The Silenced Grief: A conversation with Sandra Castillo and Matthew Bartolo

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Having a miscarriage can be a physically and emotionally gruelling experience – how do you cope with the loss of someone who never lived? When a family member, a friend or even a pet dies, you can seek consolation in the company of other mourners. Miscarriage, however, is a completely private grief – perhaps the loneliest grief of all. There seems to be an unwritten rule that a woman should never announce her pregnancy until she reaches the three-month-mark and the baby’s in the clear, “just in case”. There’s a belief that a miscarriage is not to be publicised. Is this helpful?

“Keeping it a secret and fearing it and shunning the topic is worse – not telling people is denying it – once you talk about it, it becomes easier and easier”, said Sandra Castillo, the main speaker at the upcoming Nghidu Kelma event, which focuses on miscarriage.

Insite sat down with Counsellor Matthew Bartolo of Willingness Malta and Sandra Castillo, the Berevement & Support Midwife at Mater Dei, ahead of their next session of Nghidu Kelma (Miscarriage: Its Implications on our Clients & their relations).

“I feel that we need to acknowledge it more…In my assessment I need to ask clients about losses. Most of the time they mention losing their parents and even their pets. But miscarriage isn’t included. I have to ask specifically. Then they mention it”, said Bartolo.

He added that, “a discussion on the topic is lacking across all fields in the educational system. We chose this topic because we think that miscarriage is not addressed in a formal educational setting. We want to raise awareness, to start a discussion- How should I deal with it if I come across it in my clinic?”

Our society tends to render miscarriage invisible. With miscarriage there are no tangible memories, thinking back to the loss strikes on empty, making it easy to forget how existent the grief really is. Avoidance might seem like the easiest thing to do. After all, what could you possibly say to a person facing such intense and all-encompassing pain?

“There is no one way to deal with the loss, but there is significance in acknowledging it. Just let them know you are there, let them take the lead”, said Castillo. There is no set time allotment for healing. Perhaps the most important thing is to respect their needs and limitations. Sandra emphasised that ‘not everyone needs the same time. Be sensitive and be consistently there – the support might dwindle over time, but the pain might start to surface much later”.

Sandra explained how miscarriage is often downplayed, “In the past if a baby died they wouldn’t name him, they wouldn’t show the baby to the parents and no one would know what happened to the baby. People assumed that if it’s not named it’s easily forgotten because it never existed in people’s minds. However the child existed for the parents. It existed from the day the parents found out they are pregnant.” Many women form an attachment to their baby early on in the pregnancy, particularly if they’ve been trying to conceive for some time. The loss is as significant as any other, and must be addressed.

After 11 years of working as a bereavement nurse, Sandra noted that locally, we are currently “in a situation where we’re more willing to talk about it than they were in the past”.

In accordance to the usual Nghidu Kelma events, the session will offer insight into the local situation and integrate professionals and students from different fields, who work with the clients at different points in the journey.
Nghidu Kelma: Miscarriage: Its implications on our clients and their relations will be held on Monday, the 5th of December at 09:00 at Razzett L-Antik.

Written by

Andrea Said

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The Silenced Grief: A conversation with Sandra Castillo and Matthew Bartolo

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