Losing a child before you’ve even had a chance to get to know them is a wound that cuts deep. For any woman who has ever had a miscarriage, stillbirth, or lost a child soon after delivery, the pain is real, lasting, and can be quite confusing.
Up to one-quarter of clinically recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage and there are about 25,000 stillbirths in the U.S. every year—nearly 70 a day.
There are countless reasons a pregnancy can end in miscarriage or stillbirth, and in today’s toxic-overloaded world, the suspects are endless: everything from common chemicals in plastic water bottles to toxins in our couches, to the much more rare genetic issues that can cause a pregnancy to terminate. But the reasons why miscarriages and stillbirths happen don’t matter nearly as much to the women who lose their babies as making sense of it all and moving on.
How does a woman grieve for a child she hardly knew? And how does she go on to try again?
Meet Kiley Hanish. She and her husband Sean lost their first child when Kiley was 35 weeks pregnant. Their story is the inspiration for the film “Return to Zero”, made by her husband. It tells the aching story of her son’s death in utero and the couple’s grieving process.
After the film’s success, Hanish left her job as an occupational therapist in order to help other women who had lost a child either in miscarriage, stillbirth, or as a newborn.
“There weren’t too many resources out there,” Hanish told EcoSalon. She struggled to make sense of her own loss, and while the film process helped her and Sean move on (they now have two children), there was something bigger driving Hanish, some work that was guiding her, she says.
She started the Return to Zero Center for Healing, which leads retreats all over the world for women who are grieving the loss of a child.
Hanish works with other facilitators to engage the process, but the work, she says, is largely intuitive, something much bigger than her or the women. “Just being together [with other women who’ve lost a child] helps all of us to heal,” she explains.
The retreats, while held at peaceful and beautiful locations, aren’t exactly the definition of relaxing vacations—women attend to face their painful grief head on—and the retreats have been selling out. Women use words like “grateful”, “empowered” and “feeling whole again” to describe their takeaway. Some even return to further their healing work at future retreats. And Hanish says it’s what keeps her going. “These women realize they have a community—other women who understand their grief—and that is such a huge factor in the healing process.”
Hanish has also begun working with hospitals to help improve the system when dealing with stillbirth. Her own experience in the hospital with her son was rather unpleasant—an uninformed and unprepared staff. Hanish is educating health care providers on how to better care for families who experience the loss of a baby and help families spend time together before saying their last goodbye.
For more information, visit the Return to Zero Center for Healing website.
Related on EcoSalon
Grieving woman image via Shutterstock