Holidays and Grieving Loss


From a talk on Grief and Loss I gave in December:
Change = Loss = Grief; any major change brings loss and therefore

You never completely get over grieving a profound loss – such as your parents divorce;
the death of your parents, child, spouse, pet.

I would add here for this audience: the loss of your church; the loss of your faith.

Healing is about befriending grief. But before we can get to the healing there will be the “normal” responses to any major loss. Since the abuse you may have experienced – denial, anger, avoidance, sadness, depression … and each of them for long periods of time and recurrently.  I was in denial about some of my abuse until very recently. And I am talking over 40 years since the events took place.  I am just now really getting into some anger. It wasn’t possible while I was in denial. I have dipped into it occasionally in therapy, usually in the hospital, then worked hard at stuffing it back down so I could function in my daily life and work.  So my healing goes in cycles, I bring something up, work through it a little, try to accept it, and then put it aside for a while.

I have to remind myself of what I told the people at my talk: we never get over our losses, we just start managing to get along with them. And as we process our losses the intensity of the pain changes and becomes more manageable.

I am sad every Christmas because of the loss of the Catholic Church to me. My husband and son and I go to Christmas Eve mass together (my husband is still Catholic), and for me it is just a poignant reminder of the magical thinking of my childhood and the sexual abuse by the men I was taught to believe were ontologically superior human beings: “God’s presence among us.”

Despite the grief, sadness, and depression, I have survived both the abuse and the losses, and I will continue to heal.

And that is my prayer for each of you.



(Below is a handout of self care tips I prepared for the hospital where I serve as a chaplain.)





The Pillar

The Pillar

My one pillar

My faith: my church; my God

Eaten away

By Boston 2002

Leaving my teaching

Leaving my church

By Malc’s death

By the Divine silence

divine Silence


Pat’s acts were love; because I loved him

Downey gave me money;

I took it; I’m complicit

Bogan was my fault; I visited him

Walsh didn’t really happen –

The original sin


But if it did?

All others come under its light

And if they are true?

What is left of my religion?


Clinging to the Catholic Church

Like a cuckold clinging to her unfaithful spouse

Fragments of that pillar remained

Undergirding me silently

While building blocks were placed

Tentatively beside the skeleton foundation

But they don’t reach high enough

Are subject to floods and wind

Disillusionment and disappointment


So here I am teetering, teetering

Realizing my reluctance was borne of survival

Not denial

But like Eve my eyes have been opened

And the light is shining through the bony scaffold

That collapses as I reach out for it

Fingers passing through

The Pillar becomes dust

“the centre cannot hold”

“The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;”*



*Quotes from “The Second Coming” by William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)


I am Clean

I see shattered
You see whole
I see broken
But You see beautiful
And You’re helping me to believe
You’re restoring me piece by piece
There’s nothing too dirty
That You can’t make worthy
You wash me in mercy
I am clean
There’s nothing too dirty
That You can’t make worthy
You wash me in mercy
I am clean
What was dead now lives again
My heart’s beating, beating inside my chest
Oh I’m coming alive with joy and destiny
‘Cause You’re restoring me piece by piece
There’s nothing too dirty
That You can’t make worthy
You wash me in mercy
I am clean
There’s nothing too dirty
That You can’t make worthy
You wash me in mercy
I am clean
Washed in the blood of Your sacrifice
Your blood flowed red and made me white
My dirty rags are purified
I am clean …

Finding Hope after Abuse

traces of hope

How do I process my grief?
Does suffering have any meaning?
Do we live in a random chaotic universe?
Is it time to re-evaluate my understanding of “God”?

This book is for anyone who has suffered a loss – of safety, of one’s home, of health, of a loved one or a relationship, or of one’s faith … and found themselves asking, “Why?” And then wondering, “Who am I asking?” and hoping they were not alone.

Traces of Hope

Over the past few years I have used the opportunity offered by this blog to reflect on many aspects of my healing from sexual abuse by Catholic priests.

I have a new book coming out that tells the story of my healing journey and my journey through grief and loss if you are interested in my full story.

Hope for the Future

John’s passage describing his “revelation” succinctly explains the perspective of the Church and the reason why things have been so slow to change.


Click here to read: “I Was Once a Victim,” by John Salveson, class of ’77, ’78 M.A., Notre Dame Magazine, Summer 2013


Slowly, eventually, I figured out the reason for the lack of progress within the Church. It really was simple. I had long believed the Roman Catholic Church considered the child sex-abuse crisis to be a moral issue. So I expected clergy to care about the victims and to do the right thing.

But the simple truth I had learned over time was this: Much of the Catholic leadership does not view this as a moral issue. They view it as a risk-management issue. The focus is on managing settlements, keeping the topic out of the media, telling the faithful everything is taken care of and, most of all, doing everything humanly possible to ensure none of these cases ever make it into a court of law.

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