The Need to Mourn in Miscarriage or Still-Born Death

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The Need to Mourn the Loss in Miscarriage or Still-Born Death

When people experience the loss of a loved one, grief rituals such as wakes and sitting shiva are meant to acknowledge this loss and help the bereaved cope with it. Yet a stillborn death or the loss of a pregnancy from miscarriage are terrible losses that are rarely acknowledged through any grief ritual in our culture. Only once have I heard from a patient that when she miscarried and was being treated in the hospital, she was told that there was a service available to help her grieve this loss.

I had one patient who suffered two miscarriages, one a male fetus and the other a female. She had a need to speak of it to someone who would listen. I suggested that the next time she came in, we could have a little ceremony to commemorate this loss. She was surprised by the idea but liked it. I suggested that if there was something specific she wanted to say or any prayer, to think about that and we could incorporate it. When she came in the following week I had two candlesticks there, one with a pink and the other with a blue candle in it. She spoke for a few minutes to each, about how sad she is that she will never know this child who could not be born. The following week she came in and said she felt much better.

Model brave behavior. Want confident kids? They will be less likely to be easily flustered if they see you taking healthy risks. "A lot of adults won't go to a movie solo because they would be embarrassed to be seen sitting alone. So do it, then talk to your kids about it," says David Allyn, the author of I Can't Believe I Just Did That. Similarly, if your kids see you laugh when you realize that your shirt has been on backwards all morning, maybe they'll giggle, instead of feeling embarrassed, when it happens to them.

More recently, a man came to see me about tinnitus, for which no medical cause had been found. He had read John Sarno's work on psychosomatic pain and suspected that his symptoms were psychosomatic. He spoke of a miscarriage his wife had around five years before and suspected that his feelings about it, which he never expressed verbally, had taken a somatic form. We talked about it and processed this experience with EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). The tinnitus was effectively gone. I suggested that we might do a ritual mourning ceremony the next time we met and suggested he ask his wife if she'd like to participate. The next week cams and I had a candlestick and candle reasy. Hetold his wife about it and decided that insead of a ceremony in my office, he wanted to tell his priest. He did and the following day his priest said a mass in memory of this child who never bacame a child. Both he and his wife found this satisfying, and provided some closure to a very unhappy episode of their life. I hope that this priest will continue to help others to grieve their losses in this way and that readers suggest their clergy read this blog post..