Why We Need Rites & Rituals Around Miscarriage

Photo: Courtesy of Elliana Allon.
As a psychologist, Jessica Zucker has spent her career sitting across from many women who've experienced miscarriage.
"All the while, it was theoretical — until it wasn’t, and I went through it myself," she says. Dr. Zucker had a miscarriage in 2012 when she was 16 weeks pregnant, and experienced feeling completely isolated and alone.
For that reason, Dr. Zucker decided to start the #IHadAMiscarriage campaign in 2014, to decrease the stigma around pregnancy loss, and so that other people who are going through it don't feel as alone as she did.
"I do this to combat the idea that any woman is alone in their experience," she says. "My aim is for women not to just know that but also to feel the support or the shift in culture. I want to replace the silence with storytelling."
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Dr. Zucker explains that when you lose a parent, grandparent, or someone who's at least "been in the world for a while," people know what to do — there's more of a ritual around sending flowers and a card, and showing up for the funeral. When someone has a miscarriage, things are less clear-cut.
"In the aftermath of [pregnancy] loss, loved ones often are speechless, without a real framework to know what to say or do, so they do nothing at all — which leaves the griever alienated," she says.
Every year since 2014, on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day, Dr. Zucker shares a new chapter of the campaign. In 2015, #IHadAMiscarriage's theme revolved around a line of pregnancy loss cards designed to help loved ones be there for someone who's experienced miscarriage. In subsequent years, Dr. Zucker has released posters and resources to help reduce stigma and secrecy around pregnancy loss. This year, the campaign includes video series that explores rites, rituals, and representation, or as Dr. Zucker puts it, "this idea that if we represent our stories, we not only honor and memorialize our loss, but we also are inspiring other women to do the same."
"It’s like, where is the framework for talking about these things?" she says. "What are women supposed to do in the aftermath of loss without these rituals? We lack a conversation about what to do when it comes to miscarriage."
Above all, Dr. Zucker hopes that the campaign inspires people to talk more openly about pregnancy loss.
"It's partly due to silence and stigma that this remains shrouded in our culture, and we need to break that down," she says. "The more fluid these conversations are, the less alone future generations will feel."
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