"I am sorry to have to talk about this. It is not something that is easy to hear". I looked up in to the caring eyes of my sister-in-law. Why did I feel the urge to tell everyone? Yesterday I told the clerk at a shoe store in the mall.
"I had a miscarriage over the weekend."
"I am so sorry" she said, and quickly changed the subject.
I get it, who wants to talk about something so strange and sad and personal?...in a shoe store.
But the thing is...I want to talk about it. I want everyone to know about this invisible little thing that just completely changed my life.
Every pregnancy loss is entirely unique. One in three pregnancies end in miscarriage and some of these experiences are deeply impactful, some are unnoticed, and some quickly accepted. I think one of the reasons we don't talk about pregnancy loss is because the experience of it is so varied that no one knows what to say.
In order to keep things "socially comfortable", most women remain silent and experience the loss in isolation. But here is the thing; not talking about something does not make it go away! The invisible wound tends to fester longer than the one that we carefully dress and tend to. So, how do we heal when we can't express what or where exactly it hurts, when the world can't see or understand what it means?
For those of us who are in grief (or even just confusion), I offer a suggestion...I am sure you know what it is going to be...yep, how about we create a ceremony to honor and release the pregnancy.
That is what I had to do and I will tell you why; this pregnancy changed me. It altered my trajectory.
There are experiences in life that change us. A rite of passage takes a life changing experience out of the body, out of the secret, so that it can be seen clearly and moved through. The rite can be as unique as the person it is conducted for. Good ceremonies are designed from the experience, rather than on top of it. They evolve out of the needs of the person in transition and the needs of the community around them. Successful ceremonies move us through the event and we make passage to new life on the other side.
I will explain how I ritualized and celebrated my own recent miscarriage first, then I will provide a list for you of pregnancy loss rituals you can conduct on your own if you find your self called to make meaning or transformation from your own loss.
MY MISCARRIAGE STORY
I found out I was pregnant as lent started on Ash Wednesday. I had a feeling from the very start that this pregnancy was different. I did not feel the instant connection with this baby that I had felt when pregnant with my son, and in fact a part of me was always preparing to loose this baby. However, when it happened this past week, I still cried and mourned for the potential little person lost.
In the midst of my grief, one thing that struck me was the timing of this pregnancy. An entire life span was contained in side my body a life span that lasted through the holy season of lent when symbolically the earth moves from darkness to light.
Labor started on Good Thursday in the middle of heavy thunderstorms and I gave birth to death on Easter Sunday. How strange is that? The symbolism was not lost on me as I was leading a class of children that Sunday. We were discussing the life cycles of butterflies, the ideas of resurrection, the chrysalis, the transformative power of the Spring season; all while I was silently feeling intense contractions.
To extend the symbolism even further, I had scheduled my first prenatal appointment for April 1st. By the time April Fools Day came around the miscarriage was mostly over and my appointment became a well woman visit. I had a massage that day to reconnect me to my own body. Then I went in, got checked, and was fortunate to find that all had proceeded naturally. When I got home, my husband and I shared a lunch and talked about how sad we were and what to do next.
We had some left over confetti eggs from Easter. An idea came to spend some time before diner cracking them in the back yard. Once our son was up from his nap and the rain cleared we all went out in to the back yard. My partner and I wrote messages on the eggs to our future baby (we believe we will have another). Then we laughed and cried together as we spread bright paper confetti all over the yard, each other, our dog, and our son.
It was part funeral and part fiesta. Perfectly fitting for our little Easter baby who reminded us that life does go on, that beginning and end, birth and death, are often one and the same.
Now and for the next few days I will look out my back window and see the colorful mess as it slowly biodegrades. Confetti that stuck to our clothes and hair will wind up in odd corners for weeks to come. I will look at my colorful hands, dyed by the wet eggs, as I take my shower tonight and watch the remnants of this experience wash off of me. It will slowly fade in to new memories, a new pregnancy, a new story; to be continued.
RITUAL IDEAS FOR PREGNANCY LOSS
These ideas are free. They are starting points and yours to amend and improvise. If it works for you, do it. If not, do what does.
balloon release- Use a helium filled balloon of any color and write messages or words to your baby on it. Then release the balloon and watch it go.
candle ceremony- Pick a new tapper candle and set it in the middle of your table. Sit down to a family meal and light the candle. Let it burn for the whole meal and as it does, talk about the loss and hopes for the future together. When the meal is done, let the candle burn until it extinguishes itself. When it does, say a prayer or sing a song.
body treatment- Treat your body nice. Sometimes it can feel like our bodies are to blame for the loss. If that is the case for you, try taking some extra special care of your self. It can be as simple as a bath or as complex as a day of yoga and facials. Just remind your body that it is loved and that you are grateful for the work it does carrying you through the world
burning bowl- This simple ceremony can be done in a variety of ways, but one way to do it is to write on slips of paper that which you want to release. Then burn the slips in a fire proof bowl. Once the paper is burned you may want to say a prayer or sing a song of hope.
singing or dancing- Make a playlist of impactful or important songs right now. Then blast it in the living room and sing and dance. You can do this alone, or invite close friends and family to join in. Have fun and cry and sing out!
These are just a few ideas. What else comes to mind for you? Share ideas in the comment section, so that others who are going through something similar have even more resources.
Many blessings to all of us, on our journey,
P.S. Hey, you. I also want to mention that sometimes there is a great resistance to participate in a ritual or ceremony; particularly around a loss. Many of us avoid funerals and good bye parties, with either a dread of the deep emotion or sometimes even a scoff at the drama. It is totally natural to do so. Please know that there is no one right way to handle any thing! Life is complex and your resistance is keeping you safe from something. AND I invite you to ask your resistance what it has to tell you. What pushes your resistance forward? And what lies beneath it? There you will find what you need to heal.