Kelly and Ryan Breaux live in Louisiana, have five children, and are the founders of Red Bird Ministries. They have teenage daughter, Estelle Gabriella, and four children in heaven, including twins Emma Grace and Talon Antoine. Talon died at 15 days old and Emma at 3 years. They have also lost two babies to miscarriage.
When I was asked to interview them, I was nervous. I was scared to dive into their story of deep, dark suffering. It reminded me of the suffering my in-laws experienced after losing their oldest son at the age of 3. I have not been asked to carry their cross, but the cross they have been given to carry is one of my worst fears.
This is why I knew that as hesitant as I was to get into the “why” behind their ministry, it was a story that needed to be shared. The lives of their children are worthy of knowing, and it is through their children that they have been asked to be light-bearers to others in their own time of darkness.
Radiant: How did you cope after losing your twins?
Kelly Breaux: I wish I could have accepted my cross like the Blessed Mother did, but that’s not what happened. I responded more like Peter did as he ran from the cross.
After Talon’s funeral, we stopped going to church. I would have flashbacks of the coffins in front of the parish or be triggered by hearing a baby cry. When nobody noticed that we stopped going to church, a lot of anger built up in our hearts. We began to isolate ourselves, live in mortal sin, and soon our ability to carry our cross was gone. We were surviving child loss and functioning in society, but we didn’t feel any real purpose in life. Time moved, we grew older, but life was meaningless to us. My husband and I didn’t know how to communicate with each other. We stuffed our feelings, tried not to bring more suffering to one another, and, in doing so, nearly destroyed our marriage.
Growing up, my education about Catholicism was very watered down. I felt threatened by God’s justice and thought he had willed my children to die. I lived with that lie for nearly a decade. We know that the Church asks us to pick up our cross and follow Jesus, but when people are in the rawness of their grief, they need support to help them do that. Unfortunately in our experience, we had trouble finding that support.
Radiant: How did you find hope after a decade of isolation and broken-heartedness?
Kelly: Seven years after Emma died, everything changed. My friend’s daughter had just died in a car accident, and I quickly observed that she was not grieving like I had. She was grieving with God. She stood at the foot of the cross like Mary did. The day she buried her daughter, she was supposed to go make a Cursillo retreat. I thought she was going to be mad at God and never want to go. But she did the opposite. The next month she made her Cursillo, and I saw something beautiful and different in her.
A few months later, I was encouraged to go on a Cursillo, and despite my protests, I agreed to make a retreat. It was on retreat that I realized that what was missing from my healing was the spiritual component.
Then, seven months after my retreat, my husband was in confession and the priest asked him if he would be willing to speak at his parish to share our story of suffering, how long we had been away from the Church, and how we found healing through the sacraments. That was the beginning of Red Bird.
Radiant: What is Red Bird Ministries?
Kelly: Red Bird Ministries is a Catholic grief support ministry that serves ordinary families who have been given the extraordinary cross of child loss. We serve individuals and couples as well, anyone who has experienced child loss through miscarriage, stillbirth, after birth as an infant, child, adolescent or adult.
Because we were unable to find solid support though our parish after losing our twins, we wanted to be a beacon of hope for others.
We did a focus group in our diocese and interviewed 20 priests from all over the Archdiocese of New Orleans. We quickly learned that even though they had graduated from seminary, none of them were trained for grief support. This is why our ministry focuses on providing local dioceses and church parishes with the tools, programs, systems and resources to help families understand grief, how to navigate through it, and take practical measures to begin the healing process. And the sacraments play an essential role.
Radiant: Who is the patroness of Red Bird?
Kelly: Our daughter Emma Grace was baptized on Sept. 10, 2006, and died on Sept. 10, 2009. That was the same date in 1946 that Mother Teresa heard her “call within the call” to begin the Missionaries of Charity. She then adopted a fourth vow, “To give hope to those who have lost it, and to recognize the face of the Lord in those who suffer.”
Through personally experiencing the loss of a child and through our own suffering, we share in this same thirst of bringing those who suffer back to the light and to the Lord. This is why we look to Mother Teresa for passion and inspiration to serve those who are suffering the loss of a child.
Radiant: What words of encouragement do you have for others who are experiencing deep suffering right now?
Kelly: One of the biggest things I would say is that if people offer you support and help, take it! The enemy wants you to be alone in your grief and he will try to tempt you to isolate and do everything yourself. But that lie keeps us in our darkness. We need to reject the lie that nobody else understands what we’re going through and lean into the help that people want to offer.
Radiant: What has been a specific God moment you have witnessed through Red Bird?
Kelly: There are so many of them! One time when my husband and Emma’s godfather were on an antiquing road trip, we stopped at a winery in Texas. We walked inside this small winery in the middle of nowhere and met a guy who was having a glass of wine with his wife. It turns out that he was the brother to one of the families that we had served.
It is amazing to see the lights come back on in the lives of the people we are serving. Their faith is restored, grace is accepted, and their outlook on life is changed for the better.
If you know someone in your life who is in need of their faith being restored after experiencing the loss of a child, Red Bird Ministries is there for them and wants to help. They can also be found on the Red Bird Ministries app, which offers resources, videos, weekly check-ins, family support office hours, prayer plans, monthly webinars, quarterly retreats and more.