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A Memorial  Service for our Lost Babies

Yesterday we held a small and quiet service; since we began about 15 years ago we’ve called it A Memorial  Service for our Lost Babies. I’m glad, of course, there were very few people there. But over the years many parents have told us that even though they wouldn’t necessarily feel that they could bring themselves to come, they appreciated that such a service was taking place and that the loss of their unborn or very young child was in this way being recognised. Over time I’ve come to realise that there are many more people who have suffered such a bereavement than one might have thought; some have had no real opportunity to speak of it or have it acknowledged within the context of Jewish ritual for thirty, forty or even fifty years. 

‘Like wrongs hushed up’; the phrase comes from a poem by Wilfred Owen about casualties in the First World War, but, as more than one mother said to me, it sums up well how the loss of her baby was dealt with. She was to ‘move on’; there was no adequate understanding of her pain and loss, no ritual, no recognition that she needed to mourn. Yet, as parents testify, the life which might have been, which almost was, or all too briefly was, accompanies them for the rest of their years. As a poem we include in the service says:

I wonder who you were,

And who you would have been…

The memorial service was initiated with the support of mothers and fathers who know only too well how these losses feel, and who want to offer solidarity to one another as well as to provide a ritual opportunity in which their grief can be acknowledged.

Those were quiet, heartfelt moments yesterday.

We plan to hold this service again next year.

Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg

Contact Rabbi Wittenberg or Zahavit Shalev to find out more or if you wish to speak to someone.