Shut up: how our society feeds the taboo on perinatal bereavement

by Claudia Ravaldi

What is the use of silencing women affected by perinatal bereavement? To keep this taboo alive, to make them feel isolated, wrong, different. Women affected by abortion and perinatal death are often stigmatized for their bereavement reactions and discrimination when asked NOT to talk about that specific aspect of their life.

One in six women in Italy faces the experience of loss but does not know that she is also, almost always, destined to suffer the consequences of the social stigma and taboo that keeps the reproductive stories of women in check, especially those that do not have a happy ending. .

I thank Lorena, Emilia’s mother, for her constructive reflections.

As we wrote in Lancet in 2016 “smash the taboos around stillbirths”.

We will never stop repeating it and we will continue to break the silence every time one of us is silenced and discriminated against because of her history, in the healthcare facilities, in the workplace, in the media, in society and in the family.

I who saw my daughter, I felt her growing inside me, I who made her listen to music,

and she who had her favorite song …

connect these memories to something bad, just because others are scared of it,

it is something unnatural and deeply unfair.

Talking about death is very difficult, even more so when someone dies who only you have known.

When I perceive fear in the looks, in the words of others, as if talking about a child who is no longer there could infect other mothers, or as if it destabilized the happy and perfect lives of others.

Society would like to hide it, as if it never existed, unrecognized. Never born (and it is no coincidence that these words are used to improperly describe stillborn children. However born and canceled, with a three-letter adverb ed)

The pain is excruciating when you feel it, but when it is not recognized it digs deep into the bones, deep into that little chest where you put your screams, your tears, the thoughts you don’t say aloud, there: where you feel alone.

And you end up feeling even more lonely and violated than that experience of a mother, which yes, you too have had, even if others don’t want to know.

This is how I felt when this Radio called me, of which I will not mention the name, to ask me for an interview on the birth of my company: they said that the interview would go to all of northern Italy, and it could be a great opportunity for those who , like me, he had recently opened his small craft business.

They call me to arrange a day to record this interview, they are very friendly and kind:

she was a woman, a mother.

Let’s jot down a list of topics:

Who I am, what I do, how my business was born and here I stop the interlocutor.

“My business was born following the death of my daughter, it was born for her, she is here, in everything I create for other children,

not talking about it for me is like lying, it’s like canceling ”

The frost …

“Oh I’m sorry, of course, I don’t think it’s a problem, so we’ll talk to you for the interview on Wednesday morning at 10.00”

Not even half an hour goes by and they call me back:

apologizing, they tell me that they were wrong, that my profile was not good because I had an online business and not a physical store and that the area did not cover northern Italy….

Before they had said the exact opposite, I have acquaintances who did the same interview, working online and living in the north …

I felt small, small, I was unable to say anything … I knew that the problem was the topic I was going to deal with.

The death of a little girl.

May it never be that in addition to futile things in life we talk about reality eh!

Not for everyone the road is clear and free from obstacles or holes, sometimes as deep as craters.

Who knows, maybe I could have made that mother who hasn’t had her baby for a few days and feels dying feel understood, or I could have comforted that mother who hasn’t slept for a few days because her baby has just arrived and ‘she would hold tight to herself, telling herself how lucky she is and maybe it would change her day. Or simply I could have given a little strength to that woman who can’t stand her job and doesn’t have the courage to leave it …

We only celebrate the beautiful,

making people who have difficulties feel more and more frustrated.

Weakness, the suffering of women, is always something not to be proud of in the eyes of society.

If you have a baby you don’t have to complain, you have to be strong!

If you don’t have it and you want it, you don’t have to complain, you have to be strong!

If your baby is dead, you don’t have to say it because you will scare moms! Be strong!

Death is scary and I felt like I should be ashamed of something!


I had a pregnancy, I had a labor, a birth, a post-partum like all mothers,

but with emptiness in the heart.

My little girl was as wonderful as your children,

and she gave me the strength to do in life what I wanted to do for a long time.

This is what he left me.

It is not “the positive side”, because there is nothing positive in all this, but it is a teaching.

And I would like to pass it on as a witness to those in my situation.

To those who pass from chaos, to self-destruction, to despair, to resignation, to acceptance and then again to despair …

of those who, like me, are lost but want to find themselves again.

She taught me not to take anything for granted, not to waste time on something that doesn’t give space,

but to make room,

to try to be happy as much as I can.

And to understand the pain of others,

not to leave it in a corner,

to hug him,

because under that pain, all around,

there is so much love.

Let’s not be ashamed of our stories,

it’s our suitcase,

our path,

and there,

sitting by the roadside,

there are our children.

Let’s tell each other, while we can,

as long as we have a voice,

and if others don’t like it,

we will scream louder,

in the name of all those children, live

only in our soul.


always and forever the mother of Emilia

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