This annual day of remembrance is a significant one, honouring the approximately 106,000 thousand babies who lose their lives to miscarriage, stillbirth and newborn death each year.
For those whose dream of parenting a little one came to an end all too soon. Know that you are not alone, at least 1/4 of all pregnancies end this same way. That doesn’t diminish the pain, but reassures you that there are many who share the journey with you, and this means that there are many who will listen with a sense of knowing.
It is healthy for the non-carrying partner to find someone to talk with as well. Often they feel that as the non-carrying person, they don’t have permission to feel and express their grief. If that is you, know that you have the same right to feel and express what you need to, and in doing so, it allows you to better support your partner.
May you find peace in the remembering, even when it is hard.
How might churches support parents and family honour their babies? What prayers and resources are available (just beginning to assemble some resources).
15 October is International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. On this day, parents and families across Australia honour their babies who passed away from miscarriage, stillbirth or postnatal causes.
To lose a baby is an agonizing heartache we wish no one would have to go through. If you have lost a baby, you are not alone: 1 out every 4 Australian women has lost a baby, too. Many bereaved parents find that being able to honour their babies on 15th Oct helps them on their journey to overcome the grief.
The International Wave of Light takes place on 15th October every year. To join in, “simply light a candle at 7 pm on 15 October, in remembrance of your baby, and leave it burning for one hour. Together with parents all over the world, you will create a continuous wave of light around the globe — in honour of all of our babies whose precious lives were cut too short. Participate this year, and find our how very special and comforting it is”.
O God, of gentleness, searcher of hearts and most loving consoler,
surround us with your care.
You share the heartache of these parents, siblings and families,
may they be reassured that their little ones will never be forgotten.
God ever caring and gentle, we commit to your love the little ones,
quickened to life for a short time. Enfold them in eternal life.
We pray for their parents, siblings and families
who are saddened and weighed down with their loss.
May they be comforted and supported. Amen.
Poems for stillbirth here.
A service for Pregnancy Loss by Rev. Mindi Welton-Mitchell, rev-o-lution.org
(please acknowledge Mindi’s work if you use it in an order of service)
You are all welcome in this place. You are all welcome to remember, to grieve, to give thanks, to be angry, to cry, to share, to be silent, to sing. We were created as human beings, and in this place you are welcome to be who you are and to feel what you feel.
Pregnancy loss is a loss not recognized in our society. It is a loss not recognized in our churches. It is a loss that many of us suffer in silence. Here we have come together to remember, as we cannot forget. Here we have come to be with others who have experienced this loss, and we know that many more are outside these walls who have also felt this loss.
We come to this place from many backgrounds. In this place we will not judge or be judged. In this place we will remember that our own experience is not the same as others. We all have different stories, stories that have meaning to us. It is not our place to take them away. But it is in this place that we may remember together.
At times it may be hard to pray, it may be hard to acknowledge God when we remember this loss. But we come knowing that when we don’t have the strength, there is strength that is present here, in which we all can draw on.
Let us pray: Great God, you are the spirit of Life. We come to this place remembering life that is no longer with us. We ask for your comfort, your strength, to be with us, to help us know that we are not alone, to find some way through our feelings, in a world where we often do not share this experience. Draw close to us in this time. Amen.
The Book of Job tells a story of a man who loses everything, including his children. In his bitterness, he feels that he searches for God but cannot find him, until near the end of the story God appears. This song counters Job’s belief that even if he searches he cannot find God.
Song: You Will Seek Me and Find Me
We read these ancient words of a God that knows us, and yet we feel as if our experience is unknown. We read these words about a God that knows what we will say, and yet we have been taught to be silent. We hear those all too familiar words: you’re young. You will have children. Another time will be better for you. And we are expected to take those words and continue on.
We suffer in silence when a friend announces their pregnancy and everyone is happy. We suffer in silence when family members ask us, “So when are you having a baby?” We suffer in silence when someone makes a comment about other families who seem to have no fertility issues. It is, as if, no one ever knew that you could experience this loss.
But these words do tell us that God knows our suffering, God knows the loss that we feel, God knows when we do not have any good choices left. And these ancient words in the Scriptures remind us that God always remembers, even when the world forgets. God remembers that we have suffered loss even when friends and family have put it behind them. God knows our feelings when our doctors and nurses do not understand. God knows our lost hopes and dreams, the knots in our back and the pains in our shoulders. God knows that sometimes we feel guilty, sometimes we feel relief, sometimes we feel anger at others, disappointment in ourselves. And God knows when it hurts too much still to speak of it.
But instead of silence, in this place we will give a new voice to our losses, to know that what we feel is not right or wrong, but we will allow it to just be.
In Western Culture there has been virtually no ritual for remembering a pregnancy loss. In most religious traditions of the world there are no words for this time. But that is changing. Recently in Reform Judaism a service has been created to remember pregnancy loss. But in eastern traditions, especially in Zen Buddhism in Japan, there have been rituals, ways of marking the loss and remembering.
While in the church we have not had the words, the practice, to remember pregnancy loss, in Japan, the term “mizuko” is used for both fetuses and children who die early, and it literally means in English, “children of the waters.” We remember that in Genesis God creates out of the deep, and the spirit of God hovers over the waters of creation. For mizuko, the soul has gone from the waters of the womb back to the waters of creation.
In Zen Buddhism there is a ritual called a Jizo ceremony, Jizo being the guardians of the souls of mizuko from this world to the next, from these waters back to the waters of creation. There are statues of Jizo in the temple, of all shapes and sizes, statues looking like old men to sleeping babies. The people who attend this ceremony are invited to bring red cloth and red thread, and to make a small hat, bib, or cape, and to place it on one of the statues of their choosing. They can tuck a note to the children of the waters in the hem or pocket of the clothing created.
Rituals help us to remember, and they help us to hold on, and in the holding on, we are able to let go. The mizuko ceremony in Zen Buddhism allows those who have lost a child, through miscarriage or abortion, stillbirth or other loss, to know that their child has a guardian, and a way home.
In the Christian tradition, sometimes we talk of guardian angels. We read of angels in the Scriptures who come and tell God’s people that everything will be ok. We read these ancient words from the Psalms that remind us that God is with us, even when we take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limit of the sea. Our scriptures remind us that we pray to the same God who guards the dead as well as the living.
In a few minutes, we will have our own rituals to remember and to hold on. In our funeral services, we often read the words of Psalm 23, ancient words of comfort, knowing that God guards us from this life to the next. So we will also read those words here, together.