Retreat for Parents Who Have Suffered the Death of a Child to be Held in Charleston

By Colleen Rowan

CHARLESTON—A special retreat is being held for parents who have suffered the death of a child, to help them begin to heal and to find comfort. The Emmaus Ministry for Grieving Parents is presenting a weekend spiritual retreat Oct. 4-6 at Blessed John XXIII Pastoral Center in Charleston.

Losing a child of any age by any cause is horrific, programs officials said, focusing on the spiritual perspective can help. Leading the retreat are Diane Monaghan and her husband, Charles, who started the retreat after the loss of their only son Paul, 26, to suicide. “It devastated us,” she said. Reading everything she could on dealing with the loss of a child and seeking help from therapists and support groups, Diane found no comfort. “Nothing helped,” she said, “until I went to spiritual direction in my parish at the shrine in Boston. I met with the spiritual director who told me over and over again that life has changed, not ended, that Paul was still very much a part of my life, that I should be praying to him, not for him, and that I would indeed see him one day again.”

She wanted to help bring the comfort that she had found to other parents who have lost their children. At the time, she was working at the National Catholic Shrine in Boston, led by a Franciscan order, and proposed a new ministry to the guardian of the shrine. “I think that a ministry focused on the spiritual healing process for the grieving parent is what is needed,” she said to the guardian. It would be an ongoing ministry that focused on the parents who lost a child at any age or in any way. And so the Emmaus Ministry for Grieving Parents was established five years ago.

The Monaghans are co-directors of the retreat weekend. The retreat will also include others, such as parents who have lost children, who will also provide guidance.

“We have a group of parents who are committed to bringing this ministry to other parents anywhere we are asked to go,” Diane said. “We also have retreat team companions who are our spiritual leaders. They are Franciscan priests and brothers, diocesan priests, sisters and spiritual directors.”

The retreat will also include special sessions for mothers and fathers, because they grieve differently, Diane said.

Making the decision to do something like this, Diane said, is difficult. However, once parents are among others who are going through the same suffering as they, she said, it is comforting. “That’s the beauty of this retreat,” she said. Everyone is at a different point in the grieving process, she noted, so there are no expectations on participation or sharing of personal stories during the retreat.

For more information, visit www.emmausministryforgrieving, send e-mail to or call (800) 919-9332.