The culture of silence #breakthesilence

by Claudia Ravaldi

Article by Claudia Ravaldi in the Huffington Post of 19.05.2014

Because in Italy we will not see Return to Zero (and in many other countries we will)

“Whoever is silent agrees – No, whoever is silent is silent”
Novello Novelli, Francesco Nuti
Madonna, what a silence there is tonight
Prato, 1982

#Breakthesilence is the hashtag that accompanies the worldwide promotion of the film Return to Zero , directed by Sean Hanish.

This work in a few months has involved and thrilled thousands of people all over the world, has been presented at various festivals (among other things it has opened the Rome Independent Film Festival on March 16, 2014) as well as broadcast in the first run by the channel Lifetime in many countries of the world (but not in Italy) on 17 and 18 May 2014. “Return to Zero “is the first American feature film to address stillbirth and its consequences for couples, families and society. The events narrated in the film are inspired by the true story of the director and his wife : a couple in the last month of pregnancy prepares for the arrival of their first child, who unfortunately will die in utero a few days before birth. The film chronicles the couple’s attempts to react and survive the event, and focuses on the key steps in grieving, the risks involved if adequate support is not received, and above all the difficulties that society and mourners have in relating to this event. The goal of the film is allow a more realistic and profound vision of perinatal bereavement even in those not directly involved , in order to change the way people commonly view stillbirth and its effects on parents, relationships, families and the whole community. The cast is exceptional with actors of the caliber of Alfred Molina, Paul Adelstein, and above all Minnie Driver (nominated for an Oscar for ‘Will Hunting Rebel Genius ‘, as well as an Emmy and Golden Globe for the series’The Riches ‘), the film’s excellent lead in a role he defined one of the most difficult interpreted by her .

Director Sean Hanish’s goal is to break the silence.

‘Our culture doesn’t relate very well to anyone’s death. And when it comes to the death of a child or a newborn, honestly people find it too difficult to even think about it … ‘

We need, as people and as a society, to break the silence, to make the invisible visible, ” making seen the unseen “, as a 2011 Lancet editorial dedicated to stillbirth writes. We need something other than silence or indifference to understand and face this event. Three million families lose a child every year within weeks or hours of birth. This data, which affects especially countries with low economic development to an extreme extent, however, concerns thousands of families in Italy as well. In our country, stillbirth affects about one child for every 275 births . It means that six children are born lifeless every day in Italian hospitals . This number may seem small (although not very small, if you think that cot death has a ten times lower rate ) but it is not negligible: not only for the medical aspects relating to the physical health of the mother and any future pregnancies, but also for the psychological aspects, relating to the well-being and psychic balance of parents, family members and siblings. In Italy, thanks to the limited number of events and the poor social culture on issues relating to mourning in general and to grieving people (as it would be preferable to call those who are in mourning), the phenomenon of perinatal death has been simply neglected for decades. Parents were welcomed in silence (and left, often alone, in the silence of hospitals unable to welcome and dialogue), accompanied in silence to silent and therefore heartbreaking births, take leave in silence , silently discharged (“discharged”, they say in English, “discharged” could be paraphrased in Italian without being too mistaken). Around mourning couples there is a chasm of silence , almost never participatory, an embarrassed silence, often filled with ridiculous consoling phrases (it was better this way ), from clichés about life and luck (it can’t happen twice, it was just a coincidence ), gives hasty advice (do another one now!) or from senseless criticism (stop thinking about that thing there ). Even around still-born babies (our still-born babies , as they say in Anglo-Saxon countries), a curtain of iron silence falls . For most of society these children are (and should remain) nameless , faceless , without identity . They are not, they have not been, and therefore they do not deserve space or recognition. Silence in this case is a powerful weapon aimed straight at the parents’ throat: when you realize that most of those who are silent in the face of your grief and your way of living it, do not consent at all, because much more often in our country “who is silent is silent” and just waiting to be able to change the subject, you learn despite yourself that your need to talk, remember, celebrate, grieve is considered wrong, inappropriate, bizarre . As often happens in our country, in the absence of shared and shareable resources, over the years the bereaved parents have “made do”: each parent has done what he could to face the death of his child and continue to live, without receiving any kind support from the community to which they belong. Too often therea forced choice was to marry the general silence and live as split: outside, the life that goes on, as long as you don’t talk about the “bad experience happened “, inside the deaf and deep weariness of those who want to find space for their pain and for the hope of being able to face it. The consequences of this cultural abandonment can be read in the testimonies of those who have never been able to mourn and live in a condition of perennial pain and instability and in the dozens of emails that have been sent to me in recent years by many mothers of stillborn children in Italy before Lapo, my son, died , before we too, as had already happened in other countries of the world, began to break the silence.

“Ah, if CiaoLapo had been there, twenty, eighteen, fifteen, ten years ago – they write – I would have stopped feeling crazy because I think with love of my stillborn child and perhaps today I would be more serene”.

“It is a relief to read the same things I felt ten years ago and to know that I could try them, that they are not wrong.”

As these mothers write, the silence-taboo, the one that Sean Hanish set out to break with Return to Zero , is a sworn enemy of mourning . Indifferent and repressive silence prevents the tiring and long process of healing . Healing is an essential condition to go through grief without too many bruises and aspire to a new life full of meaning, avoiding the traps of complicated grief. In Italy, the cradle of literature and the arts, a suitable word is missing to properly translate healing . A whole series of words related to perinatal bereavement are also missing: a suitable word is missing to define the state of parent who loses a child , a suitable word is missing to describe the child who is born already dead , a word is missing that describes mourning as a long and dynamic process , worthy of attention and respect. A culture that doesn’t have the words to say it is a culture that prefers to feed a taboo to the detriment of people. The taboo is fueled by the false belief that to overcome mourning one must forget the mourning, the loved one, what has been lost and look only and inexorably ahead. If I take away the words to say it, if I ignore the tens of thousands of experiences of parents who tell how important it was for them to talk, be heard, share, if I avoid reading all the popular and technical books on perinatal bereavement existing in the rest of the world , if I ignore the topic in the media by not listening to what parents have to say about how it is possible and healthy to relate to bereaved people, then I can delude myself that the problem does not exist. Despite the numerous achievements from 2006 to today, despite the increasingly dense network of parents, family members, friends, health workers who have decided to look beyond silence and find the words and ways to stay close to bereaved parents, culture Italian general is still reluctant to consider the role of society and the family in mourning. Mourning remains an uncomfortable topic, unless it can be spectacularized and taken to extremes by the media, it remains the subject of taboos and discrimination, even in the choices of television schedules and publishing houses. There are few publishers and television directors who have a broad enough gaze to understand that mourning, as part of life, deserves to find a space within the culture of a people increasingly in difficulty with the words and gestures of everyday life. If only you had come to the RIFF in March, you would have seen with your own eyes the cathartic and educational power of Return to Zero :

‘You may think you know what to expect from Return to Zero. You probably think it’s a couple of hours of sad movie about sad topics. But you are wrong. I am constantly explaining that this is a well-written and beautifully crafted film, despite the subject matter. It’s a film about relationships and humanity. And it also happens that its subject matter makes it a film that can spark conversations, change lives and heal hearts.
Carrie Fisher Pascual Executive Producer, STILL Project

Failure to transmit Return to Zero in Italy, on the day of the world premiere is a missed opportunity, not so much for bereaved parents, who can count on the strength of sharing promoted by CiaoLapo , and who will see it anyway when we distribute it at our expense, but for our general culture. The umpteenth act of civilization that slips into a taboo, the umpteenth confirmation that in Italy ” whoever is silent is silent “.

You may also like

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.