When Ronald Reagan proclaimed October as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month in 1988, he did so by quoting author Jay Neugeboren, saying ““A wife who loses a husband is called a widow. A husband who loses a wife is called a widower. A child who loses his parents is called an orphan. There is no word for a parent who loses a child.” (3)
This proclamation marked the start a movement, breaking the silence around pregnancy loss, stillbirth and infant death.
It is so easy to feel isolated in grief and to be misunderstood. As more people are brave enough to tell their stories and find their way with grief, we, as a community, can begin to understand their pain and learn how to reach out to those who are grieving.
A few stories from the last year have reverberated with me for months:
NYT writer Peggy Orenstein’s experience of pregnancy loss and the Japanese ritual of Mizuko Kuyo (4)
Rick Hansen’s daughter Emma’s experience of stillbirth (2)
Danielle Walker, author of Against All Grain experience of walking the tightrope of fear and faith in pregnancy after child loss (5)
In my practice, I have held space for many women who have experienced pregnancy loss, some as part of their fertility journey and some as part of their story many years ago. There is always sadness, always grief.
There is power in telling the story of pregnancy loss.
As women tell me their story, I see a space start to open up in them and give movement to the energy the sadness holds. This space holds the possibility of stepping forward on the next part of their journey having held that tender, sad part of them with the gentlest touch and shed tears for it’s pain. The pain is a part of who they are now, but it is not the whole story and the next chapter is still to be written.
With great insight, Barbara Kingsolver writes, “A miscarriage is a natural and common event. All told, probably more women have lost a child from this world than haven’t. Most don’t mention it, they go on from day to day as if it hadn’t happened, so people imagine a women in this situation never really knew or loved what she had.
But ask her sometime: how old would your child be now? And she’ll know.” (1)
1. Kingsolver, B (1991), Animal Dreams, Harper Perennial
2. Hansen, E (2015), Born Still But Still Born, retrieved October 26, 2015 from http://www.sincerelyskin.ca/blog/2015/04/13/born-still-but-still-born/
3. Neugeboren, J (1976), An Orphan’s Tale, Holt Rinehart & Winston
4. Orenstein, P (2002), Mourning my Miscarriage, retrieved October 26, 2015 from http://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/21/magazine/mourning-my-miscarriage.html?pagewanted=all
5. Walker, D (2015), Faith instead of Fear: Danielle Walker’s journey of pregnancy after child loss, retrieved October 26, 2015 from http://www.today.com/parents/faith-instead-fear-danielle-walkers-journey-pregnancy-after-child-loss-t34351