A heavy heart is not a taboo | Darn Wright
Last updated 10/1/2021 at 9:33am
Who amongst us has not watched a movie, read a book, or caught a play when our emotions were more than we cared to deal with, so we immediately stopped watching or reading the material? It is in this vein that I am forewarning that this article may lead to one of those occasions.
The subject matter of death is often brought up during sessions with my patients. But regrettably it has only been within the past two years that I have encouraged both women and men to talk through their loss due to a miscarriage, a spontaneous abortion, stillborn birth, or death of a newborn shortly after the infant’s birth.
When I started, more often than not the grief-stricken person’s eyes would instantly water up. As I watch this reaction, I place myself closer and in an empathic way I give my client permission to let all her diverse feelings come forward.
As her body language begins to change, I frequently ask, “Would you please bring me into your world and share your thoughts?” To this date I have not had one person refuse to do so, rather a slight smile will come to the person’s face as she said, “The feelings about my miscarriage are constantly with me, but on most days I can push those feelings away. But other times – Mother’s Day, my child’s death day, seeing mothers with newborns – I just can’t. I would like to express my feeling about losing my baby, but I feel I just cannot do that. Thank you, Chuck, for your kindness and sincere desire to really get to know me!”
I talk to the person about my concept of “the past,” and when I do so I explain that psychologically there is no such thing as a past, but we have to have some way to communicate about time, so we use the words “that happened in the past or “that happened five years ago.”
An example: Fifty years after World War II, veterans continued to participate in the French, Canadian, United Kingdom and USA recognition of the Normandy invasion. As these veterans return mentally to those bloody days, many of these stoic warriors could not stop their flowing tears.
One may wonder, why are they crying over an event that happened 50 years ago? But others know they are not in the past. These warriors are feeling their loss and fear in the here and now. And this same process is happening to my client as she talks about her major loss.
“Losing a child means carrying an almost unbearable grief – by many, but talked about by few.” Those painful words were spoken by Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, after her July 2020 miscarriage. “What a painful endeavor, yet we choose not to share.” But why is this so?
It appears our culture has an unstated taboo about us expressing our pain due to the traumatic loss of a pregnancy.
Thanks to President Ronald Reagan, who came
forward in 1988 to hopefully put an end to this taboo by formally pronouncing Oct. 15 (Proclamation 5890) as National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. He did so “...to honor, celebrate, and remember babies who have passed away due to miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death, and other causes of infant loss.”
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, about 10% of pregnancies end in miscarriages. Those who are experiencing a pregnancy or infant loss need our support and encouragement in order for them to begin to openly talk about their loss.
To support our culture’s growing notions that this is not a taboo topic, here are some things to keep in mind.
Do not say, “Have you thought about …
Do not say, “I do not know what to say.”
Do not say, “Try not to stress, because stress causes miscarriages.”
Do not ask if the person is “feeling better?”
BUT DO encourage the bereaving person to use their resources, such as a trained therapist, clergy, family members and friends.
DO, by your words and actions, re-enforce you’ll always be there for your friend.
Darn right, when we break away from having miscarriages and infants’ deaths a taboo subject, it is then that we’ll be able to show our natural humanity towards those who are carrying a heavy heart.