12 Rituals of Miscarriage

“Ten years ago I stood in a temple in the Kamakura district of Tokyo, staring at hundreds upon hundreds of gray Buddha statues. Ranging in size from around 4 to 12 inches, they lined walkways, went up steps, and edged paths. Some were adorned with beads and flowers or wore little hand-knit caps; others had bibs with cartoons and white, ruffled baby hats. They stood silently amid the rock arrangements and soft bamboo trees. Their sheer numbers were breathtaking. Later I learned that this temple was a place specifically for women who had had pregnancy losses–some early, some late, even some whose losses where the result of intention to end a pregnancy.” (Wendy Ponte, “Solitary sadness” Mothering, July/August 2002). Rituals are an important part of our life. They provide an important tool for working through feelings of grief and a way for families to come together and feel whole again. Yet, while some societies have developed elaborate rituals and behaviors for mourning pregnancy loss, the Western world has remained painfully devoid of such rituals. As a result, couples who want to acknowledge and grieve the loss of an unborn child frequently have to create their own ceremonies and traditions. Couples choose different types of ceremonies depending upon their own belief system. Some find comfort in traditional religious services with clergy officiating, while others prefer quiet meditation, or the symbolism of one poignant act, such as planting a tree. Often, the anniversary of the miscarriage or the due date of the unborn child becomes the focus for remembrance rituals. Simple or elaborate, religious or secular, the point of all such...

Have You Lost the Spark That Lights the Darkest Hour?

This morning there was a lot of sadness in my office. My client “Dawn” has just miscarried after conceiving twins with IVF. She could barely drag herself in to see me—she has been literally hiding under the covers for the few days since her miscarriage. Now, in my office, doubled over with anguish, she was questioning her ability to go on. Two years of unsuccessful fertility treatments and now this pregnancy loss have broken her spirit and left her defeated and hopeless. “The future is empty for me” she said, “I will never be happy again”. Those words didn’t surprise me. After all, women trying to conceive often have clinical depression rates similar to women who have heart disease or cancer. Surprising,though, was the fact that the words were coming out of Dawn’s mouth. You see, Dawn has always described herself as “a real bad-ass.” She’s confronted a great deal of adversity in her life and has emerged from it as tough and as rugged as a street fighter. When she first started fertility treatment, her attitude was, “Bring it on!” True to form, in the following two years she’s fought for her dream family with tenaciousness and unfaltering optimism. But now, she feels like she can no longer bounce back. She feels broken beyond repair. Listening to my client today reminded me of three basic truths about resilience: 1) Most of us posses it. Like Dawn, many people have dealt with trouble or misfortune, and have picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and went on with life, frequently strengthened by the challenge they’d faced. You too may have...