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Love, Loss and the Liberty of Letting Go

March 3, 2015 by  
Filed under Book Club, Cardinal Virtues, Vicki Burbach

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The Four Cardinal Virtues (Week 9 of 12)

…the lack of courage to accept injury and the incapability of self-sacrifice belong to the deepest sources of psychic illness. All neuroses seem to have as a common symptom an egocentric anxiety, a tense and self-centered concern for security, the inability to “let go”; in short, that kind of love for one’s own life that leads straight to the loss of life. – The Four Cardinal Virtues (Fortitude: Chapter 4, Paragraph Four)

Love, Loss and the Liberty of Letting Go

As human beings, we have a tendency to get completely wrapped up in our desire to protect what is ours – whether our families, our lives, our comfort, our rights, our security, or even our plans for the day.  But our desperate attempts to secure ourselves and our happiness in this world often destroy the very relationships, dreams and peace of mind we are trying to protect.  Even worse, such obsession with our own well-being can result in great damage to our souls.

I recently experienced this phenomenon in my own life in a very tangible way.

About six weeks ago we learned we were expecting our seventh child. Well, technically, this would be our eleventh child, as we've suffered four miscarriages – three of them in the past three years.

When I learned I was expecting again, I refused to allow myself to get excited, as I was very aware at every moment that this pregnancy could share the same fate as our last three.

Right away, I found myself creating an emotional barrier between my heart and my baby. The roller coaster of emotion I endured is difficult to put into words; but essentially, as a protective mechanism, I would tell myself, “Don’t get excited – you’re probably not going to have this baby.” I would find myself wondering in an odd moment how we would reconfigure bedrooms, but would stop mid-thought with a reminder that I shouldn’t let my mind get ahead of the game.  I kept this up for two weeks.

My reaction may sound reasonable.  But I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that throughout those two weeks I felt tortured to the very depths of my soul.

I spent two endless weeks hiding in the darkness. Knowing I had a life growing within me but refusing to give my fragile heart to that little baby because I knew it would be torn to pieces if my precious child left me too early.  In such situations, hope is a funny thing.  It's like a scurrying light you just can't catch to extinguish – it interrupts your thoughts at the oddest of times, and it is ceaselessly persistent.  Even when you try to shut it out, even when you tell yourself things will not turn out as you’d like, even when you try to build a fortress of defenses around your heart to protect it from pain, hope sneaks in through the cracks, offering tiny streams of light to shine through the darkness.  But sadly, light becomes torture to someone trying desperately to remain in the dark. And trying to control that little light causes more pain and self-destruction than any form of physical torture ever could.

God must’ve known how I was suffering, for He reached out His hand and pulled me from the abyss I’d created for myself.

By Divine Providence, when I was about eight weeks pregnant, my daughter figured out that I was expecting. She shared the news with my son, and the two of them confronted me with accusing smiles and “Gotcha” grins.

Little did they know that in the very small, dark, lonely world I had created for myself, their revelation threw open shades that I had drawn tight in an effort to keep out the sun. They threw open the door to welcome the fragrant breeze of joy, and our entire family inhaled freely and fell in love with this new little life. I couldn’t help but respond immediately.  I welcomed the sun and eagerly inhaled the fresh air.  The result was radiance and love and a fullness that I had ironically denied myself in a desperate effort to avoid the pain of loss.

We smiled. We laughed. We planned. We celebrated with ice cream. Would it be a boy or a girl? Maybe even, as one daughter desperately wanted – twins?  The girls knitted baby hats.  I purchased maternity clothes so that my very visible nine-week baby bump and I could proudly escort my sophomore son to Mom Prom (Believe me, after six kids, that bump comes early and grows fast!).

My husband and I held hands and smiled.  A lot.

In one fell swoop, my heart had expanded to an unbelievable size.  I loved my baby. And all was good.

For two weeks.

At ten weeks I went in for my first ultrasound.

But there was no heartbeat…my teeny, tiny precious little baby had already died.

Two weeks later, this past Tuesday, I began to miscarry.

We were all very saddened by the news.  But for me, the most painful part of this entire process is not that I allowed my heart to expand in love despite knowing I might be hurt.  Rather, it is knowing that in a desperate attempt to protect myself from pain,  I refused to love for one second.  Let alone, two weeks.

I tried to tell myself that my hesitation was understandable.  And in this world, I suppose it was.  After all, I had been burned four times. Wasn't it only natural to want to protect myself?

But Then I remembered Mary.

Particularly, I remembered her in The Passion of the Christ.

As a convert, in watching The Passion I was most profoundly affected by a new understanding of Mary, as The Mother of Sorrows.  It  recently occurred to me that her Son was only 40 days old – a tiny little Baby – when she was told that through Him “a sword will pierce through your own soul also” (Luke 2: 35). And yet, did she hold back? Did she choose to protect herself from pain that was sure to come? No. She never held back her love in an effort to protect herself. She opened wide the doors of Hope. She rested in the joy that this life is not the end. She prepared her soul for the glory of eternal life. And she surrendered her will to the Will of her Heavenly Father, with calm, quiet, peace.

Mary's heart was pierced by a sword and yet she did not wince. She stood, full of Faith. Full of Hope. She sacrificed the one thing that no mother could ever imagine losing – her Son. And because of her ability to surrender all to God’s Will, she was able to let go with a strength and dignity which, as a mother, left me speechless.

In the future, I pray that I can hold fast to Mary's example of courage in the face of self-sacrifice.  And in my grief, I’m reminded that I can turn to her for comfort.  Mary knows my fears. She understands my sorrows. And I can remember that she did not deny herself the experience of sadness. Rather, in her pain, Mary united herself to her Son, remembering that her consolation would be eternal.

Reading Assignment:

Temperance: Chapter 3

Discussion Questions:

1. Have you ever had a situation where you selfishly tried to hold onto something so tightly that you ended up losing the very thing you were trying to save?  If so, how did you overcome?

2. Feel free to comment on anything from our assignment this past week.

Read More: http://spiritualdirection.com/topics/book-club

For More Information on the Book Club:  http://spiritualdirection.com/csd-book-club

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About Vicki Burbach

Vicki Burbach is a wife and homeschooling mother of six children ages four to sixteen years who relishes the calm inspiration of spiritual reading amidst the roller coaster of life. A passionate convert to the Faith, Vicki is an avid reader who started the SpiritualDirection.com book club so she could embark with like-minded bibliophiles on a spiritual journey through some of the greatest Catholic books ever written. She is author of the new book How to Read Your Way to Heaven - A Spiritual Reading Program for the Worst of Sinners, the Greatest of Saints, and Everyone in Between. You can also find her at pelicansbreast.com

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  • Andy

    I’m so sorry about your loss. You and your family are in my prayers.

  • DanGoddu

    I am profoundly affected and grateful for this post. God bless!

  • Jeanette

    My Lord, the baby is dead! Why, my Lord–dare I ask why? It will not hear the whisper of the wind or see the beauty of its parents’ face–it will not see the beauty of Your creation or the flame of a sunrise. Why, my Lord?

    “Why, My child–do you ask ‘why’? Well, I will tell you why.

    You see, the child lives. Instead of the wind he hears the sound of angels singing before My throne. Instead of the beauty that passes he sees everlasting Beauty–he sees My face. He was created and lived a short time so the image of his parents imprinted on his face may stand before Me as their personal intercessor. He knows secrets of heaven unknown to men on earth. He laughs with a special joy that only the innocent possess. My ways are not the ways of man. I create for My Kingdom and each creature fills a place in that Kingdom that could not be filled by another. He was created for My joy and his parents’ merits. He has never seen pain or sin. He has never felt hunger or pain. I breathed a soul into a seed, made it grow and called it forth.”

    I am humbled before you, my Lord, for questioning Your wisdom, goodness, and love. I speak as a fool–forgive me. I acknowledge Your sovereign rights over life and death. I thank You for the life that began for so short a time to enjoy so long an Eternity. — Mother M. Angelica

    May Mother Mary be with you Vicky.

    • Voltaire

      amen

    • Vickie Laudicina

      HI Vicki, I too grieve with you. I was having repeated miscarriages at one point and I started to use a natural progesterone cream. The Lord allowed us to keep 3 more of his special gifts here on earth with us. : )

    • Vickie Laudicina

      Sorry, not sure why that goes to Jeanette’s comment.

  • LizEst

    Our condolences to your and your family, Vicki. You are, and have been, in my prayers.

  • DK

    Sad, Sad and more, Beautiful and sad.

  • Patricia

    This is such a real, tender, heartfelt and beautiful reflection on love, hope, and motherhood. What a perfect description of the virtue of hope : “Hope sneaks in through the cracks, offering tiny streams of light to shine through the darkness.” It reminds me of St. Pope John Paul ll- how God always sends some little beam of light, somehow, to penetrate even the darkest situations!
    Mary is the only one who already knows the sorrow that is that of a mother seeing her child suffer any hurt, loss or distress. She understands the pain of losing her child, but has the deep wisdom that knows God will turn it for good purpose, as Jeanette has offered in such a beautiful way. Mary understands and somehow, then, becomes a mother to comfort us, as only she can do by enfolding us in her arms of love. May your heart be hopeful always!

    “The loveliest masterpiece of the heart of God is the heart of a mother.” – St. Therese of Lisieux of a mother.” – St. Therese of Lisieux

  • Kelly

    Thank you, Vicki. I am a learned student of the Bible, though taught in spirit filled Bible churches and schools(and grateful for the tremendous amounts of sound teaching) I was born and raised Catholic and I am Catholic today. Your article has pierced my heart in a very good, and powerful way that I think will add a depth and strength to my spiritual walk with our Lord. It instantly helped me see some situations in my life clearer. Some situations in my life that I have held on to, and their ideal past, that turned out very despairing, have left me dumbfounded. But, clearly, the Holy Spirit used your article to draw my thoughts above, and it seemed to all make sense in an instant. God’s timing, after much prayer, I suppose. The tragedies that affected my life, are not all about me, and though very sad, and very real, I am not exempt. I can now let go, of the ideal, and I think I can pursue, with God, the healing and intervention He wants to create in these situations that have I have found no answer for, as of yet. All the good things in my life over the years are blessings from God. I have much to be thankful for…all the devastating things He wants to redeem. Either way, I win. What a fortunate daughter of God am I. (we all are, of course)Thank you for your timely article.

  • Patricia

    This posting asks a great question: Have you ever had a situation where you selfishly tried to hold onto something so tightly that you ended up losing the very thing you were trying to save? If so, how did you overcome?
    And the titile seems to answer it Love, Loss, and the Liberty of Letting Go

    If we love something very much, it becomes attached to our heart with strong knots of love. If we lose it, we are forced to detach from having it on some level. This rupture causes much pain because it tears part of out heart and takes it with it when it is removed. If we can allow our selves to let go of the pain and offer it to God for His purpose, we are free to love again, in a new way, on another level. Releasing a loss allows our heart to love again fully. St. John of the Cross says that a bird, held by the smallest, thinnest thread, can not soar to God because it is still bound, although lightly, still not free to soar to God. This is not easy, of course, and really can only be achieved on a spiritual level, not necessarily in our everyday human relationships…….meant for the ideal and singularity committed goal to search for the Living God.

  • marybernadette

    Dear Vicki,
    May Our dear Lord Jesus and His dear Blessed Mother hold all of your family, in their loving arms. What a wonderful testimony to your Faith and the beautiful insight re: Our Mother Mary’s life of love and suffering. As you are given the ‘peace of the Lord’ in your hearts, may others suffering in the same way be comforted and encouraged. Your little ones who are with all the Heavenly Family, will be wonderful intercessors, encouraging you all in the journey of Faith! God bless you!

  • SnowCherryBlossoms

    What an incredibly beautiful story and mother you are! God bless you! My daughter recently lost her 7th baby at 17 weeks along in much the same way and it was excruciatingly painful but became one of the most beautiful experiences I and she have ever had. She called me from the hospital crying because like you, there was no heartbeat and she asked me if she should let the hospital keep the baby. She was very distraught and didn’t know what to do so I asked her if she would be willing to have a funeral instead, she started crying out of pure relief and said yes! We worked with so many truly wonderful people from the entire hospital staff and doctors, our Priest, to the half the Parish getting involved- even the people at the funeral home went out of their way to help make this happen, it was one of the most loving most profound things I have ever witnessed. The Church had sectioned off part of the cemetery for miscarried babies and has a monument with the Blessed Virgin holding baby Jesus and each child receives a marble plaque with a beautiful inscription. The funeral was heavenly and to this day my 6 Grandkids talk about their little brother and treat him as part of their family and include him in their nightly prayers! The blessings and graces that flowed into all involved was a miracle of God’s love and will never leave us!

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