This page is dedicated to all the Water Babies, the embryos, the fetuses, that were never brought into this life. This page is for the babies who were here, but for only a little while; long enough to love them completely and to leave a small, broken place where they lived.
In Japan, Jizo is used in a ceremony to help bereaved parents of “Water Babies” — Mizu (water), ko (child). These are the souls that were never brought into this life or who left before they could live their lives. There are temples all over Japan where ceremonies are held for the parents who could not conceive, who had abortions, miscarriages and whose children did not live long after being born. Jizo is beloved as the protector of all children — and in the hearts of these grieving parents, Jizo brings a special kind of comfort.
If you wish to leave a message to your baby on this page, you may feel free to do so. There are guest registries at every temple where parents leave messages for their unborn children. We don’t have this in the West and the lack of a place in which to grieve leaves a hole in our society that cries to be filled.
Some of the messages left at Shinjuin Temple read, “I am so sorry you came too early…”, “Please forgive your foolish father…” “We are sorry you could not stay…” “We are sorry we had to let you go…”
While the emotional issues of loss are very different in each scenario, whether it was a loss by choice, necessity, because of genetic defect, spontaneous miscarriage, stillbirth, crib death… let us honor that grief is grief. No two people can compare their suffering, nor do they need to. We can never know how someone else feels about their loss, however they came by it.
There are many excellent resources for grief. My favorite is The Grief Recovery Institute. The link will guide you to a free e-book and other resources that I have found helpful – both for myself and countless others. In keeping with good practices for people who are grieving, I ask that no advice be given on this page, no matter how well-intentioned. We who work with grief have found that there is a universal impulse to tell grieving people any number of things to help them with their pain. For our Jizo-oriented purpose, the only appropriate response to someone’s grief is, “I am so sorry for your loss.”
We often under-estimate the impact of a loss, especially if and when happy circumstances eventually arrive. Still, I have known so many people who did not have a place to take their grief because they were ashamed of their abortion, their infertility, their guilt at not being grateful for the healthy children they did manage to have in spite of repeated miscarriages or abortions. Grief is grief. Let us allow for all kinds of loss to be valid, equal and deserving of a place to find the safety of the Jizo Bodhisattva and his protection of children.