The exhibition portrays an eight year long journey of coming to terms with a child loss caused by a miscarriage. Previously held in Kesgrave Arts Studio in Ipswich and St Mary’s Church in Mendlesham, the exhibition provided an insight into an inner world of grief and its slow, gradual healing with art. The exhibition is now looking for a new home, so should you know of a suitable venue, please get in touch.
I miscarried eight years ago. ‘Moving on’ was my life strategy at the time. I kept my pain hidden from the outside world behind a smiling mask. Somehow I thought I’d lose my face if I admitted that I was not all right. I was sad but I didn’t know how to grieve. I didn’t know there was something to grieve.
‘Regardless of the length of time you were pregnant, you carried a real, living being in your womb.’*
My healing began with studying therapeutic arts. Paintings brought the suffering to life for the first time. The images were saying what I had not been able to express in words. They became undeniable evidence that a child once lived in my womb and the child died.
I lived in a belief that I had to deal with my fate, keeping the upleasant feelings under control. I was ashamed of my own pain. Until I came across a book: Miscarriage: Women Sharing From The Heart written by Marie Allen & Shelly Marks. This account of other women’s experiences and their losses touched me deeply, explained that my feelings were natural and that I was not alone. I was a mother mourning her baby.
Art as a constant companion sustained me through the grieving process and helped me to accept the inexplicable death of my child. The artwork developed into communication with myself and the outer world. I didn’t want to be alone anymore. I wanted to share this inner world with my husband, family and friends.
*Shelly & Marie, Miscarriage: Women Sharing from the heart
Why this exhibition
When I first found courage to speak of my miscarriage, I was astonished how many women admitted that it had happened to them too. Even my own mother kept it quiet for 30 years.
I experienced my own miscarriage as a shameful, lonely event despite my husband’s support. When my art started revealing the long hidden despair, it came as a relief. The secret was finally out. I didn’t have to carry this heavy burden within myself any more.
When I was drawing/painting/sculpting and encountering hurtful emotions, there was something holding me through this difficult process. It was a promise which I gave to myself and to the universe. I would go through this pain so that I may share my journey with other women in the hope this may help somehow. The same way Marie’s and Shelley’s book helped me.
Healing or self indulgance
I still ask myself whether revisiting ‘old ghosts’ is a self indulgent or healing activity. In today’s matter of fact society we want to see tangible results of therapy and yet all the victories are so subtle. I can only speak for myself:
Before – I felt envious of pregnant women passing by, later even resentful. I avoided all pregnant friends or those with babies. I found it extremely hard to hold a baby. I would go somewhere private and cry afterwards. I could not discuss my sorrow with family or friends. I felt they didn’t care about the baby I lost. I felt insane, weird, ungrateful… and terribly alone. I lived under the impression that I didn’t want to be a mother. I hated the idea of another IVF.
During & After– I learned to accept that I was a mother and that I lost a baby. I gave myself permission to be sad. I stopped measuring my pain by the number of weeks of pregnancy. I was able to talk about my grief with my husband, friends and therapists. I could showed them in pictures exactly what I was going through. By creating the baby’s memorial I found a way of grieving in public with friends. I was able to go through another embryo transfer. I lost and have been grieving but was able to speak about it. When I held my newborn nephew last month I realised I was feeling pure love. I found that a gift.
Mainly I learned to honour my own journey. By visualising my story I’m finding some sense in it.