The Pain of Pregnancy Loss
Today is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Losing a baby is a devastating experience, and it’s only been in the last few years that people have begun to recognize that the loss of a baby who never made it to birth can be just as painful a loss as that of a child born during or shortly after birth.
We in the Western world are finding new ways to grieve and honor such losses, but our Japanese friends have long recognized the need to name such grief. Children are called mizuko or child of the water, as they never make it beyond the water of the womb. There is even a ritual called Mizuko Kuyo where children are buried in the backyard of the parents homes and considered “returned to the water.”
There are parks designed specifically for the mizuko. Parents can buy a stone tomb and place a statue of Jizo, a divinity in Japanese Buddhism who protects children who have died before their parents. The parks often contain swings, slides, and other playground equipment. Families of deceased children come to these playgrounds to clean their statues and observe a moment of silence for their mizuko. They put seasonal clothing on Jizo and even set up umbrellas to cover them from the rain. While their other children play, parents take a bow to honor their mizuko. They also bring toys and flowers and light candles to honor them.
The Japanese culture recognizes the enormity of a pregnancy loss and the need to honor, grieve and ritualize that loss. Our own culture is slowly coming around, yet many women and their partners suffer in silence or do not receive the community support they need after a miscarriage.
If someone you know suffers a pregnancy loss…
Treat it like a death in the family…because that’s what it is. Take food. Send cards. If there is a memorial service, be sure to attend. Check in with the family (because it is a loss for the entire family) in the days and weeks to follow to see how they are doing.
Make a donation in memory of the child to the family’s church or favorite charity.
Plant a tree in memory of the child or register a star in the child’s name.
Mark your calendar so that you can commemorate the first anniversary of the death. Anyone who has ever lost anyone knows how hard that day can be.
One in four women has suffered a pregnancy loss. May we be mindful of the pain such losses cause and a source of help in the healing process.
Rev. Anne Russ is an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), currently based in New York City. Doubting Believer is an online, inclusive and progressive Christian community. Follow us on Facebook and get emails to keep up with all that is happening.