| By Elizabeth Hansen

Supporting Grieving Parents

How Our Little Ones Ministry is Making a Difference for Families

The sorrow of miscarriage led Kristin Verdun and her family back to the Catholic Church. Now, the Grand Blanc mother of three – plus two others lost before birth – is helping create a diocese-wide ministry for other parents mourning an unborn child.

Our Little Ones Ministry takes its name from a letter written by St. Zélie Martin, mother of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, to a grieving relative. Reflecting on her hope of being reunited with her babies – she eventually lost four children – St. Zélie wrote, “We shall find our little ones again up above.”

Kristin and her ministry co-founders – Christina Heidemann, from St. Thomas Aquinas in East Lansing, and Jenny Ingles, director of the diocese’s Fertility and Life Ministries – want to offer that hope and other tangible support to grieving families. The group has recently started connecting with parents who’ve miscarried. Its budget from the diocese – made possible by donations to the Diocesan Service Appeal – means each family has received a card, remembrance bracelet handmade by Kristin, and a print with St. Zélie’s quote.  Kristin hopes they’ll soon have miscarriage kits readily available, including a container to respectfully hold the miscarried baby’s remains.

Kristin’s passion for this ministry stems from personal experience. While undergoing her first miscarriage in February 2021, she quickly realized she had no idea what to physically expect, much less how to go about burying her eight-week unborn child’s tiny body.

“I only knew one person that had had a miscarriage,” she said – although miscarriages occur at a rate of one out of every four pregnancies, the topic was never talked about in her circles. “I was thankful I could talk to my friend, but I didn’t really know what to do.”

Kristin remembers her panicked Google searches moments after delivering her baby, Ezra, in her bathroom.

“What the heck do I do with this?” she remembers thinking. “I didn’t know I could collect remains or potentially bury them.”

Along with lacking practical knowledge about miscarriage, Kristin found herself grasping for emotional support in the time that followed.

“People get uncomfortable with (others) who are grieving,” she said. “They don’t know what to do with their deep sorrow.”

Kristin’s spiritual journey has been closely linked with her growth as a mother. Raised Catholic, Kristin stopped going to Mass as a teen and stayed away from religious practice for several years. But when she and her then-boyfriend (now husband, Danny) found out they were expecting, something shifted to make her reevaluate the faith of her childhood.

“I knew I was going to be responsible for another person, and naturally people have questions about all kinds of things,” she said. “I became very aware that I hadn’t answered those questions for myself … Does God exist? Who is he?”

She started slipping into Mass once a month, but after a negative experience for non-Catholic Danny, the couple stepped back. They eventually settled into an Assemblies of God congregation, attending regular services and ministries with their now-growing family.

But as Kristin huddled in the bathroom, desperate for miscarriage resources, “Google kept pointing me to the Catholic church and cemeteries.” The Verduns ended up burying Ezra at their Protestant church, but learning that Catholics had things to say about miscarriage and the sanctity of human life sparked another search for Kristin.

“Because of Ezra, I needed to know, what happens when you die?” she said. Armed with questions and a budding desire to see more resources for miscarrying parents, she wrote a letter to Bishop Boyea, who put her in touch with Jenny Ingles.

Around the same time, Jenny had been talking with Christina Heidemann, who organizes a miscarriage ministry at St. Thomas Aquinas. Having each experienced miscarriage, the women all felt a call to broaden support to grieving parents across the diocese. Our Little Ones Ministry was born, and “Christina was praying for me to come back to the Catholic church,” Kristin said, laughing.

Since then, the entire Verdun family has found a home at Holy Family parish in Grand Blanc. Kristin and her children, Brianna, Liam, and Xander, have begun receiving or preparing for the sacraments. Danny is in RCIA, with Kristin accompanying him and finally “getting to ask all the questions” she’d stored up in her time away from the church.

When they suffered another miscarriage, Kristin now had resources and a support network. Christina drove an hour from the Lansing area to deliver a meal. One of their priests counseled the whole grieving family, in addition to praying for their lost babies and blessing Ezra’s gravesite.

“I knew who I could call. I knew what I could potentially do or ask for,” Kristin explained. “I was able to help my church help me.”

Soon, she hopes, there will be chapters of Our Little Ones Ministry throughout the diocese so that no woman is left feeling alone and desperate in her loss.

Coming home to the church has meant coming into a community that shares each other’s burdens. Nurturing that kind of community through Our Little Ones Ministry means “people are given the space and tools to grieve, and they have support in their journey.”

Above all, St. Zélie’s hope resonates: “to remind people that (we) will be reunited eventually, and that will be part of (our) joy in heaven.”

  • Have you suffered a miscarriage? For resources and support, contact  ourlittleonesministry@outlook.com.
  • The Diocese has walked with 22 women/couples who have lost a child to miscarriage since 2020.
  • The diocese provides grants and baby gear donations to 6 different ministries in 2021/2022 including pregnancy centers and Sidewalk Advocates
  • The diocese supports Walking with Moms in Need (WWMN) in the diocese as a central hub and with future grants. We have 1 active WWMN ministry, 2 nearly complete and several in the beginning of the process

Elizabeth Hansen is a freelance writer in Lansing who attends the Church of the Resurrection.