For Catholics, October is known as the Month of the Holy Rosary; in the secular world, it is known as National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. In meditating on the Mysteries of the Rosary in the wake of my recent miscarriage, these two themes have struck me as not entirely coincidental. Through the promise of everlasting life and the resurrection of the body found in the Glorious Mysteries, I have found particular hope not only as someone who has lost a child, but also as someone who now carries a new life within me — a life I crave to someday hold in my arms with every fiber of my being.
As human beings, we all long to touch and to hold the ones whom we love. The experience of motherhood is one of particularly deep, physical intimacy. From the moment of the Annunciation to the first instance of feeling Christ move within her, the Blessed Virgin Mary undoubtedly understood this connection well; it was something her cousin Elizabeth clearly understood as she felt the child within her womb leap for joy at the Visitation. As mothers, we revel in the joy of knowing that our bodies nurture and protect our little ones from the first instant of their existence, and from the moment of their birth, we hunger to continue protecting them in the warmth of our embrace.
But sometimes, this is not to be, and the Joyful Mysteries give way to the Sorrowful ones: Miscarriages happen, stillbirths occur, and abortions are chosen. Sometimes our bodies are unable to properly nurture and protect our children while they still dwell within us, and sometimes our hearts are unwilling.
In the wake of my miscarriage, I have felt an ache to hold the little one we’ve lost. I can only imagine how the Blessed Mother’s arms ached as she watched her son beaten, humiliated, and ultimately crucified. In meditating on the Sorrowful Mysteries, I’ve pictured myself holding our Mother in her suffering, and I’ve imagined Mary holding Christ’s lifeless body – that image so famously captured in Michelangelo’s Pieta – which is hauntingly familiar to any woman who has cradled a beloved, lifeless child. Even in the throes of our sorrow, we still experience that ardent desire to maintain the intimate physical connection of mother and child.
For many, the loss of this connection feels final, permanent, and cruel; worse, we often feel the need to hide our grief. But October’s focus on pregnancy and infant loss and the Holy Rosary reminds us that this sorrow need not be permanent; one day, we will be reunited with our bodies when Jesus Christ comes again to judge the living and the dead. This is the promise of the resurrection of the body; a promise we see fulfilled in the Glorious Mysteries of Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension, and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Conceived without the stain of original sin, our Mother was assumed body and soul into heaven upon her death, following Christ in the Ascension. In meditating on these Mysteries, I’ve been reminded that the grief of the Pieta is vanquished. I’ve vividly imagined with what rapturous joy our Mother physically embraced her Son again as He welcomed her into Heaven. I’ve felt the ache in her arms vanishing, and her entire being, body and soul, glowing in the physical presence of the Son whom she never stopped loving and longing to embrace, even after his death.
This was perhaps Mary’s greatest reward for consenting to become the sacred vessel by which God became Man, and it is a great comfort to realize it is also ours for the earning. For even though we were conceived with the stain of original sin, through salvation we may also experience the reunification of our bodies and souls in Heaven. We too may one day experience the ache in our arms lifting, the longing in our hearts abating, and the grief in our souls vanishing as we are finally able to physically embrace the ones we love either for the first time or yet again, in the light of the eternal kingdom.
These are some of the great comforts that meditating on the Mysteries of the Rosary has brought me in light of my miscarriage — so fitting in light of October’s two themes. Not a day goes by that I do not miss our dear Baby Francis, or feel in my bones the longing to hold him or her. My body could not physically protect our first child no matter how ardently I desired it to, and it will not always be able to protect our new child. But the promise of everlasting life and the resurrection of the body in the Glorious Mysteries reminds me that the grief of the Sorrowful Mysteries is not permanent, that the delight of the Joyful Mysteries can only be expanded, and that whenever our physical connections are severed, it need only be for a moment in the great span of eternity. And just as Jesus welcomed his Mother with open arms into the eternal kingdom, so too may our children who precede us into the light of his face one day embrace us, body and soul.