The Need to Mourn in Miscarriage or Stillborn Death
After a miscarriage or stillborn death, ritual can aid in mourning.
Posted Nov 29, 2018
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.
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 came, and I had a candlestick and candle ready. He told his wife about it and decided that instead 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 became 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.
Farber, S. (20160. Unresolved Grief Disguised as Self-Injury: The Message from Silver Linings Playbook. Attachment: New Directions in Psychotherapy and elational Psychoanalysis. 19, 2: 132-151.