Writer/producer/director Jhene Erwin created The House I Keep, a ten-minute short film about a woman’s struggle to come to terms with the loss of her baby. In 2007, after her second miscarriage, Jhene Erwin began writing poetry, which became the narrative behind the touching film. The House I Keep is currently available for screenings and viewing parties. We were able to ask Jhene some questions, and wanted to share her inspiration.
Q. What inspired you to create the film The House I Keep?
A. After my second miscarriage, I began writing poetry to try to understand what I was feeling. The poetry expressed the tremendous grief, rage, and shame that I silently carried through the day as I performed the mundane tasks of life. This juxtaposition between my internal and external life became the inspiration for the film. I felt locked in my own world and needed to express my intense emotions. In doing so I hoped to connect others who also felt immersed in their grief.
Q. Can you give a brief description of the film?
A. The House I Keep is a story of transformation that centers around one woman who struggles to come to terms with the loss of her baby through miscarriage. A relentless war between her internal and external life has plagued her recovery until she stumbles upon a curious symbol of hope that helps lead her back to peace.
Q. Is Nicole you? Or what parts of Nicole came from your experience?
A. Nicole’s experiences are inspired by my experiences but there came a point in writing the script that the film found its own voice and transcended into a universal story of loss and redemption. I felt what she feels but in most cases the manifestation of my grief was different. I will confess that the scene in the grocery store is pretty true to life…
Q. When will the film be released for everyone to see?
Q. Why was it important to you to create the film?
A. To be honest, early in the process I almost walked away from it. I knew it would be an intense experience. I ran the idea for the film past a few different women. Some were close friends others were in the periphery of my social circle. When they heard what I was up to, their eyes lit up and out came the most amazing stories of loss and survival. I thought if the mere mention of the project could illicit this response the film itself could be very powerful. Many people only needed permission to share their stories. I realized that this short film could provide them that outlet. My hope is that it will bring people together to share their experiences and help them to feel less alone in their grief.
Q. When did you begin writing poetry after your miscarriages?
A. I began writing about six weeks after my second miscarriage. Poetry has always been a way of sorting out my thoughts and emotions. There are times in all our lives when we feel many complex feelings at one time. Metaphors seem to most accurately communicate my inner world. The poetry also led me to discover a repressed memory that became a pivotal moment in both Nicole’s and my recovery.
Q. Was creating The House I Keep your therapy to get through the pain?
A. Yes. It was part of how I mourned my losses, definitely. There did come a point in writing the script when I had get out of the way of the script and let it take on its own life. I hope it will touch more people as a result.
Q. What else helped you through both losses?
A. The best advice I was given was to not to try to ‘get over’ my miscarriages. I haven’t tried to put them behind me. I let the spirit of their short lives walk with me everyday. They are part of me.
Q. What would be your best advice be for others who are experiencing this pain and grief?
A. Talk. Reach out to those around you but also carve out specific time to mark the loss privately. A simple gesture like planting a tree or putting a pen to paper can help enormously. Schedule this time in advance so that you know you will allow yourself the time that you need to grieve.
Q. Does your child know about both losses? If so, how did you talk about them?
A. My daughter was too young to understand. I do plan to open a dialogue with her when she is older. The film will be a way to breach the subject… particularly because she is in it!
Q. How will you honor your angels on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day?
A. My family is facing another serious challenge right now. I learned from my miscarriages that I was capable of more strength than I had previously known. They taught me about grace. I will feel grateful for those lessons on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day in particular.
We thank Jhene for answering our questions, sharing her journey, and for making a film that is sure to touch the hearts of families who have experienced baby loss.