More than two years after Saanich mother Lindsay McCray miscarried her middle pregnancy, the traumatic memory still brings tears to her eyes.
"What happened over two days was graphic, powerful and utterly heartbreaking," she said Thursday as fundraising kicked off for the Little Spirits Garden. It's a project called unique in Canada, which she is convinced will offer connection and consolation to other parents with the same aching loss.
Ground has been broken at Royal Oak Burial Park, which provided the site among towering firs where parents or families grieving the loss of miscarried or stillborn children can commemorate them with tiny, personalized "spirit houses." Eventually, these will nestle near a sheltering pavilion, a garden for cremation remains and bronze plaques on stone tablets.
Nearly $300,000 must be raised from three levels of government, local and national organizations and community members so that there is no or minimal cost to parents, advocates say. The burial park has partnered with the Saanich Legacy Foundation to raise the money within the next year.
The burial park has funded design work by Joe Daly for what fundraising chairman Stephen Olson believes has no precedent in Canada. Honouring such losses is among the "last taboos" and he looks to the Little Spirits Garden to provide the recognition for devastation that has long been played down or ignored.
"The need for the project is far greater than most people may be aware," Olson said.
Dr. Konia Trouton of the Vancouver Island Women's Clinic points to 457 stillbirths in B.C. in 2010, along with up to 20 per cent of all pregnancies ending in miscarriage during the first half of gestation.
"In Victoria, it is conservatively estimated that there are at least 450 miscarriages a year," she noted in a statement.
Miscarriage is often termed "nature taking its course" or stigmatized as something to forget, but Jill Davoren, a maternity social worker at Victoria General Hospital, has advocated for such a place for years because the deep pain caused by such losses has been a constant in her career. No matter how early the miscarriage, the hopes and dreams for the child can last forever and the pain remains raw and unresolved, she said.
While older generations grieved silently, today's mothers expect healthy pregnancies and babies, which can make miscarriage or stillbirth all the more devastating.
Oct. 15 is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day, and a candlelight ceremony will be held at 7 p.m. at Royal Oak's Garden Chapel.
To contribute to Little Spirits Garden, go to saanichlegacy.ca or call Paul McKivett of Saanich Legacy Foundation at 250477-3806, or Stephen Olson at 250-658-5621, ext. 103.
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