Healing heart makes space for mourning miscarriage

The garden will be a space for mourning miscarriage, support service founder Melissa King says. Picture: Diego Fedele/AAP PHOTOS

By Cassandra Morgan, AAP

At a cemetery set among quiet fields, a glittering heart invites visitors to step inside a womb-like garden and reflect.

The miscarriage memorial garden being built at Bunurong Memorial Park in Bangholme is the first of its kind in Australia, Melissa King says.

The idea came from Ms King’s own miscarriage in 2011 that prompted her to establish the Miscarriage Information Support Service, or MISS, to help others dealing with the loss.

“We were really hoping for a third baby and unfortunately it didn’t go to plan,” Ms King said.

“I found it really difficult to find support.

“I had an ultrasound, went to a GP, and also went to a hospital, and I sort of left there with nothing but a broken heart.”

Thirteen years after Ms King’s experience, people are more open to talking about miscarriage and early pregnancy loss. But space to mourn is still lacking, she says.

Under 20 weeks of pregnancy, there is no birth or death certificate and an estimated one in four pregnancies in Australia ends in miscarriage.

For most there is no service or burial, or a place to mark anniversaries and holidays like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, Ms King says.

The MISS founder broached the idea of a dedicated miscarriage and early pregnancy memorial garden in 2020 to the Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust, which owns the Bunurong cemetery.

The trust and MISS are co-designing the garden, which is shaped like a womb and features a two-metre high heart sculpture made with 18 “healing” crystals and gemstones in a broken mirror mosaic.

The garden is slated for launch in early 2025.

“It would definitely be Australia’s first purpose-built (miscarriage memorial garden) – also, that’s available to the public,” Ms King said.

Trust chair Vanda Fortunato says it is committed to helping break the stigma around miscarriage and early pregnancy loss, giving the community a unique and purposeful space.

“It will be a tribute to all who have experienced the heartbreak of miscarriage and a symbol of hope and healing for those who continue to carry this burden,” Dr Fortunato said.

Ms King will talk about the memorial garden project in Melbourne Design Week discussion panel on Saturday.

The miscarriage memorial garden was funded partly by the federal government, which in the May budget announced Australia’s first ever dedicated funding for miscarriage.