How to support someone who’s having a miscarriage

I just finished reading the second of my required books for getting listed as a loss doula with the Amethyst Network. Miscarriage: Women Sharing From The Heart is a great book for anyone who wants to understand the normal range of emotions around miscarriage, which includes everything from barely noticing the event to feeling painful and traumatic loss.

The book is especially validating for mothers who experience powerful grief. One of the women quoted in the book expresses something that seems to be true for many: “I wanted people to say they understood it was such a sad thing. And it would have helped if someone had told me, ‘You’re not crazy,’ and if I could’ve talked to someone who shared the same pain.” (68)

The authors wax eloquent on grief work: “Unfortunately, there is no short, simple system for getting through grief. Healing is born of a grand combination of things. There are many stones to be travelled in the road of grief. That road moves like a spiral. There are ups and downs along the way. Grief work is multifaceted and complex and requires time. Grief is like that; life is like that.” (181)

The book also offers advice for people in support roles, whether as partners, healthcare providers, or clergy. Among the most important things support people can do is to not make assumptions about a mother’s feelings, to listen to her own self-expression, to validate what she says she feels, and to treat the loss as real no matter what the details or circumstances are.

There’s a list of helpful actions for clergy to take that unsurprisingly reads like it’s meant for Christian clergy primarily. I’ve taken the liberty of adapting that list for Pagan clergy. The result is a blend of their language and ideas and my own. (237-38)

  • Use a symbolic object such as a white cloth, a candle, a seashell, or a piece of silver to bless the baby (whether or not the baby is present) and then give that object to the parents.
  • Offer a certificate of blessing or Wiccaning.
  • Provide parents verbal and printed information on grief.
  • Hospital clergy can offer to contact the family’s own clergy.
  • If the parents wish, you, the parents, or all of you can create a memorial ceremony for their baby or a ritual focused on acknowledging the experience of the parents.
  • If you are leading the memorial ceremony, invite the parents to take an active role – to deliver a eulogy, read a personal letter, light a candle, lead a chant, etc.
  • With permission, video or audio record the ceremony and give the recording to the family or invite them to record it.
  • Include the baby’s siblings in what you do.
  • Tell the parents it’s okay to feel angry at the Gods or the Goddess or God or other guardians or guides and talk about why.
  • Invite the parents to name their baby aloud during a ceremony.
  • With their permission, remember the baby aloud during a regular ceremony or ritual.
  • Hold, and invite parents to, monthly or annual memorial ceremonies for all miscarried babies.
  • Establish time following those ceremonies for the families to meet the other families.

About Sarah Whedon

Sarah Whedon is founding editor of Pagan Families, the author of Birth on the Labyrinth Path: Sacred Embodiment in the Childbearing Year, and former Chair of the Department of Theology and Religious History at Cherry Hill Seminary. Sarah’s teaching, research, and advocacy work center around topics of spirituality, feminism, and reproduction. She makes her home in the Boston area with her partner and their children.

  • http://talkbirth.me Molly

    Thanks, Sarah! This is a great post.


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