Rituals and Remembrance Ceremonies
There is no right or wrong way to plan a ritual or ceremony to acknowledge your baby and your miscarriage experiences. Some women may wish to do a “lot,” some women may wish to have a minimal and private acknowledgement. This information is provided because the experience of miscarriage and babyloss is worthy of acknowledgement and rituals and ceremonies can provide an important means of validation as well as honoring the brief presence of a tiny soul in your family.
“Genuine, heartfelt ritual helps us reconnect with power and vision as well as with the sadness and pain of the human condition. When the power and vision come together, there’s some sense of doing things properly for their own sake.” –Pema Chodron (in The Thundering Years: Rituals and Sacred Wisdom for Teens)
Ceremonies and rituals play an important role in honoring the life of your baby, no matter how brief. Ceremony can be described as being about, “giving forth your intention.” A ceremony is an encapsulation of a transition and a moment of heightened awareness, that is separate from every day mundane life. In general terms, rituals serve a variety of functions:
Relating–“the shaping, expressing, and maintaining of important relationships…established relationships were reaffirmed and new relationship possibilities opened.” Many women choose to invite those from their inner circle to their memorial ceremonies. This means of deeply engaging with and connecting with those closest to you, reaffirms and strengthens important relationships.
Changing–“the making and marking of transitions for self and others.” The experience of birthing a baby, however tiny, via miscarriage for many women represents an intense and permanent life change. A ceremony to honor this soul’s passage marks the significance of this huge change.
Healing–“recovery from loss,” special tributes, recovering from fears or scars from previous experiences. In addition to the ceremony I planned immediately following the loss of my baby, my mom and some close friends held a meaningful ceremony for me near his due date as well (which was also my birthday).
Believing–“the voicing of beliefs and the making of meaning.” By honoring babyloss through ceremony, we are affirming that this pregnancy had meaning and that this spirit had value worth acknowledging and remembering.
Celebrating–“the expressing of deep joy and the honoring of life with festivity.” Celebrating accomplishments of…one’s very being.
Notice that what is NOT included is any mention of a specific religion, deity, or “should do” list of what color of candle to include! I’ve observed that many people are starved for ritual, but they may so too be deeply scarred from rituals of their pasts. I come from a family history of “non-religious” people and I feel like I seem to have less baggage about ritual and ceremony than other people do. An example from the recent planning for a ceremony: we were talking about one of the songs that we customarily sing–Call Down Blessing–we weren’t sure if we should include it for fear that it would seem too “spiritual” or metaphysical for the honoree (i.e. blessings from where?!) and I remembered another friend asking during a body blessing ritual we did at a women’s retreat, “but WHO’s doing the blessing?” As someone who does not come a religious framework in which blessings are traditionally bestowed from outside sources–i.e. a priest/priestess or an Abrahamic God–the answer felt simple, well, WE are. We’re blessing each other. When we “call down a blessing” we’re invoking the connection of the women around us, the women of all past times and places, and of the beautiful world that surrounds us. We might each personally add something more to that calling down, but at the root, to me, it is an affirmation of connection to the rhythms and cycles of relationship, time, and place. Blessings come from within and around us all the time, there need be nothing supernatural about it.
In the book, The Power of Ritual, the author explains:
“Ritual opens a doorway in the invisible wall that seems to separate the spiritual and the physical. The formal quality of ritual allows us to move into the space between the worlds, experience what we need, and then step back and once more close the doorway so we can return to our lives enriched.”
She goes on to say:
“You do not actually have to accept the ideas of any single tradition, or even believe in divine forces at all, to take part in ritual. Ritual is a direct experience, not a doctrine. Though it will certainly help to suspend your disbelief for the time of the ritual, you could attend a group ritual, take part in the chanting and drumming, and find yourself transported to a sense of wonder at the simple beauty of it all without ever actually believing in any of the claims made or the Spirits invoked. You can also adapt rituals to your own beliefs. If evolution means more to you than a Creator, you could see ritual as a way to connect yourself to the life force…”
A few ideas
- Plant a Tree or a Garden
- Write a Letter to Your Baby
- make a Scrapbook of letters, cards, and memorabilia such as the ultrasound photo or photo of the positive pregnancy test.
- Keep a remembrance box for little things from the pregnancy.
- A Blessingway celebrating your baby and your motherhood
A few things Amethyst Network members have done
Books on Rituals and Celebrations