In the Buddhist temples of Japan, the priests there perform a particular service for women who are suffering grief from pregnancy loss of miscarriage, still birth or abortion – acknowledging their loss and helping to heal their pain with a special memorial ritual. One of the most significant aspects of these rituals was that the priest did not differentiate or judge in any way between whether the pregnancy loss was from natural causes of miscarriage, or whether it was from a choice the woman made to have an abortion. The ritual was performed simply because it offered a sense of closure and release from suffering from the pain of their loss. Now I have introduced that practice to Australia, and I have adapted the ritual to cater to the individual spiritual needs of each woman who is needing support with her grief.
Although many large city hospitals offer rituals of loss for women who have a miscarriage, there is still very little support available to women who suffer feelings of ongoing grief or remorse or shame from having an abortion. Although many women may try to suppress these feelings, they often come back with force many years later with deeply distressing force. For example, there have been women who have come to Wabi’an because they were having trouble conceiving a child, and they believed that they were being punished for having had an abortion. Or when a woman’s own daughter had a miscarriage, it brought up devastating feelings of grief and shame many decades after their abortion. For many women it is simply being able to release the burden of their secret that they have kept for so long by talking about it in a safe place and not being judged for their choice.
Every woman experiences this loss in her own unique way, and so the service that is offered here at Wabi’an is also unique and caters to each person’s situation and their own spiritual beliefs. For some it may be enough to be able to share their pain and talk about it over a cup of tea; for others, a ritual can be discussed and mapped out that they can carry out for themselves at home or at a place of significance for them; for others, it may be more important to participate in a formal memorial service conducted by me, in my role as a Buddhist priest, in the temple or at a place of significance for them.
I am here to bear witness to your experience without judgement, to fully respect and support the choices you have made, to share your burden of grief, and to serve you in whatever way is going to be most meaningful and helpful in alleviating your pain.
You can read more about Healing a Lost Pregnancy in my Cuppa with Cate blog.
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