Trigger warning: this post offers a global, multicultural perspective on loss and miscarriage, an experience that’s deeply personal and yet, universal. If you have experienced it, please check out our resources at the end. This first post in a two-part mini-series shares the author’s personal experience, while the second will offer more practical advice.
If you are in your own, native culture, miscarriage and loss of life as a whole are disorienting and painful. But, if you are in a new and thus, strange culture, this loss may make you feel even more dismayed or confused.
For me, it brought up a new understanding of how vastly different the rites of death and life are in my adopted home of Japan. It didn’t matter that I’d been here for fourteen years; I had never dealt with funerals or the cultural or spiritual norms of loss here. Now I had to learn how to say, “We lost the baby” in Japanese. Mostly, people were kind.
Of course, loss is loss. This would be the case no matter where I was.
And yet, there we were, in a cafeteria of sorts, expected to drink tea while we awaited the remains of our baby following cremation. I felt bruised by the nation that had taken me in over fourteen years ago. The contrast of what would occur in my home culture and faith stood in stark contrast to the normative signs of respect in Japan. It made my heart reel. The cultural layers felt like an extra rung of trauma.
The differences made me long not only for my mother but also for the increased choices we would have in the grieving process, i.e., the ability to choose burial, or a service in keeping with our faith or, perhaps, no service at all. I was unprepared for the cultural dimension of my grief. As a result, gestures intended to comfort and represent some sort of balm of finality were distressing instead. As with everything else when living abroad, when dealing with loss and miscarriage, I had to find my own path to healing — in my own neighborhood, in my own house, in my own skin.
Writing as a Path to Healing
I didn’t know then how much writing would help me but, every day, in between sobs and taking care of my kids, writing would happen. And it helped. I wrote about how a certain singer found me in my deepest grief. When I published it, digitally and in print, it was viewed all over the world. I discussed baby loss in the grief section of “Moms Don’t Have Time to Write,” which also goes out to the world. Another online magazine printed it, too, believing their readership would also benefit. I even composed poems, three of which I published in a literary journal. Time and again, I wrote to move through the grief and not stifle what came up.
I didn’t yet know how giving other women would be, sharing their own stories to connect more with me. I wrote on trains before and after I taught baby ballet class in a leotard that made me want to disappear in sorrow and embarrassment. The kids and their moms, it turns out, were full of empathy and love. They knew I was expecting and then I wasn’t. Japanese mothers told their stories of being in another country when they were suddenly struck with the loss of their baby. Americans, Brits, and beautiful Aussie women also shared their experiences of navigating their own crushed hopes.
Reaching Out Across the Miles
Because I shared my grief, women knew where to find me when theirs hit. I received private messages on Instagram from women in tremendous pain. It didn’t matter if women were at seven weeks or thirty-two; all of us were trying not to blame ourselves.
The vulnerability and disappointment are real, regardless of passports, language, or need. Yet, it’s also a mystery. The mystery, sometimes, of a genetic anomaly. The mystery of grief. Of course, in places where people are exposed to toxic metals or lead poisoning, for starters, the rate of baby loss is exceedingly greater. Even in healthy conditions, the rate of miscarriage and is stillbirth is too high. I will never know the exact causes of why we miscarried twice in a row.
I continue to receive messages from women in various parts of the globe. One person sharing has led to more and more — from Ohio, North Carolina, Quebec, and Montana — with emojis, a voicemail, or their own writing made in the online comment section.
These messages ranged from “Thank you for being incredibly open about your experience and helping others like me in the process” to “Thank you for being willing to share your experience and perspective. We are currently navigating this reality after our child was born stillborn at 33 weeks.” One writer expressed that, because they had not yet shared being pregnant, they felt unable to share news of their loss, even with her parents. I was the only person the couple told. I could support and validate her immense grief, praying from a faraway continent, using my phone and Instagram. What connected us? Empathy, yes, and the fact that I first shared our grief in writing.
This rate of loss could be a cause and necessity for uniting. If it takes a village to raise a child, it certainly takes a village to comfort a mother and grieve the loss of a child.
Miscarriage Association in the UK
This website includes information about pregnancy loss, stories about others’ experiences, opportunities to write your own story, and a support line. For those within the UK, there are also Zoom and in-person groups that you may join. It’s an amazing resource that can help a woman connect with her grief and, ultimately, with a sense of hope.
In this anthology, writers explore their grief, loss, and hope following a miscarriage. Anthologies like these allow readers to grieve privately while finding some solace. They can also inspire a reader to respond with her own writing.
If you would like to read some of my writing, please check out these links.
Orinoco Flow originally published in Compound Butter
I Miscarried and Everyone Wants Me to Focus on Gratitude published in Zibby Ownes’ Moms Don’t Have Time to Grieve
Perhaps you have an idea or experience that can help? What resources do you suggest? What has provided help for you or someone you care about?
Postpartum Depression Around the World
Latest posts by Melissa Uchiyama (see all)
- When Loss and Miscarriage are Multicultural: They Span the Globe Part 2 - June 13, 2022
- When Loss and Miscarriage are Multicultural: They Span the Globe Part I - May 23, 2022
- Travel With Kids to Israel: Tips for Families - October 26, 2018