Monday, November 10, 2008

Lest we forget...

Yesterday John and I travelled to Dublin for the day to attend the Miscarriage Association of Ireland's annual remembrance service. This is something I have been wanting to do for some time, but didn't get to it last year, probably because we were still reeling from a fourth loss in the space of a year. I was looking out for remembrance services closer to where we live, but there don't seem to be any. The other day I was on an Irish parenting website and a poster mentioned that it was on this weekend, so very much at the last minute we decided to go. We were both so glad that we did.

When you lose a baby early in pregnancy, there is plenty of grief associated with that loss, but very little ritual with which to vent that grief. There's no funeral, no grave. For a lot of people there is very little public acknowledgement of the fact that they have lost a child, which only serves to compound the grief and pain. Some people plant trees in memory of their lost little ones, which is something we did, but it was very much a private thing between John and I. This service was really beautiful in that it gave parents (and we are parents, in a different respect to most people) an opportunity to come together in an interdenominational service, to offer prayers, listen to readings and music and to just openly grieve their losses in a way that is just not possible in everyday life.

The most poignant part of the whole ceremony was the procession of light. We were all invited to light a candle for each of our lost babies and carry them to the steps in front of the altar. We carried up four candles between us. It was kind of surreal getting a light from another couple at the back of the church, knowing what or whom these little lights signified. They looked a good ten years younger than us, and they were lighting two candles themselves. In the end of the procession, the steps were covered with candles, each one representing somebody's lost baby.

The church was absolutely packed with people of all ages. I noticed an elderly man sitting alone who I would guess was around eighty years of age with three candles lined up on the back of the pew in front of him. In the row in front of us were three ladies who looked in their sixties or seventies. I would guess they had been coming there for years. There were also many families with young children, which represented a beacon of hope, and also middle aged couples with teenage or twenty something offspring in tow. Here and there were childless couples like John and me, huddled together for comfort. One of the bidding prayers was for parents who have no other children. We both cried buckets throughout, to the point that I had a headache from crying by the end of the ceremony, but our tears were cathartic ones.

At the end of the service each family was presented with a silver Christmas tree ornament of a dove. The theme of the ceremony was the dove as a symbol of hope and peace. We then got to sign the book of remembrance and enter the names and memories of our lost little ones. All in all it was a beautiful ceremony and we will definately go to it again in years to come. I would really recommend a similar service to anyone who has experienced the loss of a baby.


womb for improvement said...

Wow, that was incredibly moving. Its something I hadn't really thought about. how to deal with loss without the opportunity for a 'proper goodbye' like a funeral represents. It sounds like it gave you some peace.

Xbox4NappyRash said...

I really just don't know what to say.

That picture, too many candles, far too many.

Your descriptions of the range of people, younger couples with too many candles, older men and women, remembering still.

I don't know how you both managed to go to the service, I don't know how you managed to write that, and I truly don't know how you keep going.

Paint it Black said...

I think womb has said it all for me. Wish there was something around here like that for me.

PearlEdith said...

Hi, I also had 4 miscarriages. I'm sitting here with tears in my eyes and not sure what to say...

Kelley said...



How I wish there was something here like that.

Beautifully told. The imagery, I felt I was there.

And that is the next best thing right.

Thankyou for sharing this.

Jane G said...

@ WFI - It did give us an enormous sense of peace.

@ Xbox - I get what you mean about too many candles, but that photo doesn't even show half of them. My heart really went out to the older people there. Miscarriage was totally brushed under the carpet for that generation, and they must have been carrying around that grief with them for a lifetime.

We don't really have any choice but to keep going, it's either that or the looney bin! It was the same when my first marriage broke up, I just had to keep going or I would have just broken down entirely.

@ PIB - is there a miscarriage association near you? Google it, you might find something.

@ pearledith - thanks for dropping by. I'm so sorry for your losses. It's such a tough thing to go through.

@ kelley - thanks for visiting me. Glad you liked the post. As I said to PIB, google miscarriage association, you might find something like this near you.

Steph said...

Hi! Jane

I've only found you today thanks to a link from Xbox, on another blog.

I'm so sorry to hear of your struggle to have a baby and also of your experiences of miscarriage. Miscarriage is difficult enough to deal with but when accompanied by infertility, I feel it's a double grief.

I too wrote a post about the MA memorial service last November which you might like to read...

Also, this one...

I've moved on from the work of the Association at this stage but it really did my heart good to hear your thoughts on the memorial service.

My best regards to you and John for 2009. Fingers crossed.