Mary Shelley reading group – bibliotherapy in perinatal bereavement

by Claudia Ravaldi
Libro aperto da cui escono farfalle

Our perinatal bereavement bibliotherapy project turns one year old and becomes a permanent project of our association.

Participating is very simple: the group is free for CiaoLapo members and members in good standing.

“Reading is a relationship with ourselves and not only with the book,

With our inner world through the world the book opens to us.”

Italo Calvino

When my son was born after he died, I felt like I was catapulted into another dimension: our future ripped to shreds, we hurled, in the space of a second, into a parallel dimension, completely lost. They were not helpful, as I wrote in the book Little Princes: going through perinatal grief about the early days of perinatal bereavement, the people who rushed to tell us that “these things are rare, they almost never happen” and that “more children would come along” “to stop thinking about it, that that was it now”: the transition from expectation to loss had been so lacerating that it was impossible for us to simply resume our life, the one before, as if nothing had happened. We needed to understand, we needed to share, we needed to not feel like we were the only ones in the world grappling with a child who first dies and then is born.

Seeking information was the first step in measuring ourselves against our new life (and trying to take back at least a piece of our old one, I confess).

In 2006 it was very difficult to find articles or books on perinatal mourning in Italian, because perinatal mourning was still a huge taboo and the topic was not addressed, by anyone or at any time. In addition, there were not yet social (hi, I’m Wilma, and I’m writing to you from prehistory), which in the 1910s helped spread a lot of information about perinatal grief on both facebook and instagram. In 2006, however, it seemed that no babies died in utero, that our feeling was ours alone, and that no one had felt the need to write about this topic.

I needed to seek myself, reflect myself, and maybe partly find myself in the words of other women, other couples with our experience. It seemed impossible that no one had written about an issue that affects five million women around the world every year. And so I started looking in the two languages I know, Italian and English, for anything that had been written about perinatal grief and grieving. After a few months, tired of reading books in English and not finding anything in Italian, I thought of writing with CiaoLapo the books that were missing: thus was born an important collaboration with Giovanni Avesani, publisher of Ipertesto edizioni and later of Officina Grafica Editoriale, publisher of Your cradle is my heart, the first autobiographical book on perinatal grieving published in Italy, and promoter of the literary contest “The words of love: stories of motherhood between heaven and earth.” now in its fifth year (visit here). The growing awareness around perinatal grief, in Italy and in the rest of the world, has made it possible to make this topic tellable, writable and shareable, no longer a taboo, no longer a niche topic: other publishers have begun to publish short stories or novels that deal with this complex and multifaceted issue, that give voice to the different types of mourning, to the difficulties and resources that protagonists and protagonists are called upon to face after the loss, to the pitfalls and ambivalences involved, living in the parallel dimension.

This year we will read five books: a classic, a picture book, an essay and two novels and discuss them together in our group meetings.

To participate, you only need to be a parent member: you can sign up here.

Time to read, like time to love, dilutes time to live


And we, from our parallel dimension, also need to read in order to return to life. And to read books that can do good to our wounded hearts.

I’ll be waiting.

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