Marking Your Pregnancy Loss
The most natural response to losing something or someone important is grief. When someone dies, we hold a funeral, which is our way of marking a loss and saying goodbye. Some say that the funeral is for the living, since it helps them face their loss and start on the road to acceptance. Mourning is painful, but necessary.
With a stillborn baby, there is that luxury—the luxury of a funeral—but with a miscarriage, there is no such ceremony to mark the loss of life. Bereaved parents after a miscarriage often wonder what happened to their baby's remains. This is an unrecognized but very deep source of pain for many women who miscarry.
Some experts feel that while the viewing of a miscarried baby can be unpleasant, it may be a crucial first step in the parents' grieving process. There may not be much to see, and what is there may not be easy to identify. But even viewing partial or unidentifiable remains can help a parent's grief flow in a natural, healthy way. Another idea worthy of mention is that it is quite legal for a family to bury miscarried remains on the grounds of their home. Some mothers find that it is helpful to plant a rose bush on the spot where their miscarried baby is buried.
Others may find this idea unpalatable. They urge parents not to see the baby and to forget about the miscarriage. But this is not realistic. Mothers need to say goodbye to their miscarried babies, but it helps a great deal if they can first say hello.
Women who miscarry feel a great deal of distress at the idea that their baby's remains might have been flushed away. Furthermore, they feel that they never got to find out what their babies looked like. They feel they need an image to remember.
Common sense should tell us that it is far healthier to acknowledge and mourn a loss than to try not to look at it, shove it aside, and forget it ever happened. In this manner, the mother integrates her loss and learns to live with this new part of her identity: the loss of her pregnancy. One way to get to this point is to plan and carry out a ritual that somehow marks both the life and the loss of your child. This is both a productive and an appropriate way to cope with loss.
Of course, creating a ceremony that marks a miscarriage involves thinking outside of the box, since there is no official or religious blueprint for such an event. Some parents have found it a great comfort to name their baby at the ceremony. This helps the parent come to grips with the reality of a lost child. If the miscarriage came too early for you to know the gender of your baby, you can choose a name that is appropriate for either sex. Some then plant a tree or shrub at the site so that there is a living memorial for the child.