Interview with Devan McGuinness of Unspoken Grief, Part One
Unspoken Grief: A Website Providing Perinatal Grief Support
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Devan McGuinness, creator of Unspoken Grief, a website that provides understanding and support for women experiencing perinatal loss.
McGuinness is a mother of three whose journey to parenthood was fraught with challenges. She discovered through multiple miscarriages (ten in all) that she had a number of health issues affecting her ability to carry pregnancies full term: a blood disorder called Factor V Leiden, luteal phase defect, and progesterone deficiency.
McGuinness also has Celiac's disease and began writing about gluten free attachment parenting on her blog, Accustomed Chaos, in 2010. As she wrote about her miscarriages on her blog, she began to receive emails from women reaching out for support as they coped with their own pregnancy losses; it was then that she decided to create a space for women experiencing perinatal grief, and herself. That space became Unspoken Grief, which was launched in February 2011.
I discovered Unspoken Grief as I compiled research for an article about pregnancy loss resources. I immediately wanted to learn more about this beautiful and useful website and the person behind its creation. What follows is the first part of my interview with Devan McGuinness - a conversation about miscarriage, grief and healing, and the support she provides for survivors of perinatal loss.
The Interview: Part One
Nicole: Hi Devan!
Devan: Hello Nicole!
Nicole: Thank you again for allowing me to interview you.
Devan: Sure thing, and my pleasure!
Nicole: Let's start with talking a bit about yourself and life before your journey as a miscarriage survivor, and Unspoken Grief. Who were you and how did your journey change you?
Devan: Before marriage and children I went to school for social services. I was working as a counselor for males & females who were charged with sexual offences and were court mandated to attend counseling. I also held a job as a youth worker in a shelter for teenagers and volunteered as a bereavement counselor for kids who had recently lost a parent.
I had two very early pregnancy losses while my husband and I were engaged (a few months before the wedding).
Nicole: That sounds like amazing work. I imagine that your experience with helping others deal with grief and bereavement may have lent itself to helping with your own grief, and knowing how to reach out to others.
Your story as a survivor or ten miscarriages is inspiring. I was shattered by my own miscarriage at six weeks gestation, and my own struggles with infertility (it took ten cycles and a pregnancy loss to finally have my son). When I think of someone surviving ten miscarriages, I wonder how you coped? I think other women will also wonder how you dealt with your grief after your losses. Can you talk about that?
Devan: For me - it is not really a simple answer. I can be honest and tell you that I didn't cope with grief. I "pushed past it" and ignored it. I am a woman who is all about "going for what I want" and I was determined to "get to my goal" and I honestly ignored it - to a big degree. Each loss did something different to me and it is difficult for me to sum up how I coped in total.
I was obsessed with the "why" (not why me, but why is this happening and how can I fix it) and not enough was spent on my emotions about it all.
Nicole: So your approach to it was more cerebral - this is a problem and I'm going to find a way to solve it...I wonder, is it possible the creation of your site was a way to address your losses, indirectly and directly, by finding a way to help others?
Devan: At the time definitely. After the birth of my latest full term healthy child - the built up and ignored grief and emotions poured out of me all at once.
- Miscarriage Resources on the Web
Here is a listing of the best, most up to date and quality online resources for women who have had a miscarriage.
- How to Support a Woman After a Miscarriage
For many women, a miscarriage is a devastating experience. Here are ten suggestions for how to support a woman following a pregnancy loss, from a woman who has been there herself.
- How to Make a Miscarriage Care Package
Learn how to create a practical and personalized care package for a loved one who is grieving a miscarriage.
- Representations of Miscarriage in the Arts
Artistic representations of miscarriage can help a woman through her grieving process. This article provides links to visual, literary and musical artists who have been inspired to create something beautiful out of the devastation of miscarriage.
- Miscarriage Art: Self Portraits
On Mother's Day 2009, I miscarried a baby that was very loved and very wanted. This article discusses my creative and healing process, which included producing a series of self-portraits days after my miscarriage.
Nicole: There was a point where the emotions took over. You couldn't push past it indefinitely...it was all still there but at the time you were going through it, you were able to push ahead...
Devan: No one can indefinitely ignore that much pain without it destroying you as a person. It's not possible. That is why I am very passionate about allowing a space for the grief to show, and letting people know that grief is OK and those 'feelings' are grief - because many don't realize that grieving a miscarriage is real and natural.
Nicole: Yes, that is wonderful about your site. In my experience it is difficult for women to find a safe place to share their grief about miscarriage. I think women have learned to self-censor many of their thoughts and feelings, but when it comes to pregnancy loss, that feeling of emotional isolation is magnified.
Can you tell me about how the idea for your site came to be?
Devan: I have been blogging on a different website (Accustomed Chaos) for about a year and on there I was opening up about my miscarriages, and my feelings and grief left over from my miscarriages. I was receiving a lot of comments on those posts from women who had had a miscarriage, or multiple miscarriages or friend/family who have been through it. I am VERY open about my losses.
Through that I started getting personal emails from women who were at the very moment discovering they had miscarried. They were reaching out to me as someone who is open about being there and wanted some support on what to expect, a place to vent and show their grief.
Many women contacted me and over time I noticed that I was seeing this pattern. These women were CRAVING connection, and a voice and support. Each one I was in contact with. I saw a community building but I was the only "public" member and I realized the great need there was for a public voice for everyone.
Nicole: So you saw the need for a "home" for the community that women were trying to form as they reached out for support. It sounds like Unspoken Grief developed very naturally, then, from your other site. How many people have visited your site to date?
Devan: The site launched exactly one month ago and we've received 6062 page views, 46 personal stories shared, 57 people signed to contribute and 155 support comments. In one month.
Nicole: That is wonderful. I am so pleased for your website's success. You mentioned that you had created a website before, Accustomed Chaos. You already had experience building websites, then. Do you have help with creating and maintaining them?
Devan: I do have experience building websites and I had some initial help setting the basics up for both sites from a company called Japster Inc -- but I customized, designed and maintain both of them on my own.
Nicole: Is there a particular website or websites that you were referred to or that helped you when you were coping with your pregnancy losses? Are there any that you would recommend?
Devan: Honestly - I was given no resources at all. Personally I have not regularly visited any site that gave the info I was looking for. That is why with Unspoken Grief I have sections on there for info on miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal loss (still adding to those resources over time) because I wanted that info available as well.
I Can Make Life: Poems About Infertility and Miscarriage, Pregnancy and Birth
About Nicole Breit
Nicole Breit is a published author and poet. Her debut poetry collection, , explores the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual impact of fertility treatments, pregnancy, pregnancy loss, and birth. I Can Make Life was a finalist for the 2012 Mary Ballard Poetry competition. Her essay, “For Tristan: A Meditation on Loss, Grief and Healing” was published in The Sound of Silence: Journeys Through Miscarriage (Wombat Books, 2011). She is also the author of a number of online I Can Make Lifepregnancy loss resources. Follow her writing journey on her blog, Writing for my Life, or on twitter @NicoleBreit.
Continue Reading This Interview...
Part Two of my conversation with Devan McGuinness covers the range of feelings women experience after a miscarriage, how others respond to a miscarriage, and the impact of medical terminology on access to resources.
In Part Three of my interview with Devan McGuinness we discuss memorials to our babies, her tattoos, and the response to Unspoken Grief so far.