By Maria Johnson

Dear Sarah,

You asked me to share my experience with miscarriage, and I have to admit that I balked for a moment. It’s because I feared revealing the raw honesty of my answer.

Because I am a woman, I revisit the horror of the experience every month, sometimes as a phantom memory, other times as a full-blown flashback.

The pain of loss doesn’t disappear. It isn’t forgotten or put away neatly. On the contrary, it has a tendency to creep into my consciousness at the most unlikely moments.

It might come unaccompanied by grief … a small reminder that I have two children in heaven.

A routine form at the doctor might ask me, matter of fact, how many pregnancies I’ve had…and then ask the number of live births and drive the point home, jarringly and clinically.

Or I might write a check or make an appointment and suddenly become cognizant of a due date that never came. That’s the worst, when it comes as a surprise in a setting where I’m not expecting it. It’s when I’m most likely to be undone by grief that sweeps in violently, and leaves just as suddenly.

When I hear the adage “time heals all wounds,” I feel compelled to amend it.  The wound does heal, but it leaves a scar that’s always present.

I’ve learned to live with the scar…it has become a part of the landscape of my heart, just like the scar I have on my leg that was first a gaping hole, then a crusty, scabby wound, and finally, well knit and clean. It’s there, and most of the time I don’t notice it.

Until I do.

It’s taken me a long time to come to understand this experience in the light of my faith. Twenty-five years ago, one didn’t speak of these things. Forget the horrible clinical experience of a miscarriage in an antiseptic hospital setting — even within the family and close circle of friends, it was whispered, spoken about in incomplete, dangling sentences.

The mourning was private, and generally unacknowledged unless a girlfriend came forward to share her story. Sometimes, it came from women with whom I had a brief association. There’s something in this terrible little club that binds us together, and we transcend certain social boundaries to make a connection, however brief.

To hear a voice that says, I know, a voice that acknowledges the pain, is to begin the process of healing.

I expect this is true of all human suffering, in all its various forms. Disease and loss is as much a part of the human condition as joy and celebration. We live through it to the best of our abilities, and when we can share it, if only for a brief moment, the burden is lifted — if only for that brief moment.

I wish I had a stronger faith at that time in my life. It would have made a difference in many things, but regret doesn’t change the past. It can, however, inform the present.

I’ve learned, in time, to accept this loss, and to see beyond what I lost, and look forward to what I gained.  If I knew the depth of despairing grief, I also experienced the breadth of unconditional love, and for some brief moments felt closer to the Blessed Virgin Mary in her joy and suffering.

In fact, it was Mary’s presence, quite palpable in a wild ambulance ride in the dead of winter, as we were careening through icy dangerous roads, that enveloped me and planted a seed of faith deep within my grieving heart.

She has returned to me to tend to that fledgling faith many times over the years, leading me steadfastly to her Son, a reversion that I wish I could say had a definitive moment, but that instead I see as an ongoing process.

I could have become angry with God and rejected Him, as so many do.

Instead, in the midst of my loss, I was found, and so the experience remains a bittersweet one. It is because of my faith that I know those children whom I never held were as much a part of me, are still a part of me, as the ones who came later.

In the deepest hurt, the seemingly most inconsolable pain, there was hope, even if I didn’t see it right away.

I found it through a rather obscure prayer by Pope Pius XII, with the supplication “bend tenderly over our wounds.” Over time Mary tended to my wounds, led me away from despair and into the Light of her Son’s love. My only regret is that it took me years to work through it.

I look forward to a day when I meet my children in heaven. I am consoled in my mother’s heart that it would be due, in part, to their intercession for me.



Maria Johnson blogs at another cup of coffee, is active on Twitter as @bego, and can be heard on Catholic Weekend. She’s on the board of the Star Quest Production Network (SQPN) and is a great friend and mentor. She has authored a number of books, too, and they’re worth reading. Her friendship remains among the proofs I don’t deserve that God loves me.

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