I honestly didn’t know what to expect on the way to the Saying Goodbye service at Chelmsford Cathedral. I am a strong advocate for acknowledging the life that was after a miscarriage or loss, but I didn’t quite know how to do that myself. With my first, Paschal, I painted – there was a clear image in my head and it took a long time for me to put it onto paper. I’m still struggling with my second, Kari, despite being pregnant with a third, and despite attempting to write something for her it was far more difficult than before and still doesn’t feel… settled.
We drove into town and I thought “Well, I don’t know if this will help, or if I need help at this point, but at least I can write about it. I’m not quite sure what I would write but it’ll be interesting for others nevertheless.”
I think it hit me once we’d walked in and I’d taken the squeakiest seat in the building, questioned why one man was filming it, and started listening to the choir. It hit me that this was the closest I was ever going to get to a funeral.
The two lives that grew inside me didn’t get a funeral because there was nothing to bury, there was nothing to say goodbye to, there was (according to much of society) no point because they hadn’t existed. This was a funeral, a memorial service, a healing service, whatever it was, because people in pain needed somewhere to cry.
I felt shamed. I cried throughout the choirs singing, throughout the first hymn; I cried whilst reading ahead and seeing poems for the fathers, as well as the mothers, who had lost a child; I cried and struggled to breathe when after ringing a bell for my two lives I heard a woman ring a bell not once, not twice, but four times, one for each loss.
I got angry at little things in the sermon that I knew were unintentional and I knew were meant with the attempt to understand, but even so I got angry at the comparison of miscarriage to a burn that never goes away. I got frustrated when I wondered whether this service was more about us, those suffering the loss, than the children who were lost. Then I felt frustrated with myself for judging those who might need something for themselves. I was annoyed at the idea that Saying Goodbye only choose beautiful, grand, buildings, as if a small run-down chapel couldn’t bear people’s pain and love just as well. My theology fought with my heart breaking and collided into the mess sitting in my seat.
I felt overwhelmed by the sheer number of women, men, couples, and children in that building. Despite us all having gone through similar experiences I felt like running away when tears came down my face after placing two candles on the altar. The walk back down the aisle felt like it took too long, and still I thought “Is this all they get?”
When I got home and was asked how the service was I paused without an answer, in fact I still don’t really have an answer, but I replied “difficult”.
I am still an advocate for the intent behind Saying Goodbye, and I would still suggest going to a service to anyone struggling, but I honestly don’t know whether it did me any good or not. I thought I would share my experience because as you probably know by now, I try to be honest, and hopefully it might help (God knows how) someone else in whatever way they need it to.
If you are interested in Saying Goodbye click this link for more information and details on regular touring services around the UK.