Red Bird Ministries offers tools to heal from child loss

By Leslie Schaefer

Special to The Message

On Feb. 11, 2019, Bradley and I got that call no parent wants to receive: “Joshua’s been in an accident.”

Nearly two years after Joshua’s death, I went searching for saints who had also lost children. I needed to know how to forge ahead in my faith. I wanted to know the tools they used to cope while living this most unimaginable loss. Familiar names popped up: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton; Sts. Louis and Zelié Martin; and St. Rita of Cascia. Then, I found the names of those whom I didn’t know or know well: St. Isidore the Farmer and his wife, St. Maria Torribia; St. Frances of Rome; and St. Alphonsus Rodriguez. Among the over 50 saints who have walked this journey before me, there is a common thread: every one of them focused more on the needs of others. I once read, “grief is love with nowhere to go.” These saints poured forth their love, once reserved for their living children, into love for others.

In keeping with this outreach of love, Red Bird Ministries was founded by a Louisiana couple, Ryan and Kelly Breaux. After they had buried their twins – a son and then, three years later, their daughter – and later enduring a miscarriage, they realized the need for support for others like them. Red Bird Ministries is a pro-family, pro-life, Catholic ministry for families grieving the loss of a child at any age and circumstance – from pregnancy through adulthood.

In June of this year, our Evansville Diocese Chapter of Red Bird Ministries held its first retreat; the theme was “Loving Through Loss.” As the eight participants shared with our team of nine what they hoped to gain from this one-day retreat, it was nearly a unanimous vote for “tools to move forward.” As we moved through our day, more and more of the participants opened up and felt free to share their losses. Even though I was in a leadership role, this was the first time in over four years that I could be in a room and not guard my words, hedge my feelings, or wear a mask of happiness outside ­– while inside screaming in anguish so loudly that I couldn’t think straight. I felt a little lighter and could lay down my burden of grief, my personal cross, with our team and participants and be completely surrounded by people who got it. I didn’t have to explain it so they might better understand. By the end of the day, the feeling of healing was tangible. As ugly as this journey of loss is, there is beauty in finding solace amongst us grievers.

Every month, our core team has been traveling from parish to parish in the Diocese of Evansville, available with information and leading the rosary for all families of child loss. Follow us on Facebook to be informed of upcoming events: RedBird-Evdio. Our next retreat will be in the spring of 2024.

If you would like to join us in this outreach, would like to learn more about this ministry, or need our assistance, please reach out: [email protected]

Leslie Schaefer serves as Red Bird Ministries’ Chapter Advocate for the Diocese of Evansville.