The Creative Response to Loss
“Pregnancy is a rite of passage in our culture, and when you complete it, rituals of reincorporation bring you back into the world with a new identity,” author Linda L. Layne explains in an interview in the Boston Globe. “With pregnancy loss, it’s an incomplete rite of passage, and society solves it by trying to pretend that nothing ever happened” (Hartigan 2002, p.19). Thus, there are surprisingly few opportunities for meaningful rituals, even though approximately one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage or a related loss. Artist Margaret Carver of Massachusetts gives us a sense of her utter disorientation and disconnection after her miscarriage: “invisibility, fragmentation, silenced or muffled expression and experience, grief unseen and uncounted, no time or space for this non-event to take place.”
“Until recently in Western society, pregnancy was hidden as much as possible, acknowledged only upon the birth of a live child” (Sha 1990, p.63). In smaller, more traditional societies, pregnancy was more difficult to disguise and there was generally some way in which a miscarriage would be acknowledged. These responses to pregnancy loss were not always rooted in compassion for the woman, but at least it was not a hidden loss. “Fortunately, we live in a time when many people have begun to think about creating new rituals for previously unmarked and uncelebrated life-cycle changes” (Imber-Black and Roberts 1992, p. 283).
One of the challenges of grief associated with losses such as miscarriage, failed IVF, and ectopic pregnancy is that there is no body to mourn. These losses are often referred to as hidden or invisible losses. Malchiodi (1992, p.117)