Karen Ritz Cards: Handmade cards especially for the loss of a little one Website
Grace Care Baskets: Beautiful care packages for those suffering miscarriage Website
Laurelbox: Loving gifts for grieving friends Website
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