The need for ritual

I recently spoke in Rome at an international fertility conference (ESHRE=European Society of Human Reproduction & Embryology).

My topic was “Mourning Rituals for People Remaining Childless”. I thank my colleague, Petra Thorn (who was one of the organizers of the day), for inviting me to speak. It helped me organize my thinking.

I have been organizing rituals for fertility loss for 10 years now–starting conventionally (with fertility loss services) and moving toward more unconventional, creative rituals.
In preparing the talk, I realized that ritual can go to places that psychotherapy does not reach.

Even if psychotherapists and counsellors feel under-skilled to lead such rituals, they could encourage clients or patient support groups to develop their own rituals. They could ask chaplains and clergy to take up the issue.

[Elsewhere on this blog is the text of a fertility loss service developed in the UK by three women counsellors and psychotherapists (of which I was one).]
Every culture has rituals linked to loss & grieving–but high tech fertility treatment has created losses that never existed in previous eras (frozen embryos that die when defrosted, IVF that fails, surrogates who miscarry).
There were about 30 participants in the psychotherapy & counselling stream in Rome, from all around the world–the Ukraine, Slovenia, Ireland, the UK, Germany, South Africa and beyond. Most were women. It was heartening to see colleagues making the effort to attend this gathering in Italy.
I asked how many had experience with ritual. Only a very few hands went up. I was amazed!

Ceremonies for miscarriages are now quite common in the UK. They are run by hospital chaplains. Some churches have started to wake up to these losses too. I was intrigued when a former client told me recently that she had attended a “Sad Mother’s Day” service at her Church of England outpost in the Cotswolds. What a brilliant idea!

Normally on Mothering Sunday (as it is called in England), children present their mothers with daffodils during the church service.
But what about all the women who have lost children or are infertile?
A WOMAN priest in this English church who had herself experienced miscarriage organized a Sad Mother’s Day event in the evening after the morning “happy mummy” service. The service included prayers and music and an opportunity for each person to light a candle and name what it was that brought her to to the Sad Mother’s Day service. The isolation was broken.

If you have experienced a ritual linked to infertility or pregnancy loss, please post an account of it here. It could be something you created or something organized by some other entity.

Let’s share our information & experiences!