Seeking Ceremony After Pregnancy Loss
* This entry was written by Megan Sheldon, Co-Founder of Be Ceremonial and Seeking Ceremony.
As an End of Life Doula and Life Cycle Celebrant, Megan set out to create what she wished she had when she went through three recurrent miscarriages. She and her husband built Be Ceremonial as a way to empower people with secular rituals and a ceremony framework so others could acknowledge their own significant moments in life and in death, including pregnancy and infant loss.
If I look back on my life, I can see now that I’ve always been ceremonial – I just didn’t realize it at the time. I’m a natural convener - I love gathering people and finding ways to connect and deepen conversations. While I’m not religious, nor do I have strong cultural traditions, I think I’ve always been seeking ceremony in some shape or form.
When my husband and I decided to get married, we wanted to create a ceremony unique to us. We knew it would be the only time our entire family would be together because his dad was dying. We drew on our shared values, our love of nature, and our desire to connect people to create an intimate wedding ceremony that was meaningful and intentional.
After we were married, we wanted to start a family. What followed was likely the darkest and most isolating time of my life. I experienced three recurrent miscarriages in a very medicalized system that focused on my physical health, yet paid little attention to my emotional, mental, and spiritual health. I was never given a roadmap on how to grieve each loss, in fact I left the hospital each time with nothing in hand.
Most people didn’t realize I was deep in grief as they may not have known I was pregnant, or they assumed I was done grieving. I started to learn about terms like ‘invisible grief’ and ‘ambiguous loss’. I desperately wanted someone to help me acknowledge both the life and the death I had experienced. Since no one offered to guide me in a ceremony, I decided to create one for myself.
I started to research everything I could about secular and universal rituals, and I listened to my own intuition. I invented my own rituals and I drew on my cultural heritage. I looked to nature, the four elements, and the five senses. I shared my story and I listened to the stories of others, curious as to how they acknowledged their loss.
There were so many invisible moments that no one could see or understand, including my husband. From when we decided to try again, to when I found out I was pregnant each time, to those due dates that came and went, and of course my friends who went on to have successful pregnancies. I started to realize how little we talked about those seemingly invisible moments that surround the entire experience of conception and fertility and grief.
When I went on to have two daughters, many people assumed my grief disappeared. It didn’t. It simply changed. I was still holding my grief and my gratitude in the very same breath. And so I set out to create a ritual that would help me honour those polarities and the idea that I could hold two truths at once.
Ritual helped me acknowledge all of my emotions and gave me space to feel my feelings. I started to create ceremonies for others who experienced pregnancy and infant loss. I then got together with a group of moms and we started to create ritual tool boxes that we donated to Lions Gate Hospital, full of nature-inspired objects that had supported us on our grief journeys.
Finally, during the pandemic, my husband and I created what we wished we’d had all those years ago: Be Ceremonial. We wanted to give people a ritual roadmap that they could draw from and create their own ceremonies. We wanted to give them a place to start.
My grief never went away; instead I found new ways to incorporate it into my daily life. I walk with my grief every day, and ritual reminds me how to do that.
With love, Megan
To create your own ceremony or learn more about secular rituals, visit www.beceremonial.com or sign up to join one of our free monthly workshops. We also create personalized ceremonies, custom workshops, and in-person retreats at www.seekingceremony.com
*Megan will be speaking at this year’s Butterfly Run Vancouver 2022, and will have a table set up if you want to ask her any questions or learn more about ritual and ceremony.