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Books of Hope and Healing
after Miscarriage

by Jana Riess

Since my loss I have encountered so many others who have experienced pregnancy loss. I had no idea it was so common before it happened to me because people didn’t talk about it…it helps so much to talk and cry.

These words, confessed by a Georgia woman in the wake of her miscarriage, haunted me when I discovered them in the pages of Bernadette Keaggy’s helpful book Losing You Too Soon: Finding Hope After Miscarriage or the Loss of a Baby. Like the bereft Georgia mother, I too had no idea how common miscarriage is until I became a statistic myself this summer. Some physicians think the rate is one in five pregnancies, others the more aggressive estimate of one in three. All I know is that, naively, I never expected it to happen to me, and was devastated when it did.

In the past weeks I have discovered two helpful books to help women who are coping with the loss of a pregnancy (“miscarriage,” I have learned, is a contested term because it implies that the fault lies with the mother). Keaggy’s, in particular, is a heartbreaking autobiographical tale of her struggles to bring a pregnancy to term. After suffering the stillbirths of four sons and the early miscarriage of another, she plunged into depression and darkness. Losing You Too Soon chronicles how Keaggy clung to Christian hope while trying to reconfigure her own expectations of what her life should be. Her faith, once so easy, was sorely tested as she began questioning nearly everything she had previously believed about God.

Keaggy’s book is practical as well as personal. One especially valuable chapter discusses coping with well-intentioned family members and friends who, despite their desire to help, can make awkward remarks that reveal a lack of compassion and understanding. Another chapter discusses the toll that pregnancy loss can take on a marriage. Along those lines, the author’s husband, musician Phil Keaggy, provides a special section for husbands who want to support their wives but don’t know how, and may be coping with powerful feelings of loss themselves.

Another book that has proven invaluable to me is Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin’s Tears of Sorrow, Seeds of Hope: A Jewish Spiritual Companion for Infertility and Pregnancy Loss, which was recently reissued in a second edition from Jewish Lights. Although I am not Jewish, I found Cardin’s book to be immensely healing and filled with creative ideas for coping with pregnancy loss.

Cardin offers a beautiful perspective on grief, speaking both as an experienced rabbi and as a mother who had two miscarriages out of three pregnancies. This is a book of rituals and prayers written by and for those “who know the loss that has no face, no name, and no grave,” says Cardin. “We know what it’s like to feel life and hope slip away, to be carrying a body where a baby should be. We know what it’s like to pass every day that room that still has no crib, to know in our hearts that we were once mothers, even if our only child died in our womb.”

Cardin’s book is less autobiographical than Keaggy’s, but no less heartfelt. For Cardin, steeped in a Jewish tradition where almost every major life event is marked by a time-honored ritual, the absence of formal rituals to mark the disquieting loss of a pregnancy resulted in feelings of hollowness and isolation. Here, she shares her own ideas for ways women can find closure, and offers numerous examples of what other women have done—plant a memorial garden, hold a family mourning ceremony, bake Challah bread. Some of these rituals are public, and others wholly private, depending on the grieving mother’s needs and wishes.

Rabbi Cardin offers healing not just to those who have lost a pregnancy, but to those readers who were never able to conceive in the first place; this is a too-little-seen theological concession and therefore very welcome. At a time when infertility appears to be at the highest rate ever in Western culture, the relative silence of devotional literature about it is bewildering. Cardin’s book fills an enormous void and should be welcomed by readers who need its wisdom and comfort, whether or not they are Jewish.


Copyright ©2007 Jana Riess


Losing You Too SoonLosing You Too SoonTo purchase a copy of LOSING YOU TOO SOON or TEARS OF SORROW, SEEDS OF HOPE, visit amazon.com. These links are provided as a service to explorefaith visitors and registered users. explorefaith.org participates in Amazon.com's Associates program. By following a link from explorefaith.org to Amazon.com, any and all purchases made during that Amazon visit result in a contribution from Amazon to explorefaith.org at no additional cost to you.


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