Solace for a child that has not lived


Devika Bhat wrote an incredibly moving article in The Guardian a few days ago about dealing with the loss of her baby daughter in pregnancy. You can read it here.

As she wrote, I almost came unstuck when confronted with the task of choosing a reading: there is no established narrative around grieving for a child that had not yet lived and, it turns out, that is reflected in literature too.’

She’s right of course. As we know only too well, if death is a taboo subject for most people, the death of a baby is even more so, and other than Sands, the stillbirth and neonatal death charity, there are few places for grieving parents to turn.

Devika’s article prompted me to write to my colleagues at Celebrate People to ask what readings or poems they knew for this situation and in moments, I had a flood of suggestions, so I shared some of them in a letter, which The Guardian kindly published the next day.


You can read some of them if you click through to the letter, but I thought this one was particularly beautiful. It’s called ‘When the Heart’, and it was written by the Australian poet Michael Leunig.

WHEN THE HEART

When the heart
Is cut or cracked or broken,
Do not clutch it;
Let the wound lie open.
Let the wind
From the good old sea blow in
To bathe the wound with salt,
And let it sting.
Let a stray dog lick it,
Let a bird lean in the hole and sing
A simple song like a tiny bell,
And let it ring.

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