The disappointment did not begin to explain my feelings. This was the second miscarriage in six months. Having already had a child, in my heart I really wanted him to have a brother. I was grateful to my doctor for understanding my devastation and for trying to support my husband, but there were very few others who understood the depth of the feelings I was experiencing. This happened in the early 1970s.
During the 1980s I was involved in the beginnings of the hospice movement. During my training I learned a lot about pain mostly unknown to the general public. The most important lesson I learned was to help bereaved families personalize their loved one’s celebration. After five years in the hospice, I went to work as a mourning director at a nearby funeral home. I received a different education from the others. The funeral director strongly encouraged direct participation in the funeral ritual to promote physical and emotional healing.
A young couple whose first child had a miscarriage came to us for help. We encouraged them to name their baby and tell us all the wonderful things that happened to them when they found out they were pregnant. Mom and Dad shared many special memories with us. In the midst of their grief, they smiled through tears as they shared the hopes and dreams they had in the first few weeks of their pregnancy. How disappointed they were when their dreams ended in a miscarriage. We helped them organize a simple funeral service.
Their little one was tiny, only eight inches long, and weighed less than two pounds. I found a tiny doll dress that the child could wear. We arranged a visit to a small intimate room of the funeral home as if it were a cozy bedroom. I put an afghan in a rocking chair next to the tiny coffin, an angel night light, some stuffed animals and a children’s notebook. The time has come for parents to see their little one: first to say goodbye and then to say goodbye.
Mom and Dad were visibly moved the moment they crossed the threshold. There were tears but also smiles. We left them alone with some encouraging words. After some time, they indicated that they were ready for the next step. Their parents and loved ones have drifted away a few at a time to lend their support. The healing had begun.
People who have had bad experiences with death or no experience grieving the death of someone they love often think something like this scenario sounds macabre, but those who know that something special just happened and now have gods good memories of their baby.
Years later a nephew of mine had a miscarriage. I had the privilege of making him a small blanket and purchasing a tiny toy that was stuffed into the small wooden box my son and his wife bought and decorated. His father conducted his funeral service. Family and friends prayed and sang together as we comforted mom, dad, and each other. The healing had begun.
So, what can be done if a friend has a miscarriage? First contact them with words of love, care and disappointment. Any positive thoughts about your feelings when you heard about pregnancy would be greatly appreciated as they are tangible proof that this baby has touched your life. Perhaps you could find a special piece of jewelry, a window prism or other small keepsake to give to parents in memory and celebration of their baby. Another sign of your care could be a perennial flowering plant or tree. Anything that will reinforce the fact that this tiny human has left a mark on the world will give hope and comfort to his parents. I wish I had had this knowledge when my miscarriage occurred. I’m sure I would have healed much faster.
Knowing what I now know, I would encourage mothers who have aborted to write about their feelings and observations in a journal reserved especially for this baby. Doing something like a stepping stone, a small scrapbook, or planting a specially chosen perennial will bring a closure. A concrete lamb or duck placed in a special place in your yard is another idea that couples have found useful. The most important thing is to do something in honor of your child even if it is to take a long walk. Every child has an impact in the world, no matter how small. Healing begins.