Tuesday, November 16, 2010

One in Five

Our society, in general, does not deal well with grief. By our society, I mean mainstream, contemporary American society- the only location from which I am (semi-) qualified to speak. After the funeral ends, we may make a couple obligatory phone calls. We may make an effort to visit the bereaved. Yet, more often, we think about how we should do something, anything, and then it remains undone because we worry about what to say or what to do.

When we are grieving, we often are surprised at the length and depth and breadth of the feeling of loss. The world doesn't stop turning and, yet, nothing feels right. Nothing will slow down to mark the time-stop we feel. And that feeling goes on for a long time.

That being said, we do at least have some ways of acknowledging the death of people and  more and more frequently there are rituals to marks the death of pets, changes in life, anniversaries of grief, etc.

Yet there are pockets where it's very difficult to publicly acknowledge grief. There are situations for which there seems to be no ritual and, even if people want one- they're not sure how to ask.

The main situation of which I'm thinking is miscarriage. The loss of a pregnancy- known or unknown.

The Mayo Clinic says 15- 20 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. Since a miscarriage is a spontaneous loss of pregnancy in the first 20 weeks, there's no way to tell how many miscarriages may actually occur in the first weeks of pregnancy.

This means one in five (1/5) women who become pregnant in their lifetime will likely have a miscarriage.

When this happens, there are many mixed feelings.

If a woman is uncertain about her pregnancy, a little overwhelmed at the idea or her circumstances, the loss can make her feel guilty and, perhaps, a little relieved- which may compound her feelings of guilty.

A woman who has struggled to become pregnant may be devastated at the loss of a life she hoped would grow. She may wonder what's wrong with her. She may second guess every move she made.

Even the most matter-of-fact woman who miscarries before she knows she's pregnant may feel a wistfulness at what could have been.

And there are many, many, many other scenarios and reactions.

Often, we learn of the miscarriages experienced by the women around us after we have one of our own. (Or someone in our close circle does.) It's then that the stories come out. Worries that have been expressed only to partners and spouses or sisters or mothers suddenly find the light of day.

Grief over a miscarriage is most frequently deeply personal and, usually, private. Yet, when we don't occasionally discuss life events like this, people who experience them can feel alone. Not everyone is going to have the same experience and, of course, there is a time and place for discussion.

Still, there must be a way to speak of these kinds of things. To share our grief. To carry one another's burdens, so that we reduce the feelings of guilt. So that we acknowledge that these things happen, frequently. We have to learn to sit with, stay with the grief until it ebbs. Not trying to wash it away with a slurry of easy comments, statistics or biological guesswork. We can speak truth to the power of this kind of grief- to its fellow travelers of fear, anxiety, guilt and hopelessness.

We may not like death, but we cannot pretend it doesn't happen. By acknowledging the deaths and hurts that do occur in our lives, we can begin to put away the cloak of invisibility that doesn't really work anyway. In walking with one another, we can come to a deeper understanding of what it means to live and to die together.

Creating God,

You are the God of what has been, what is and what will be. You know the potential within each of us. We believe that You grieve when we fail to reach that potential from our very first days to our very last. With the consoling presence of your Spirit, bring peace to those who mourn, assurance to those who are anxious, restoration to those who feel torn apart. Help us to sense your Presence in our lives and to share that same Presence with those around us. We ask all these things through Jesus Christ, through whom we are united to unfailing love, now and forever.

Amen.

1 comment:

PS (PSanafter-thought) said...

I can absolutely relate to your comments about miscarriage and grief and not knowing what to do about those feelings. A wanted pregnancy that results in miscarriage when a woman is older than average for pregnancy is really hard. Prayer by others and time helped. A long time.