January 10, 2017


After experiencing her own miscarriage, Angela Elson, was desperate for a way to help her through the grief. Then she remembered this special Japanese tradition.

Angela shares her experience in a post on the New York Times.

She explains, “after a visit to a forest on Mount Koya in Japan she saw hundreds of stone Jizo statues lined the wooded paths.

These small figurines dressed in red caps and bibs honor the souls of babies who are never born.

This was a belief we carried for years until the day we held hands on an ultrasound table watching the technician turn off the monitor and tiptoe out of the room. A miscarriage at 10 weeks produces no body, so there would be no funeral. “What do we even do?” I asked the doctor.

She wrote me a prescription for Percocet: “Go home and sleep.”

We went home. I didn’t sleep. I was itchy with sadness. I picked at my cuticles and tore out my hair. I had all this sorrow and no one to give it to, and Brady couldn’t take it off me because his hands were already full of his own mourning. We knew miscarriage was common. But why wasn’t there anything people did when it happened?

“If only there were some kind of tradition…” I said to Brady.

“Like a Jizo?” he replied, recalling that quiet day we’d spent walking hand-in-hand through a Japanese forest of other people’s grief.

It was as if someone had poured calamine lotion all over me. “Exactly like a Jizo.”

What can’t one buy on the internet? Our statue of Jizo arrived a few days later. He was the height of a paperback and made of cement. His eyes were squinted in a mellow smile, hands folded in prayer.

According to Buddhist belief, a baby who is never born can’t go to heaven, having never had the opportunity to accumulate good karma. But Jizo, a sort of patron saint of fetal demise, can smuggle these half-baked souls to paradise in his pockets.

Brady and I grieved the baby in ways that were different but equally sad. One thing we both understood perfectly, though, was Jizo — why we had to search for the right kind of red yarn, how I had to crochet the smallest hat and coat three times to get it right. It was nice for us to have something to do, a project to finish in lieu of the baby I failed to complete. When Jizo was dressed, Brady complimented my handiwork. “Where should we put him? In the yard?”

“Maybe in a few days,” I balked, stationing the statue on our dining room table where I could pat him on the head on my way to the kitchen. I talked to him. Sometimes I kissed him when no one was looking, or I took him with me to the living room to watch TV.

It was crazy to fuss over a statue like I did. But I felt crazy, which could have been from the pregnancy hormones still coursing rudely through my body. Or maybe it was the lack of traditions surrounding miscarriage in the States that gave me nothing to take the edge off my grief. Without a prescribed course for mourning, I didn’t know what else to do besides mother this lump of concrete as if he could actually transfer my love to the afterlife.

After a few days of keeping Jizo in the house, I got to the point where I could put him on the front porch without too much separation anxiety. A few weeks later, Brady planted a garden for him in the backyard, where Jizo now sits and reminds us of the baby we lost — not so often as to make us sad, but often enough so that we don’t forget him entirely.

I’m not sure if this is the correct way to weather a miscarriage, or even the right way to Jizo.

I do know that like those parents haunting Mount Koya, Brady and I will always think of that baby who never was. We’ll leave pieces of our love for him wherever we go, hoping Jizo will deliver them to wherever he is.”

Read Angela’s full post here.

Share your comments below. 


  • What a beautiful way to remember the ones who were never born. I still mourn the one I lost and that was 34 years ago. Was told to go home and just get on with my life. For years I blamed myself for the loss because there was no counselling and I was told to forget about it.


  • There is no right or wrong way – but this is a lovely way for you both to remember.


  • It’s a remembrance for you both as would be grieving parents, and a beautiful tribute. With a stillborn baby, he/she is named and normally a funeral/burial/ cremation etc. I think there is a Birth and a Death Certificate……or should be.


  • I think this is really beautiful. I think having such a tribute would really help with the grieving process.


  • I dont think there is a right or a wrong way. We are all different and we handle things differently and thats ok. We should all be allowed to it our way.


  • I think this is absolutely beautiful. I myself had two miscarriages over twenty years ago, I was totally lost as to what to do, or how to handle it. I eventually did get through it, but I think if I had known about this wonderfully, sensitive and healing tradition it would have been so much easier and gentler than being told to pull myself together and try again, as many people said.


  • It’s beautiful when you can find a symbolic way to express the grieve you otherwise couldn’t express.
    I was “lucky” to get with my first miscarriage the body of the baby as it was a silent miscarriage and had to be removed from the womb. So we could bury the baby in our garden, name it and plant a tree on top of it. With my other miscarriages i didn’t get the body, but we still gave the babies a name and planted a tree, nearby the body of the other one.
    They maybe didn’t catch a single breath on earth, but I still imagine them be up in heaven waiting to be reunited with me the day I die.


  • Reading about how other people deal with grief is educational and incredibly good to know. Everyone needs to grieve and anything that helps with grief is to be embraced. Miscarriage is a terrible time for families.

    • My every sympathy and well wishes to all women everywhere that has ever endured a painful miscarriage – I walk with you and understand. x


  • No matter what you do, you never forget the baby who didn’t make it – even many years after, my tears well up in grief for the one I never knew.


  • I wish I had known when I miscarried 6 years ago, would have been bub’s birthday right before Christmas which is torture but miscarrying right before my birthday nearly destroyed me


  • This seems a bit strange to me. But whatever makes you feel good do it I say


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