In ritual, we mourn
We walked out to a remote clearing in the woods. The sound of birds chattering loudly surrounded us. The wind whispered gently. The brook babbled nearby. The sunlight filtered down through the trees.
In silence, we laid out the things we had brought on a makeshift altar, a blanket we used in our engagement photo shoot and a silk scarf that bound our hands together during our wedding ceremony.
Two ceramic birds.
A silver bell.
Stones for four birth months.
A sculpture of a windswept tree.
A candle infused with crystals and essential oils.
An ultrasound photo.
A book of poems.
We meditated. Tears rolled down my face. We held each other. We lit the candle.
The officiant who married us opened the space with her words, chosen so perfectly for us in our heartbreak.
We read what we had written, each of us, with tears in our eyes. There are no words big enough for grief; we tried.
I read a poem by Mary Oliver, “In Blackwater Woods.” There in the woods the words captured the moment we created for ourselves and for our babies.
“To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.”
Our officiant wraps our hands in the softest knitted blanket with the colors of the rainbow. Rainbow for pride. Rainbow for love. Rainbow for her hopes for our future – hopes we don’t dare to hold for ourselves anymore.
We sob. The light filters through the leaves. The brook runs softly. The birds whistle their songs.
We ring the bell. Snuff out the candle. Pack our things. We walk back to the road in silence.
In this sacred hour we achieved what we could not do on other days. We created some ritual from our pain. Space to grieve that the world has not given freely to us. We recognized each of our pregnancies, and each of our losses. We honored our babies in our own way.
On October 1st I put a filter on my Facebook profile picture for Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Sometime this month I’ll make a(nother) post about pregnancy loss and the fact that it has touched my life. I’ll share our story to remind other people that we exist, and that our babies did too. I’ll light a candle on October 15th at 7pm for the Wave of Light. But those actions have never felt like enough. That lack of “enoughness” is what drove us to design the ritual in the woods for our babies, the space we needed to grieve, in our own time, for ourselves and our family.