Losing a child

by Heidi Schlumpf

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Ethan Seitzer would have been 10 years old today. But instead of celebrating that milestone, his family--and our whole parish and school--is grieving. Ethan drowned while swimming in Lake Michigan two weeks ago.

I don't know how parents who lose a child go on. A special Mass was offered for Ethan this morning, and many members of the school and the parish adoptive families group were there to support and pray for Ethan's parents and his 3-year-old sister.

It's the least we can do. I'm not sure how else to offer any consolation to his parents; even well-meaning words sound so trite. Instead I just say, "We're here for you" and show up.

A Catholic shrine and center in Chicago offers a "Lost Child Pilgrimage" for those who have lost a child whether through miscarriage or the death of an adult child or any time in between. Organizers hold up Mary as a model of a grieving parent who drew on her faith for hope.

This year's pilgrimage, on Oct. 16, coincidentally features as the main speaker another woman from our parish who lost her 3-year-old daughter in a car crash and who has written a book describing her journey to the realization that love is stronger than death.

I know I've been hugging my own kids a little tighter since Ethan's death. I hope that God holds Ethan's family tightly too.

Update: A very moving story on NPR about a family who lost both of their sons and how they found help from an organization called Compassionate Friends.

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