Beyoncé, the only human to drop a new single and perform it at the Super Bowl a day later, released a new album Saturday that felt both like a seismic cultural event and a searingly intimate diary.
We hear the singer confront her lover’s infidelity on the record “Lemonade,” which, in Beyoncé fashion, includes an accompanying film. We learn about a marriage imploding. We also glimpse a tragedy that often stays between partners: miscarriage.
Beyoncé appears to allude to hers in a spoken word poem on the visual component's "Apathy," presumably directed at Jay Z:
“So what are you gonna say at my funeral now that you’ve killed me? Here lies the body of the love of my life, whose heart I broke without a gun to my head. Here lies the mother of my children both living and dead.”
She’d previously mentioned their loss in the 2013 documentary “Life is But a Dream,” calling it “the saddest thing I’ve ever been through.”
The star, known for fiercely guarding her private life, shocked her fans with the admission. She spoke of subsequently giving birth to her daughter Blue Ivy Carter, now 4.
"The pain and trauma,” Beyoncé said in the 2013 film, “just makes it mean so much more to get an opportunity to bring life into the world.”
Jay Z also references their grief in the 2012 song “Glory,” an ode to their daughter: "Last time the miscarriage was so tragic / We was afraid you'd disappear / But nah baby you magic."
The lyrical journey of "Lemonade" slugs your heart and, of course, entertains. But the social power of the album could transcend its escapism. One of the most recognizable celebrities on the planet is talking about miscarriage, a moment that could help break the stigma around the experience.
Beyoncé and Jay Z aren't the first celebrities to speak publicly about losing a pregnancy. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg captured global headlines last year when he wrote a post about going through three miscarriages with his wife, Priscilla Chan. Céline Dion, Mariah Carey and Courteney Cox have also addressed their miscarriages.
Between 10 and 20 percent of all pregnancies in the United States end in miscarriage, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Cheryl Woods-Giscombé, an associate professor who specializes in mental health at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill’s School of Nursing, said the health event is agonizingly common. But many people don’t talk openly about their experiences. And when they do, they’re often misunderstood.
“People don’t always see miscarriage as a ‘real loss,’” said Woods-Giscombé, who has studied the aftermath of miscarriage. “So women suffer alone in silence. They feel they have to suppress their feelings, which can prolong grief and distress.”
With miscarriage comes intense grief. Parents grieve the loss of a child and the dreams they had for that child. Some have already picked out names. Some have painted the nursery walls.
Women who have miscarried face more anxiety during a pregnancy than women who have not, according to a 2010 study by Woods-Giscombé and her colleagues. This stress does not diminish if the woman who has experienced perinatal loss happens to have healthy children.
Researchers in a 1995 study interviewed women soon after a miscarriage, six months later and a year later. They assessed for anxiety and depression, compared with rates in the broader population. Women who had miscarried, they found, overall exhibited higher levels of psychological distress throughout this timeline. They were more likely to heal, however, with support — which can include formal counseling or friends who listen.
On Monday, "Lemonade" was trending on Facebook and Twitter and had catapulted Jay Z's streaming service Tidal back to the top of the app charts.
“Beyoncé has the image of embodying the fullness of a woman,” Woods-Giscombé said. “She’s celebrated. She’s acclaimed. Her sharing her experience with others can allow and facilitate discourse that can lead to more support.”
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