Narratives of Sorrow and Dignity

Narratives of Sorrow and Dignity: Japanese Women, Pregnancy Loss, and Modern Rituals of Grieving, by Bardwell L. Smith


narrativesBardwell L. Smith offers a fresh perspective on mizuko kuyō, the Japanese ceremony performed to bring solace to those who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth, or abortion. Showing how old and new forms of myth, symbol, doctrine, praxis, and organization combine and overlap in contemporary mizuko kuyō, Smith provides critical insight from many angles: the sociology of the family, the power of the medical profession, the economics of temples, the import of ancestral connections, the need for healing in both private and communal ways and, perhaps above all, the place of women in modern Japanese religion.

At the heart of Smith’s research is the issue of how human beings experience the death of a life that has been and remains precious to them. While universal, these losses are also personal and unique. The role of society in helping people to heal from these experiences varies widely and has changed enormously in recent decades. In examples of grieving for these kinds of losses one finds narratives not only of deep sorrow but of remarkable dignity.


  • Offers new perspective on Japanese grieving rituals after miscarriage, stillbirth, or abortion
  • Case study of the tension between doctrinal and devotional expressions in Japanese Buddhism

Product Details

416 Pages | 16 illus.; 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches; ISBN: 9780199942152

About the Author

Bardwell L. Smith is John W. Nason Professor of Asian Studies (Emeritus), Carleton College