Editor’s Note: Trigger warning for those who have lost a child, and our prayers are with you. This is part 2 of a 2-part series from guest contributor, Kelly Breaux. Kelly is the Founder of Red Bird Ministries, our beautiful sister organization. Read Part 1 here. If you are grieving the loss of a child or miscarriage, or know someone suffering from these types of grief, please reach out to Kelly & Red Bird. You can do so via their website or social media & email – posted below her bio at the bottom.
My restoration didn’t come easy. In fact, you probably should do the opposite of how I handled my grief. I’m the one that would sit in the back, needing someone to speak louder for me to get it.
I’m the stubborn one that Jesus had to preach the same concept in different parables so that I would understand. I knew what I needed to do, but I was too hard-headed and prideful to admit that I needed God’s help. I was the angry daughter, of a very wise and loving Father, refusing to surrender to his mercy and love. I viewed death as finite and from a worldly perspective. So, I struggled a lot.
In 2014, Estelle started Pre-K at our Parish school. Every Thursday morning, I walked Estelle to the drop off gate as she’d cry for me to come to Mass with her. Estelle knew that if I went, she could sit with me. She wanted me there.
One thing created an obstacle: I had quit going to mass not long after Emma Grace had died in 2010. I must admit that I was aggravated by her tears. I basically went to mass to quiet her, because of how loud her cries were. In hindsight, I see that I didn’t want to face the decisions I’d made because I was still angry about the continued suffering.
When I didn’t go to Mass, I would have to have a conversation with Estelle. She wasn’t showing me mercy for when I missed. Slowly it became our thing. It didn’t mean that I wasn’t still mad at God, but it was a start. I think it was preparing me for what was about to happen.
On October 8, 2015, I brought my mom to the eye doctor. As we were sitting in the waiting room chatting, I realized my mom was sweating profusely. Beads of sweat were rolling down her temples.
“Mom, what’s wrong?” I asked.
I thought it was anxiety, but she said quietly, “I just don’t feel good.”
Things got bad very quickly as her breathing quickened and she turned white. As I walked her out of the front door so that I could take her to the emergency room, she had a massive heart attack in the parking lot. My mother died in my arms.
I can’t explain what that was like. How fast it happened. How scared I was. How broken I felt. Losing my children and then my mother all in the matter of a few years still leaves me at a loss for words.
I couldn’t begin to grieve my mother, because I was forced to jump into action while our family was mourning. My sister was my mother’s primary caregiver and she struggled to process her death. Being familiar with funerals, I planned everything and even told our children. And my sister let me do it as she sat quietly, unable to find the words.
With every loss, there was some regression in my heart as I went back to the beginning. This was no different. I wasn’t happy. I felt like I was just surviving. I was drinking more, and more often. I would sometimes not remember what happened when I drank. I lived in fear and darkness.
I was often angry and mean to my family. Ryan and I were arguing more. I was ashamed of my behavior, but I didn’t know how to fix myself. I was trying to numb the pain again. I couldn’t face it. I didn’t recognize myself, and my husband had become a stranger to me. Unable to forgive God, and myself, I couldn’t love my family and friends. I only saw my pain and couldn’t see others, and most often I didn’t care. I went through another year of darkness. I just couldn’t carry these crosses.
Something had to change. But I didn’t know what.
God had to break me down before I surrendered. So many relationships were broken, damaged, scarred because of my pain.
And one day, everything changed for me.
On April 25, 2016, I received a call from a friend with terrible news. My friend, Misty, and her 10-year-old daughter, Isley, had been hit by a drunk driver leaving a Carried Underwood concert. Isley had died.
That news had hit too close to home. My knees buckled and I screamed in pain as it brought me back to the beginning again. Play by play, I relived what Misty was now going to know. I didn’t want anyone to know the pain of losing a child, and it tore my heart in two that our friends would also have to live through it.
The day they buried Isley, Misty was supposed to leave for a Cursillo weekend. Instead of running away from God, Misty wanted to attend Cursillo even more. Watching her, I knew there was something different about how she was handling her grief. Where I took the first exit, Misty stood at the foot of the Cross and imitated Mary to me. The pain still engulfed her heart, but she hadn’t lost her faith as I did. And for the first time, I received an invitation from a mother of loss to find my way back to God.
This was a vital key. Those who had made the invitations before had never experienced the level of grief that I had since they had not lost their children. So, I didn’t feel judged by Misty. I only felt the love of another grieving mother.
I committed with my husband to go to Sunday Mass together as a family. We haven’t missed since. And I went to Mass every Thursday with Estelle. We started a prayer group with our friends. I joined RCIA, had confession face-to-face, and was Confirmed in February of 2017. I left for my Cursillo on the 1st anniversary of Isley’s death.
That weekend, I met Jesus. Not in this superficial way, I met the living person of Christ. I saw Him face to face, heart to heart, and He changed my life.
Experiencing the Sacraments in sanctifying grace, healed my heart.
Let me repeat that for shock value. I knew I was healed not because someone told me about the Sacraments in a Theology class. It was because of the first-hand experience of my heart being healed by the Sacraments in sanctifying grace. The Divine Physician restored my shattered heart.
Jesus healed me. Not because I was worthy or deserving, but because He is.
When I walked into my house. I wrapped my arms around my husband’s neck and told him. “I’m sorry.”
It wasn’t just to get my butt out of trouble. My apology came from a place of pure love for him. I now understood his sacrifice and mercy.
For many years, Ryan was the face of Christ for me that I looked past every day. All of the times he picked me up off of the floor when I was crying, that was Jesus. All of the times when he wiped my tears off my cheeks, Jesus. All of the times he forgave me when he shouldn’t have, Jesus.
Our marriage is a living image of God.Kelly Breaux, founder of red bird ministries
A direct access point to Christ, but I looked past it all that time out of selfishness and pride. From that day forward, our lives changed. God broke me down and built me back up. But this woman, this Kelly, she looks a lot different inside and out. I now radiate Christ’s light.
On August 19, 2017, Ryan stepped foot into the confessional after 15-years. He entered nervously, but a peace came over him. Jesus was present in a real way. Fr. Brady walked with Ryan through a deep examen and asked him about the twins. After absolution, Father asked Ryan if we would share our story at his Parish. The previous year, he’d had five families that had lost children. He wanted to start a grief support ministry to journey with them through loss.
Ryan came home with his phone number what seemed like a lofty idea. The fear of what opening pandora’s box would do to my heart scared me. It took me 7-months to call Fr. Brady back, but I eventually got the courage to do it.
What I thought was a “once and done” healing, I now see was just unlocking the box. During Cursillo, I faced so much pain from wounds that occurred over many years, that the healing had to come in phases. God cannot bring you through all of it at once because our hearts are too weak.
The encouragement of friends has helped everything come full circle. Empowered by their love, I completed a book that I had started to write. The book “Hiding in the Upper Room – How a Mother Healed Her Bereaved Heart Through the Sacraments,” will be published this year.
I don’t think Fr. Brady understood what God had in store for Ryan and me when he asked that question. A tug at our hearts to start that grief support ministry for parents of loss became a reality.
In 2018, with the blessing of the Diocese of Lafayette, Ryan and I began a grief support ministry for parents of loss. Along with a team of other couples, we started Red Bird Ministries. It quickly grew and morphed into something we never envisioned. But through hurdles and obstacles, we understood that grief support couldn’t be handled traditionally.
Less than 10% of those who had lost a child were seeking help from the Church. We struggled to find couples willing to share their stories of restoration, and so we had to dig deep to address this obstacle. Through lots of tears and prayers, it came to light. There’s a natural tendency towards privacy in grief that made it hard for families to attend. Few were open to the idea of being vulnerable and showing their wounds. This made it nearly impossible to host workshops and support group meetings. But in desperation, my prayer became louder, and God provided us with a different approach. People began to open their hearts.
Many incredible ministries are harnessing the power of technology. They create compelling storytelling videos that can be used in the place of a live speaker. We need resources. Plus this allows us to virtually go anywhere that grieving parents are. Along with videos, we could guide them with both one-on-one companionship and also a workbook/journal.
We began to lay out the foundation work of the ministry and how we could reach those in isolation and desolation. How to meet our families in the trenches and walk with them back into community and communion with God.
The methodology we’ve developed to help with the loss of a child provides key insight into the nature of grief. It’s now being adapted and applied to help with the other significant deaths that all will encounter, specifically the loss of a parent or spouse.
Each year over 500,000 Catholic deaths occur. That leaves families facing an increase in divorce, loneliness, unresolved relationship problems, lack of forgiveness, care of surviving parent, and financial impacts.
There is no single resource at present that adequately addresses the emotional, psychological, communal, and spiritual needs of a person or family who have lost someone. This results in countless men and women suffering in silence.
This is where Red Bird steps in.
We are the only ministry that systematically guides individuals and couples through the complexity and drama that happens with loss. Using powerful storytelling, multimedia approach, one-on-one mentoring, and an interactive community, we guide our grieving through loss. We also partner participants with Catholic Counselors, Spiritual Directors, and Parish Life. We provide resources to Catholic support groups or the resources to populate a group in areas without them.
Last year, we served 80 couples in the Diocese of Lafayette. We also continued to layout and refine our resources and fundraising efforts to build our system and take this ministry across the US. In 2020, we hope that we are the grief outreach to which the Church looks.
The journey that has brought me back into communion with God and allowed Him to restore my heart has brought me to my knees. Through prayer, Jesus gave me a visual of His Cross and handed it to me.
He said, ‘Even I needed help carrying my Cross.’
What makes me think that I could ever do this alone? In humility, even Jesus allowed Simon of Cyrene and Veronica to assist Him on his path to the crucifixion.
Accepting help from others on the same journey isn’t for the weak. It takes courage, vulnerability, and humility to open our hearts and agree that we can’t do this on our own. But the good news is, we weren’t meant to.
God doesn’t want you to be alone. He wants you to be at peace and restored. We have to let others help us carry our crosses and wipe our tears. Though He was God, Jesus did it and He imitated it for us. The Cross is the perfect model of what love looks like. Allowing others into our pain doesn’t make us less Catholic, it makes us human.
My grief was transformed by the power of healing through the Sacraments. Once my heart was restored to Him, experiencing the Sacraments in sanctifying grace, I was healed. What is stopping you and preventing you from being in perfect union with the Father? What is stopping you from total restoration?
We invite you to pray for us. Share our mission, especially with the grieving. If you can financially support us, we accept online donations at www.redbird.love/donate
God loves the brokenhearted and keeps them close to his most Sacred Heart.