Rituals to Honor Miscarriage

“Ritual opens a doorway in the invisible wall that seems to separate the spiritual and the physical. The formal quality of ritual allows us to move into the space between the worlds, experience what we need, and then step back and once more close the doorway so we can return to our lives enriched.” –Rachel Pollack, The Power of Ritual

November 2012 188There is no right or wrong way to plan a ritual or ceremony to acknowledge your baby and your miscarriage experiences. Some women may wish to do a “lot,” some women may wish to have a minimal and private acknowledgement. I believe the experience of miscarriage and babyloss is worthy of acknowledgement and that rituals and ceremonies can provide an important means of validation as well as honoring the brief presence of a tiny soul in your family.

Ceremonies and rituals play an important role in honoring the life of your baby, no matter how brief. Ceremony can be described as being about, “giving forth your intention.” A ceremony is an encapsulation of a transition and a moment of heightened awareness, that is separate from every day mundane life. In general terms, rituals serve a variety of functions. I explored these functions during a past guest post for Pagan Families about mother blessing ceremonies.

Genuine, heartfelt ritual helps us reconnect with power and vision as well as with the sadness and pain of the human condition. When the power and vision come together, there’s some sense of doing things properly for their own sake.”

Pema Chodron (in The Thundering Years: Rituals and Sacred Wisdom for Teens)

I am the co-founder of an organization called The Amethyst Network, which exists to provide loss doula support to families experiencing miscarriage. One of my jobs with TAN is to write and develop the pages about memorializing miscarriage. We hope to eventually have sample ceremony and ritual ideas from a wide variety of faith traditions. So, I’d like to open up the conversation here at Pagan Families—how did you honor and recognize miscarriage in your own life? Did you plan a ceremony or ritual? Please share your experiences with us and help develop The Amethyst’s Network’s resources for families into a true interfaith resource.

In a later post I will share my own experiences creating rituals to honor my two miscarriages—the first a powerful home miscarriage-birth at almost 15 weeks, the second a confusing, lonely, and confidence-shattering miscarriage at 6 weeks.

For some related thoughts about why acknowledging miscarriage as a birth event matters, please see this post.

The Importance of Self Care
When Kids Meet the Gods
When Kids Meet the Gods
2 Mama Essays and 2 Pregnancy Prayers + 1 Roadmap To a Healthy Birth
About Priestess Molly

Molly is a priestess, writer, birth educator, and activist who lives with her husband and children in the midwest. She is a breastfeeding counselor, a professor of human services, and doctoral student in women’s spirituality at Ocean Seminary College. Molly and her husband co-create goddess jewelry and birth art at Brigid’s Grove: http://brigidsgrove.com and she blogs about theapoetics, ecopsychology, and the Goddess at http://goddesspriestess.com.

  • https://www.facebook.com/witchcarneliangraypoet Paige

    I have never had a miscarriage. So what I tell you now may not be what I’m feeling then if it happens. But I think I would definitely want to have a ritual. I believe a ritual would be a good tool for closure, I would be able to be one with the Goddess in a sacred, peaceful place, to heal physically and emotionally. The obstacle is that I would want some of my family members and close friends to be there, for support and so they can get some closure too. We were all excited for this new life. But what if they don’t want to be a part of it? It would make me feel better, but what if that’s not how they would like to deal with their feelings about it? And I would not preform this ritual alone (with the exception of the Goddess), I don’t want think on the trauma I’ve just experienced without my husband or best friends. They always make me feel better, and I have a child that they love very much, so I know if I had a miscarriage it would effect them too. If they had a miscarriage I would feel very sad.

    Now, if we’ve all talked it out and agreed, the question is, What will this ritual be? I’ve done some research on the topic or Miscarriage/Stillborn birth rituals. And I must say, they are quite heart-wrenching. It was hard to read some of them. I find they are dark and gruesome. But is that not the face of gut-wrenching pain? I believe that a miscarriage takes a woman to a dark place, and a ritual honoring her pain and enabling her to move forward SHOULD reflect the seriousness of the matter and not sugar-coat anything. With this in mind, I picked the one I liked the most to post here. (I did not write this. It is called Calling Lilith, by Sophia Rosenberg and I found it in the book, The Pagan Book of Living and Dying by Starhawk)

    -For a friend whose baby died in her womb, October 1991 ~Sophia Rosenberg

    “I light a candle for a friend,
    in the dark of an anesthetic,
    and I sing to Lilith.

    I call Her: the one who will not be tamed.
    She who is used to banishment,
    used to the sight of amulets aimed at keeping Her away.

    I call Her: COME!
    owl talons readied to take the baby from her womb.
    COME! Set this spirit as a star in the wilderness of night.

    (She is here!
    sharp smell of the wild,

    She loves to be called and honored, welcomed.
    She comes as healer, bringing tools of red flashing rage and a living sea of grief.
    She comes bat-winged to help navigate the darkness blooming all around.
    She comes and turns the tender passage through agony into a dance of strength.”

    Now I know Lilith has a bad reputation, but in my tradition she can be a tool for evil or good, it’s what you call her to do that she does. She has a role for darkness, but there is also a good Lilith that brings healing and fierce protection to children, mothers, and anyone abused or in agony. ~Carnelian Gray

    • Sarah Whedon

      Thank you for sharing this. The Pagan Book of Living and Dying is a fantastic resource.

      • https://www.facebook.com/witchcarneliangraypoet Paige

        You’re welcome! Yes I agree. :)

  • http://talkbirth.me Molly

    Thanks so much for sharing your ideas for a ritual!

  • Slag310

    I just wanted to mention that there is a tradition of offering red eggs and other offerings to the children who have died in stillbirth, as it was expressed, among the Slavic people. I ran across this when I was studying Easter Eggs. This is one of the things dyed eggs are used for. The eggs were put into the water and it was thought that they would find their way to the spirits of the children. The tradition may have been at least partly Christianized, as it seems that the people thought that the spirits of the children were on some far shore where offerings by water would reach them. This may have been some version of limbo, or it may not have been. I don’t know much about it, but thought it might be helpful information to someone. I was very touched by the obvious devotion and the long memories of mothers who had lost children. It was an important part of their customs in the spring. I don’t know what the situation is now. My heart goes out to those who have lost a child.

  • MotherHeart

    I had a miscarriage in February 2013, and I didn’t do a ritual regarding it for several months. When I did, it was spontaneous. I went to my altar, holding a cardigan I had knitted for my baby. I lit incense and candles, then sang and cried.

    On the August due date, I put the cardigan and other baby items I’d knitted on a bench and asked my family to come sit around it. Each person said something about the miscarriage, acknowledging that there had been a baby and that she hadn’t made it. Then we all hugged.