Experts: Rick Santorum Grief Is Typical, But Taking Body Home, Unusual

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Santorum Ritual in Pregnancy Death Not Usual

Although Lane said he hesitated to hold the lifeless body, which nurses had wrapped in a blanket and cap like a newborn, he eventually cradled Jonathan in his arms and said goodbye.

"I am glad that my love for the dead overcame my fear of him," he writes. "We, like the Santorums, took a photograph of the baby -- lying, as if asleep, in Cati's arms. We have a framed copy in our bedroom. It's beautiful."

The body was then circumcised and buried after a Jewish service.

"Jonathan's death was probably the hardest moment of my life," writes Lane. "But actually touching his body was a source of comfort and the first step in going on with life. Not weird."

Psychologist Diamond, who is co-director of the Center for Reproductive Psychology in San Diego, wrote about loss couples feel, even in the context of embryos early in the infertility treatment process.

But he did admit taking the body from the hospital into the home is unusual, and parents must always be sensitive to how their other children might react.

None of the health professionals ABCNews.com talked to could say if health regulations today would bar a family from taking a dead body from the hospital to their home.

"We recommend taking into account the ages of the other children and their maturity if you are going to expose them [to a corpse]," he said. "Others in the family need to have their own choices also [on] how to handle it."

A fetus at 20 weeks is fully formed.

"All its body parts are there and it looks like a baby," said Diamond.

Babies, like his own twins who were born at 28 weeks, can survive in the third trimester.

"Originally through history, these losses -- miscarriages and stillbirths -- were not regarded as losses, especially the earlier ones," he said. "Through our research we have increased awareness that these are real losses and people become attached to the pregnancy and the baby long before it is born."

Diamond said that 20 years ago, around the time that the Santorums suffered their loss, professionals encouraged their response.

"It was getting to be more in fashion," he said.

"The trend was, rather than ignoring, to help people with their grieving and make it a real loss rather than something stuck in their minds and imagination for years," he said. "Even before that, they allowed families to hold the dead infant or fetus and spend time with them -- as much as they wanted."

A corpse was not often taken home, but might be kept in the refrigerator for "a couple of days," so the family could have access, according to Diamond.

"It was kept in the hospital, but of course you can't do that for too many days," Diamond said. "But there were cases were they basically allowed the family to handle and be with baby and say goodbye."

His best advice to medical professionals is to "be flexible" to a couple's requests and feelings and not to push any agenda on the family. He does recommend naming the baby, if that is desired.

"Make the loss something real they can grieve and have recognition around and not be ashamed or ignore it."

"It's really up the parent," he said. "We shouldn't insist or push too hard. That can be more traumatic."

As for Santorum's own ritual so many years ago, Diamond said, "In this context, it isn't a very big deal. It's not far out of the norm at all…There is nothing pathological about it or particularly alarming. I suppose for people who believe life begins at conception, maybe it's even more understandable."

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