All in one box

by Claudia Ravaldi
CiaoLapo Onlus
CiaoLapo Onlus

What is the Memory Box? Why has CiaoLapo studied it, adapted it to the Italian cultural context and promoted its use since 2008?

What is it for, to whom and why? How come we shouldn’t be afraid of it?

All this in the words of Dr. Cecilia Gioia, Psychotherapist and collaborator of CiaoLapo Onlus

It is difficult for me to use writing to collect all the emotions felt when my hands caress that box, assemble it, touching every little content.

Each time it is different, painful, immense and scratches the heart.

I am a poliabortive mother, the doctors defined me that way and getting back into this claustrophobic labeling space was difficult.

In reality I feel more comfortable as a mother from heaven of three little angels and of earth, of two little storms.

And I work as a psychotherapist, I support mothers and fathers from heaven and earth at the OU of Obstetrics and Gynecology of the S. Cuore Nursing Home and in my private practice.

I support, accompany, listen and assist and in silence, I try to stay in that immense void that echoes to the sound of those words “I’m sorry, there is no heartbeat”.

Thanks to CiaoLapo I learned to pause in my voids to consciously welcome the astonished gazes of a mother and a father when hearing words so full of meanings.

Thanks to CiaoLapo I try, every time, to keep the right distance when I approach bereaved parents and I have learned to welcome silence.

Since I have been present in the structure, I have activated a welcome protocol at the time of diagnosis, accompaniment and presence in the delivery room of the mothers and fathers of heaven who have joined the ward. And the CiaoLapo memory box, delivered upon discharge, allowed all the parents to whom it was donated to make room for their child’s memories. Every family that I have accompanied has left indelible marks in me, teaching us operators how immense love for a child is.

I am of the opinion that small steps for small and lasting changes is the best choice to fill, every day, the lack of culture on perinatal bereavement. The operator who interacts with the parents from the moment of diagnosis, often has not dealt with the emotions that the death of a child can evoke. And the innumerable resistances that I encounter, working as a team, tell about raw emotions that take over, leaving the operator detached and often, scarcely welcoming. It becomes increasingly necessary for us operators to learn to “stay” in mourning, to provide an empathic space, aware and respectful of the emotions and needs of a family of heaven.

“I’m sorry, there is no heartbeat” is a gash in the soul, where a thousand questions try to fill a wait full of whys, where it is easy to get lost in a harrowing search for that WE that struggles to re-emerge through the shock of first days.

Every grieving parent, crossing the threshold of the hospital to go home, knows that those empty arms will mark a painful and suffocating memory. Only after a few weeks will it begin to realize everything, and it is exactly at this moment that the need to know and remember as much as possible about one’s child becomes fundamental. The memory box is a box used to keep important memories, a physical and mental space useful for remembering and honoring the memory of precious lives. A small but immense gesture that tells the brief but eternal passage of our children. A sign of respect to start collecting memories therapeutically. Each donated memory box, thanks to CiaoLapo, is actually never an empty box. Its interior contains not only gifts, created by knowing hearts and hands, but all the stories of children who flew to heaven too soon and their amazing parents.

This is why every time I give a CiaoLapo memory box, my hands get lost on its surface, capturing, through touch, vibrations of respect, memories and “presence”.

Because that’s how I learned to “mourn”, one step back, always.

Cecilia Gioia, mother of heaven and earth


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