Programme helps couples work through their grief
“We will always hold in you in our hearts as our first born….Mummy and daddy cannot hold you in our arms…watch you grow…but we know that you’re watching us.”
So wrote a married couple in a “letter” to their unborn child.
Six couples and a widowed woman, who had suffered miscarriages or stillbirths, took part in this exercise as part of a programme called Journey to Emmaus – From Grief to Healing.
The programme, which aimed to help them heal and recover from their grief, was held at the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour on April 28.
It was conducted by Sr Florence Wong, from the Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood.
Using the scripture passage describing the disciples’ encounter with Jesus on the road to Emmaus, Sr Florence guided the participants in a meditation session in which they “talked” and “listened” to Jesus.
Participants were encouraged to share their meditation experience with their spouse.
They also wrote a letter to their unborn children, and were invited to give them a name if the parents had yet to do so.
Participants were encouraged to share the contents of their letter with other participants if they wished, and place the letter in a “post box”.
The letters were later burnt as a symbol of closure for the parents.
Participants then lighted a floating candle signifying the surrender of the child to the Lord.
According to Sr Florence, the Journey to Emmaus programme was a shorter version of the weekend-long Rachel’s Vineyard retreat, which ministers to those suffering the loss of a child through abortion.
A memorial Mass for the unborn children was held on April 30 in the church.
The Mass allows the community to pray for those who have died, to value God’s creation of life, and to bring closure to the families who have attended the Journey to Emmaus programme, said Alex and Jocelyn Yam, who helped organise the programme.
The evening Mass saw the dedication of the “Book of Life” with the names of the unborn enrolled in them. The Book is placed outside the parish’s adoration room to encourage parishioners to pray for these children.
There are plans for the Mass to be held annually.
The Yams told CatholicNews they were inspired to initiate this programme as they themselves had experienced the loss of a child, and had found comfort and healing in the Church and the support of the community.
“We want to give this opportunity for them [the parents] to find that closure,” said Mr Yam, adding that people are most welcome to attend the programme regardless of parish.
A couple in their mid-30s, who had suffered two miscarriages, told CatholicNews that the letter writing exercise allowed them “to share what they felt” with their departed children.
“Prior to this, I guess I never really spoke to them in that way so it was a very good form of prayer and after writing the letter, there was a sense of peace,” the husband said.
By Darren Boon