Interview with Devan McGuinness of Unspoken Grief, Part Three
Unspoken Grief: A Website Providing Perinatal Grief Support
In Part Three of my interview with Devan McGuinness of Unspoken Grief we discuss memorials to our babies, her tattoos, and the response to Unspoken Grief so far.
Devan Gets Her Last Two Flower Tattoos
Nicole: There is often talk of how there is nothing physical to hold after a pregnancy loss, and some women like having pregnancy jewelry, or even a ceremony, to help find peace. Did you feel moved to memorialize your babies in any way?
Devan: Yes, and in many ways. I have been through ten miscarriages. I have nine cherry blossom tattoos all over my body with floating, falling petals. Those symbolize nine of my losses. For Triton who I consider a child (not to use my terms for anyone else), I have an angel wing tattoo on my wrist (and under that are the names of my living children). On my back I have four big hibiscus flowers - three for my living children and one for Triton.
I also have a pink hibiscus tree that is growing, with a statue to symbolize Triton.
Nicole: I wondered if the cherry blossoms and hibiscus images on your site were personally symbolic. Your tattoos are beautiful, and I love the name Triton. How did you choose the name? Is it also symbolic?
Devan: The cherry blossoms are symbolic – a delicate flower that blooms for a very short time. Triton was a Greek mythological creature (god of the sea) who was known for carrying a conch-shell trumpet -- he used that to calm the waves of the sea. And that to me is what he has done for me and my hatred for my body. He calmed my waves.
Nicole: Beautiful. Have you had any unexpected responses to Unspoken Grief?
Devan: Unspoken Grief has only been around for one month and so far the biggest unexpected response is how I am personally being thanked. I will admittedly say that I am awkward around kind words - so the way that the site has been received is THE BEST THING for me ever - but I didn't expect it to have this amazing response.
Nicole: It is truly a wonderful site, and is really responding to a need. There are still "holes" to fill in miscarriage support, though. Is there a particular niche area you would encourage a woman who wants to help support the cause, to consider trying to fill?
Devan: I think the BEST way anyone who has been touched directly or indirectly from miscarriage can help the "cause" is to speak. Loudly, honestly, and raw. THIS will bring the grief out of the closet and will slam the door on the isolation and confusion so many feel when they are first hit with this pain. We need to know that others are sad too, that others are happy again and that we have a community of people who will not judge.
Unspoken Grief is expanding with some plans that I have been working in the background. I am not able to talk about what specifically those plans are yet - but it is another need that is going to be addressed.
Nicole: I am looking forward to seeing what is coming next for Unspoken Grief. I also think it is amazing that you are committing so much time to helping other women who have experienced pregnancy loss. You are a mother, you work from home, and you have two websites to update and maintain. How do you keep your life balanced? Do you sleep?
Devan: I am still in a bit of an adjustment phase. I am a mom to three kids (aged 5, 4 & 2) and I am used to functioning on very little sleep. I don't have a balance yet. I am up every night until 2 am or later (no exaggeration) and wake at 7am. It is worth it and I know balance will be found ... eventually :)
Right now I need the distraction as I am in what I call the "trigger zone" so it is good for me right now to have a focus.
- 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 Make a Miscarriage Care Package
Learn how to create a practical and personalized care package for a loved one who is grieving 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.
- 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: Now that I know the ages of your children, I realize just how busy you must be, which makes your work on Unspoken Grief even more amazing. At this stage, do you talk to your children about Triton?
Devan: My kids know of Triton. They see his tree and they know he was once my baby. They are too young for me to explain too much more about him at this time but as they get older they will hear of him a lot. My kids like to 'pet' his statue. They will hear a lot about my ten miscarriages. My daughters, especially.
Nicole: I have a statue for my son, Tristan. We also made a garden stone with his name on it which is in our backyard. One day I will have one for all my kids back there.
Nicole: I think what was most beautiful and unexpected was the circle of life in our garden. The day before I lost Tristan I spent in the garden. It was Mother's day weekend 2009. A year later, there I was in the garden again and at the end of the summer there was this beautiful wild flower taking over the garden where my baby’s garden stone was...
Devan: That is why I love plants for memorials. You get to see your baby living. You have something to care for. That is also why my husband and I are discussing changing over our memorial plant. The one we have is very delicate. It is tropical so lives looking barren in the winter and blooms like crazy in the summer -- outside. I need something that does not look "dead" during this particular time of year.
Nicole: Lovely. And it's true, I was drawn to a peace lily (which sadly didn't make it, I don't have a green thumb)...but I hadn't realized that part of my being drawn to a plant was that I wanted something to care for in my baby's absence, that signified my baby. This has been a very insightful conversation for me.
Devan: I'm glad to hear that.
Nicole. Lastly, I wanted to say that many women are affected by miscarriage and benefit from resources like Unspoken Grief. We all deal with our grief differently, as individuals, but some people are moved to do something that helps others. You talked about women contacting you on your Accustomed Chaos site, and how that developed into Unspoken Grief. But at the heart of what you have done is someone who cares enough to channel energy into something that helps others. What is it, do you think, that sparked that in you?
Devan: Triton. And I need it myself. I need to have a safe space and community. I need that for my friends who were privately contacting me. I could not see the hole and not try to fill it. Although I could and do have that space on Accustomed Chaos - it didn't feel right that I had a "public" and community space to use my voice, and for my friends not to have the same.
Nicole: You and your work are very inspirational to me. Do you have any words of hope for women who have experienced multiple pregnancy loss? What do you say to women in the midst of that overwhelming confusion and grief?
Devan: This is a tough one for me to answer. I can not say something like - you will be OK or you will find your answer or you will have your goal. I can not say it's not going to be painful and heartbreaking. All I can say honestly is "I am here". Unspoken Grief is here and this community is amazing. You are not alone in your pain. Your pain does not have to be in isolation. Your baby is missed and it was not your fault.
Nicole: Thank you for what you are doing, Devan. And thank you for so thoughtfully and candidly answering my questions. I will keep in touch and look forward to watching Unspoken Grief evolve and develop. It has been such a pleasure to connect with you.
Devan: It is my pleasure, Nicole.
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.
Return to Parts One and Two of This Interview
In Part Two of my conversation with Devan McGuinness, we discuss the range of feelings women experience after a miscarriage, what to say to someone who has had a miscarriage, and the impact of medical terminology on access to resources.