Tiny statues greet visitors to many Buddhist temples around Japan. It is common to see small hats adorning the little ones, or even toys scattered at their feet. You may even witness a woman holding a solemn vigil. These statues are public memorials for children who pass away before their parents, especially those lost during pregnancy. Once a miscarriage or pregnancy loss has occurred the grieving family will place a hat, scarf, or memorial item on the Jizo statue in honor of the lost life. This is a beautiful public display of pregnancy loss. The gift to Jizo honors both the life that lasted for only a brief time, and the grief that remains. This is a moment where it is OK to publicly grieve a life that was invisible to the outside world.
Unfortunately, we really don’t have a practice here in our culture that openly welcomes the grief of a family after pregnancy loss. Although there may not be a public venue for your sadness, it is important to create your own memorial. There are many ways to honor the life that you nurtured for only a brief time, and I hope that you are able to find a way that fits your family best. Here are a few suggestions, that have brought many grieving families great comfort:
1. Ask a member of your religious community to hold a funeral mass or memorial service.
2. Designate a place in your home for a memorial piece. Some like to find a piece of artwork that calls to them, or create one of your own.
3. Name the child, so that you can refer to him/her easily in your conversation. This also acknowledges the personhood that you had attached to that brief and precious life.
4. Have a memorial piece of jewelery made that you can wear.
5. Plant a tree or beautiful flowers in honor of the life that you lost.
If you would like additional support after your loss, please contact me. You are not alone in your grieving, and you do not need to hide it here.