A Review of Journey in Love: A Catholic Mother’s Prayers after Prenatal Diagnosis by Kathryn Anne Casey (Our Sunday Visitor, 2019, 103pp)
“The only way out is through.”
I often gently remind my psychotherapy clients of this difficult truth when they are struggling with any kind of grief. We’re often tempted to run from the reality of our losses, searching and bargaining for some way to circumvent the pain of grieving a loss. A “quick fix” seems preferable to facing the reality of loss.
Writer Kathryn Casey has had to face this reality herself through the unspeakable pain of receiving a prenatal diagnosis and losing a child. She shares her intense journey of living with a prenatal diagnosis during her pregnancy, grieving the diagnosis while knowing that there was still more pain to come, and learning to live with the pain of losing a child in her book, Journey in Love: A Catholic Mother’s Prayers after Prenatal Diagnosis published by Our Sunday Visitor.
Part memoir, part spiritual reflections, and part guidebook, Casey courageously offers readers the opportunity to journey with her through her heart-wrenching experience. She provides an unfiltered perspective of her grief while simultaneously offering practical and spiritual advice. In this sense, Casey’s reflections serve as both a compassionate and empowering companion for anyone struggling with grief and loss whether it is a prenatal diagnosis or something different. When I asked her why she felt called to revisit this painful time in her life, she told me, “I hope that readers will gain from this book a sense of hope, comfort, and connection with God, our loving Father and Christ, and his suffering on the cross and redemptive hope.”
Through sharing her own story, it is almost as if she is gently telling the reader, “You are not alone in your suffering and there is hope in the midst of your grief.” One of the most powerful ways in which she offers readers hope is through the more practice suggestions she offers throughout the book. Casey used some of her own education and clinical training as a counselor throughout her experience. Her background, she says, “help me to remember to keep perspective, stay balanced in the competing needs of my body, my heart, my unborn child, and my living family. it helped me to understand the value of the process of leaning into grief, rather than running from it, and to be patient with myself as I worked through the tasks end stages of grief.” And she shares these lessons with her readers. From describing the four tasks of grief, to offering three ways to cope when you just can’t seem to find the words to pray, to the meditations she composed for each liturgical season, Casey offers the reader actionable steps that they can apply to their own life.
For someone who is facing any kind of loss, but particularly a maternal loss, Casey’s words not only validate the reality of suffering but also offers her story as a companion and guide through that unspeakable suffering. When I asked Casey what her hopes were for readers who share in her journey, she told me, “In the very heart of darkness there’s only one light we can hold on to, the light of Christ and the hope of the Resurrection,” and explained that for her, “that gave me meaning to my suffering and I pray it will do so for others as well.”
The theme of light and hope amidst the darkness of suffering is woven throughout the book not only through the meditations and prayers included in the latter half of the book but also through the stories Casey shares of friends who supported her through her grief, the stories of the saints like St. Zelie Martin and Mother Teresa, and through her own search for beauty amidst her suffering.
Casey’s book is a not only a powerful reflection and guide for a way through grief and loss but it is also an invitation to embrace the hope of redemptive suffering through Christ’s Resurrection. In other words, Casey’s story shows the reader that the only way out to the Resurrection is going through the redemptive suffering. It is a worthy reminder and one that any reader, regardless of their own type of suffering, will find beneficial for their own story.