of Hope and Healing
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.”
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.
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.
©2007 Jana Riess
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