This week we want to share a wonderful guest blog by my friends and fellow ministers, Erin Robinson Hall and Mary Elizabeth Hill Hanchey. Today marks eight weeks of pandemic life at my house. The pile up of grief is quite a mess. Here at 3MMM we are taking the next few weeks to do a special series of episodes on living with and tending to our many layers of grief. We will start with a video interview with Mary Elizabeth.
In this interview we talk about ministry, miscarriage, child and infant loss, (in)fertility, pastoral care in pandemic times, “fertility grief” (term coined by Mary Elizabeth), and grief for parents of all genders. Mary Elizabeth has worked for a decade on Project Pomegranate, complicated and cumulative grief, and lately she is writing about pandemic grief on Ethics Daily. We also talk about rituals for processing our many losses.
We want to know how you are finding ways to tend to your grief. Please share your rituals for grieving in isolation with us here.
Hosting a Virtual “Hannah Service”
by Erin Robinson Hall
It’s a gift to be able to share space with people who just get it.
Eileen Campbell-Reed always offers me that space. We can shorthand conversations about things that matter deeply to the practice of ministry, and I know that we hear each other. That’s one of the reasons I am grateful to be part of 3MMM. Our weekly episodes offer a space for ministers to name the parts of ministry that are not easy to explore.
One of those spaces, for me, is grief. Specifically, grief around motherhood. For a long time, that grief was marked by loneliness. My husband and I experienced many years of fertility treatments before our son was born in 2012. Followed by more seasons of infertility treatments, miscarriage and adoption loss. Mother’s Day has not always been easy.
I am not alone in that grief. We know that 1 in 8 couples will experience infertility. Which means someone in your circle of friends. Someone in your family. Someone in your pews. Maybe someone in your pulpit.
Chances are, they don’t want to tell you all the details of their grief around infertility treatments, miscarriage or infant loss. So much of this is extremely intimate and, frankly, makes no sense if you have not had to wrangle the emotions and fees and calendars and weight of this kind of loss.
Those who know fertility grief know the wails of failed hope, and they walk into worship spaces where hope is spoken, sung and claimed.
It’s a striking chord, and often jarring.
Which is why we sing each other through it.
At our first “Hannah Service” a couple of years ago, we crafted a service where the music could hold space for this kind of grief. With a liturgy sturdy enough for loss, we invited people who had experienced infertility, miscarriage, infant loss, and adoption loss. We sang “Precious Lord.” We heard
Let It Fall, while we planted bulbs into soil. The story of Hannah offers a glimpse of grief laid bare. “Hannah, why are you weeping?”
Again thisyear, we are asking who is weeping. Pandemic Grief coming up against Mother’s Day means we need each other now as much as we ever did. Our weeping may be socially distant, but the grief needs tending in these days. One offering is this:
A virtual Hannah Service.
On the Thursday night before Mother’s Day, Project Pomegranate invites all who grieve around Mother’s Day to join us for an experience of reflection and hope. Thursday, May 7 at 7:00 pm EST, we will share this service with you.
Would you join us? Would you share it with someone who could use this space to grieve?
A few things will help you prepare. Set your space, grab a candle to light, and print this labyrinth. Breathe deep, friends. You are not alone.
Complications of Fertility Grief
By Mary Elizabeth Hill Hanchey
The grief that accompanies the season of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day is always complicated for those whose lives have been touched by fertility grief.
Project Pomegranate has long offered three outlines for “Hannah Services.” These services can be held in the days before Mother’s Day to acknowledge the grief surrounding Mother’s Day, complicated by infertility, miscarriage, or infant loss.
But this year, everything is different: in the midst of a global pandemic, grief is compounding grief, and most churches are unable to provide in-person gatherings. In light of these difficult and unusual circumstances, Project Pomegranate has produced a Virtual Service of Grief and Hope that will be premiering on Thursday May, 7 at 7:00 pm EST. We invite you to join us in viewing this service together, binding ourselves in spirit across the miles!
We also invite you to invite others to watch it with you, to share this link to the premiere in your circles, and to share the video in the days after it premiers! It will remain available. And remember – one needn’t have a Facebook account to view this service. The link to the service is all that is needed.
In the mean time, if you are wondering what to say to your friends and family who are grieving fertility or infant loss, we have some ideas for how to offer compassionate care for complicated losses.