Trigger warning: infant loss, miscarriage, stillbirth, abortion, depression, spiritual pain, motherhood stress




There came a time when I was very aware that I had not yet done a funeral for a child or young adult. I was in no way looking forward to doing such a service and preferred for that type of spiritual leadership to be deferred as long as possible. Then, one day, it occurred to me that I was doing spiritual care around the loss of children- adult children and miscarriages. When a parent loses a child, no matter where in the lifespan, it is always too soon.


Then I did a funeral for a three-month old. Followed shortly by helping to midwife a miscarriage of a parishioner’s son at 19-weeks of development. When I baptized that tiny body with water from a seashell, it seemed like there was simultaneously not enough water and too much.


In reading Still a Mother: Journeys Through Perinatal Bereavement  by Joy Freeman and Tabatha Johnson, I have come to realize that my issue with the water is often the issue with words after the death of a child- in utero, in arms, in a bed,… wherever it may occur. There are too many words (often not helpful) and not enough. The loss of a child, especially during the course of pregnancy or shortly after birth, is an indescribable fear and regular occurrence in creation, yet it is one which we rarely discuss.


This book allows eight women to tell the stories of the loss of their children. They describe their surprise, their pain, their frustration with God at the same time they felt God’s presence, their peace with God when feeling God’s absence, the reactions of their partners, the grief (sometimes) of their older children, and the on-going space in their hearts and families for the children who died.


The book is structured as a tool for pastors, chaplains, parish nurses, counselors, or other “helping” professionals who often are not presented with helpful resources for coping with mothers or families experiencing perinatal loss. At 170 pages, the books is a fairly quick, but intensely emotional read. Each essay concludes with some questions or points to ponder for the person who might be responding to a pre or post-birth death of their child.


The book could be useful for some women (or men) in realizing they are not alone in their experience, but that would have to be at the discretion of a caregiver. This is not a resource to take lightly (but it is one that I recommend for your shelf!). I can imagine giving this book to a close relative or friend of a person who has recently experienced a loss. Sometimes friends or relatives ask for resources for themselves. Having this book in the church library (2-3 copies) would be extremely useful.


I have not quoted any of the stories, in part because they are so intense and form their own encapsulated experience in reading. I shall long remember the parents who weren’t able to console one another in grief, the older sister who was very young, but still needed help to process the death of her expected sibling, the woman who was pushed toward abortion as a teen and then blamed herself because of that for the loss of her second child at seven months of development. I will remember the pain at words that were said to fill space, the friends who pulled away, the uncertainty and pain in how to count one’s children or family members.


There is one thing that was not addressed in the book, but that I learned from a friend of mine. This friend lost a son to a genetic abnormality at 37 weeks of development. It is important to remember that past a certain stage, a mother will have to labor and push forth a child, regardless of whether that child in still alive in the womb. Labor and delivery costs money, regardless of the outcome. My friend spent three years paying off the hospital bills for the delivery of her dead son. The financial aspect of medical expenses, funerals, and on-going treatment for physical issues or mental health is a very real part of infant loss and can be one of the most painful.


I encourage you to think about where this book might be useful in your life. Who might benefit from a copy? This topic needs light, air, and conversation. The more open we are about this reality, the more we can reduce the magical thinking that talking about it makes it happen. And that, frankly, cannot happen soon enough.




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