A season that is often full of celebration is careening toward us during a time of physical isolation.
Many churches are in the habit of marking these celebrations as a community – recognition of seniors, celebration of Sunday School teachers, youth volunteers and other program leaders, blessing of summer mission trips and travel to camp and conferences, and the list goes on.
Knowing that those celebrations will be lost, muted, or done differently this year brings feelings of challenge, anxiety, grief, and disappointment to many.
Mother’s Day and Father’s Day especially come to mind.
Listening to the cries of their people, many congregations have chosen to make very little over these two days during worship.
They have come to understand that perpetuating the grief that comes with making a big to-do is not worth the harm it causes to those who:
- are estranged from their parents or children;
- have lost their parents or children;
- have trudged through infertility, the ending of pregnancies, and infant loss;
- or who have been unable to build and sustain the family they had hoped for – for any number of reasons.
There is wisdom in this. But Mother’s Day and Father’s Day cannot be easily escaped. Our society commercializes them. There are remembrances of them everywhere.
For this reason, churches have responsibility that extends beyond efforts to merely avoid perpetuating the grief of so many during this season. Churches also have the opportunity to name and make space for this often hidden, though prevalent and persistent, grief.
One in eight couples have trouble conceiving or sustaining a pregnancy. Additional facts about infertility are available here.
People in every congregation have been impacted by fertility grief, and for many this is a grief that emerges again and again, year after year, even as life goes on. Some of the oldest saints in our congregations carry fertility grief with them and yearn to hear it acknowledged.
And grief is cumulative.
During this season of pandemic grief when everything about every day is difficult, the grief that accompanies this season will be more pronounced. This grief is likely to feel even more overwhelming, perhaps more suffocating, than it might under other circumstances.
Churches have the opportunity to anticipate this heightened level of grief, being particularly thoughtful about making space for it and naming it.
These services are held in the days before Mother’s Day to acknowledge the grief of those for whom this day is difficult because of infertility, miscarriage, or infant loss.
Yet, those responsible for planning worship and tending to pastoral care are also worn thin these days, so this year Project Pomegranate is offering two new and helpful resources that we hope will support your work in your communities.
- A Virtual Service of Grief and Hope is being premiered on Thursday, May 7, at 7 p.m., EST.
One needn’t have a Facebook account to watch a premiere on Facebook. Just click on the link at the right time – and if you are given the opportunity to sign up for an account, you can decline!
After the premiere, a YouTube link to the service will be available on the Project Pomegranate Website.
- A Prayer for Mother’s Day (which will be adapted for Father’s Day!) is available here.
In addition, please check out this resource from Three Minute Ministry Mentor, an ongoing video series focused on informing and inspiring the practice of ministry. I am grateful for their efforts to focus on fertility grief this week!
The previous articles in this EthicsDaily.com series on pandemic grief have focused on making space for grief, speaking comfort, and being effective and compassionate helpers during this time of pandemic grief.
This week we have a chance to bring all of those together.
We have the opportunity to name fertility grief, to speak things that are true about God, and to ask what is needed and use people-first language when talking to and about those who have faced infertility, miscarriage, and infant loss.
Keep up the practice. Our world is full of brokenness.
And we have grace, love, and hope to offer.
Mary Elizabeth Hanchey is the Parish Associate for Pastoral Care at United Church in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. A graduate of Duke Divinity School, she lives in Durham with her family. She is the editor of “Though the Darkness Gather Round, Devotions about Infertility, Miscarriage, and Infant Loss.”