After having a termination, I went through a period that I now realise was grief. It was something I didn’t really expect and because (I think) of the stigma and polarising ethical debate on terminating pregnancies no one really spoke to me about it. It made for a lot of surrealness to go through a process where no one spoke to you. It was like they spoke around you and what you were going through. Like we were playing a make-believe game of hospital.
Everyone who knew was either wanting to pretend that this would all be fine or wanting to help me be ok with it. But I think the real issue was that nobody knew how to talk about it.
I’ve since discovered that a similar problem exists with other forms of pregnancy and child loss. Miscarriage grief tends to go on in private when it happens early on, or is secretly whispered amongst all but a few. Miscarriage & still birth later in pregnancy is an isolating experience where people are afraid to say anything to you in case it upsets you, or to ask you if they don’t know what has happened. Or assume that you don’t want to talk about it because then you can forget about it.
Everyone is different.
Some people do not wish to think about their miscarriages as babies. They see it practically as nature’s way of stopping something because it isn’t meant to be. For others, they want to acknowledge each pregnancy as the beginning of life for their children. It can help to name their child so they have something to name their loss and therefore be able to grieve and move on.
One of the things I’ve learned through my study of sociology at university, and through my work in grief support and counselling is the role rituals have to play in expressing grief and moving on. Memorials, acts of remembrance, actions of grief can take all sorts of shapes and forms. I often support my clients in choosing some kind of memorial or ritual to acknowledge their loss and it is so often doing this that releases them from the burden of guilt or shame they’ve carried associate with loss. Doing it can be tough but after they have the change in them is very evident.
Some have chosen to have charm bracelets – a charm for each loss. Others have gone to a special place to release a balloon – sometimes with a letter to their child attached. I know people who have planted trees in remembrance. Some have held a small service with a close friend or partner or family members who know about the loss and lit a candle together.
At the end of this month, I’m travelling to York to attend a ‘Saying Goodbye‘ memorial service. Andy & Zoe Clark-Coates have lost 5 children and their experiences have led to them establishing a memorial services in cathedrals across the UK where people who have been affected by loss during or shortly after pregnancy can come to acknowledge and grieve their loss(es). There is one in Edinburgh the week before, on Saturday 22nd September, 3 p.m. in St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral (please note this is in the West End/Haymarket area on Palmerston Place NOT the one in the city centre next to John Lewis!).
My main reason for going is to see what it’s like – it could help some of my clients in the future. But I’ll also be using the opportunity to remember Sophie, even though I have already said ‘goodbye’.
I know some of my readers have lost through miscarriage, still birth and termination. So I want you to know that Saying Goodbye is around and it might be something you want to do as well. You can find out more details of the events on facebook.