Whispers of those who were conceived but not born

A female client comes into my clinic and says:

“…for many years I have had an issue with this.”

“what is ‘this’ that you have an issue with?” I ask.

She looks at me, searching for words, I see the struggle in her eyes, so I say ” how about you chose something to represent you and something to represent ‘this’?”

She selects two representations (pieces of felt) and places them one next to the other. We stand together, looking at them in silence. After a while she says:

“They look like brother and sister.”

“What happened to the one before you?” I ask.

She sobs, silently. After a while she says, “he died at birth, I was born 10 months later. Nobody talks about this in my family, I bare this on my own, secretly throughout my life”. Then she goes on to talk about how ‘this’ brother affected her childhood, her relationships and her parenthood.

“I am afraid for my child.” She says.

“please add a representation for him.”

She places her son’s representation next to her dead brother.

“of course you are afraid for him” I reply, “he is identified with his dead uncle. please add representations for your parents and their grief.”

We then proceed to a process where the grief of her parents moves away from her to where it belongs, and her son faces her brother, his ‘uncle’ and after a while, slowly, moves away allowing her to be with the loss and the deep connection she has to “the one that came before her”.

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A therapist brings an issue to a supervision group. Her clients are two teenaged girls who suffer from severe Anorexia.

“Any other siblings?” I ask

“No” she replies.

“How come?”

“The mother could not get pregnant.”

“So, how did these two sisters come to be?” I ask

“They are twins that survived IVF.” She replies.

“How many did not survive?”

“All together, I think they were eight not including the twins.”

I ask her to select participants from the group, to represent the ones who did not survive, the ones that did and for the parents.

Once all representatives where in place, it became clear that all the twins wanted was to join the ones who did not survive, their ‘brothers and sisters’. The parents’ representatives did not allow them; for them it was a frightening idea. After some process the parents let go and the twins joined their siblings, soon they were all hugging and crying like brothers and sisters who were taken apart by a bigger force. Once the pain subsided, they looked at each other with relief and even with joy. Then after a while the surviving twins were ready to go back to their parents, saying “now we can live.”

In Family Constellations Therapy we find, time after time, that those who were conceived but did not survive have an effect, a very deep effect on the living, whether they know it or not.

Their ‘whispers’ are heard continuously. It is only once they are acknowledged, given a place and ‘brought back’ into consciousness, into the family and into their parents’ heart, that they do not have to ‘whisper’ any more. It is then that the living do not have to bare their loss or to be entangled with their destiny. They become benevolent figures who complete a whole that was a miss.

There are different reasons and circumstances that bring those who were conceived to be silenced, forgotten, aborted, abandoned, rejected and such like. These are circumstances of life. Each circumstance has its own story: the memory is too painful, the mother too young, the wrong timing, health reasons, financial reasons, not surviving the pregnancy for unknown reasons, too many embryos, a miscarriage of a twin, (sometimes not known) and many more.

In a Family Constellations process we treat all these circumstances as ‘circumstances of life’. Things happen, sometimes with choice other times without. Most families have these stories in one generation or another and history is full of them.

When trying to come to terms with any of these and wanting to bring healing to the living, it is important to process and move beyond guilt, blame, shame, pain and systems of belief.

Our aim is not to make a decision if this was right or wrong. Giving these circumstances a judgmental verdict of good or bad, right or wrong, will not allow a healing process to occur.

The aim is therefore, to see the effects and consequences of these circumstances on those who are alive, and bring healing for the benefit of the future.

So what are these ‘whispers’, these echoes of the forgotten, these ongoing ripples of an event that may have occurred long past? They are the effects and outcomes of these stories.

They manifest in many ways: Difficulties in becoming pregnant again, difficulties in giving birth, health issues for the parents and/or for the children, especially those who were born immediately after, Difficulties in relationships for the parents and difficulties in relationships for the children, and sometimes for the grand and great grandchildren too.

In some traditions, women have created rituals that acknowledge the ones who did not survive the pregnancy or that died close to the time of their births. They know instinctually the deep wish of most leaving beings – the wish to belong, to be part of.  All those who have been conceived – belong, they are members of the family system. And so, whatever circumstance it was that brought their life and potential to an early end, they still belong, they have a place that is connected to the family.

When working with Family Constellations Therapy we seek to heel the pain and the loss in order that the living do not have to be burdened. We have a special way, that is both simple and profound. We give them a place; we help mothers to reconnect in a loving way to the lost ones whatever the circumstances were. We help parents to connect to each other in their loss of the conceived one, we help children disentangle from the loss of their parents, and reconnect to their lost ‘siblings’ – they feel like brothers and sisters. We aim to bring all those who belong – back together again.

Yishai Gaster – May 2016