Taylor Swift fans have been abuzz with excitement following the release of the singer’s 10th studio album Midnights. Although the album was released (fittingly) at 12am in the US, the singer dropped seven bonus tracks on Friday morning at 3am, making a deluxe 20-song version.
As is the case with all new music from Swift, each song has resonated with different listeners in various ways. But one poignant bonus track has struck a chord with a certain group of people ― those who have experienced pregnancy loss. “Bigger Than The Whole Sky” is a heart-wrenching song about grieving someone gone too soon.
While Swift hasn’t shared whether the track is about a breakup, death or something else, the lyrics spoke deeply to those who’ve had a miscarriage. Countless listeners shared their experiences with loss and reactions to the song on Twitter.
“When I listened to the song for the first time, I cried more than I’ve cried in a long time. It pushed at a pain I had forgotten I still carried with me,” Rebecca Reid, a UK-based writer who had a miscarriage in 2019, told HuffPost.
“It stopped me in my tracks ― I stopped and literally said out loud, this is about a miscarriage,” she adds. “The lyrics about never getting to know someone, about the shortness of the time and the enormity of the impact, about how you’ll always wonder what could have been.”
Indeed, many listeners have pointed to specific lyrics that speak to the experience of pregnancy loss, particularly in the chorus:
“Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye / You were bigger than the whole sky /You were more than just a short time / And I’ve got a lot to pine about / I’ve got a lot to live without / I’m never gonna meet / What could’ve been, would’ve been / What should’ve been you / What could’ve been, would’ve been you.”
“I can see how people interpret lyrics as pregnancy loss,” says Dr Jessica Gold, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “The chorus especially seems to imply a lost opportunity to know someone and a lot of grief and loss surrounding it, as well as questioning why it happened. These are common feelings and thought processes after pregnancy loss.”
For pop culture commentator and Be There in Five podcast host Kate Kennedy, the song expresses how seismic her ectopic pregnancy experience felt.
“It beautifully captures a unique type of grief – the kind where you love something so much you’ve never met and wonder how it can be so devastating to lose something you never had,” she explains. “It’s hard to explain how profound a loss can be when your awareness of its existence only lasted a short time.”
Kennedy recalled well-meaning people attempting to comfort her by saying things like “at least you found out early” or “how long did you know you were pregnant?”
“You often wonder if they’re asking as a means to gauge if your emotional response is proportionate to the length of your experience,” she says. “But it’s not that simple, something that’s a part of you for any amount of time can be profoundly impactful in ways we struggle to quantify, bigger than the whole sky.
Other lyrics in the song suggest an attempt to make sense of a senseless and random loss.
“Did some bird flap its wings ovеr in Asia? / Did some force take you bеcause I didn’t pray?”
“I think that song kind of touches on the otherworldliness of the loss of a pregnancy,” says Danna Bodenheimer, a licensed clinical social worker and founder of the Walnut Psychotherapy Therapy Center in Philadelphia. “What she does is what a lot of people do with trauma – try to make meaning of it. ‘What if I had done one thing differently – could everything have been different?’ There are all these life-long questions many women and their partners who’ve experienced this kind of loss live with, and she puts it out there to music in a way that captures the simplicity and complexity all at once.”
Swift’s music often reflects her life experiences, though she’s also written many songs about her loved ones’ journeys or strangers’ stories. In the case of “Bigger Than The Whole Sky,” some have speculated it might be inspired by her longtime friend Claire Winter Kislinger’s pregnancy loss earlier this year.
Whether or not that is the case, the lyrics are ambiguous enough to allow many fans to hear their own struggles and feel less alone.
“The beauty of music is no matter the intended message of the artist, we all pull from our own stories to fill songs with meaning,” says Ben Behnen, a psychotherapist in Stillwater, Minnesota. “For me, the overall theme of loss, and particularly unexpected loss or a loss that was too soon, is what I heard and felt.”
Brit Barkholtz, another Minnesota-based clinical therapist specializing in trauma, believes the track offers a universal message about grief.
“I see the song as permission to grieve out loud,” she says. “While grief can be a private thing as a matter of preference, often grief is a private thing because shame and fear and guilt and all sorts of other things convince us we need to hide that grief or soften its edges to be more palatable. And I see this song as putting it out there with all its complexity and messiness and saying, ‘it’s OK to feel this way and to be open about it.’”
What to know if ‘Bigger Than The Whole Sky’ resonates with your pregnancy loss
It’s hard to overstate the significance of such a popular artist releasing a song that resonates with the pregnancy loss community.
“We don’t talk about these experiences enough and how common they are,” Gold explains. “Having a song that resonates with people, the large amounts of people, who have experienced pregnancy loss helps them feel less alone, especially in their emotional reactions and thought processes. There is value in normalising the experience and breaking the silence about it because far too often these experiences can feel like they are not supposed to be shared or something to keep silent.”
She emphasises the importance of people understanding that miscarriages happen, that they aren’t alone, and they are allowed to grieve the loss, even if it happened early in their pregnancy.
“Pregnancy loss is so lonely,” Reid says. “This song is like a hand coming out from the ether and holding you, telling you they’ve been there too. I’ve always said that whatever you’re going through, Taylor has a song for you. The only time that wasn’t true was when I lost my baby in 2019. And now there is.”
“There is an expression that people who’ve miscarried are in the worst club with the best members,” she adds. “And now that club has an anthem.”
Those in mourning often feel a profound yearning for connection with others, even people they don’t know.
“There may not be answers to what you’re going through, but often what we need more than answers is comfort and hope,” Behnen says. “And sometimes hearing a song on the radio or in your playlist that speaks dearly to you is the exact comfort and hope you need.”
Beyond finding comfort in music, there are other helpful ways to cope with pregnancy loss. Gold encouraged people in this situation to talk about it.
“It is OK to feel anything you are feeling, on whatever timeline you feel it,” she said. “There is no right way to grieve or to experience loss. Try not to judge yourself for what you feel or how you are feeling; just allow yourself to be.”
Although a miscarriage can feel isolating, resist the urge to go through the motions all by yourself.
“If you have friends or family that you trust and feel safe with, bring them in on how you are feeling,” Behnen advises. “Set up an appointment with a therapist. Join a support group. When we’re hurting, we need people around us to hear us and hold us. Your feelings matter.”
He recommended tuning out those who try to tell you how to feel or question what you’re experiencing. Give yourself plenty of space and time to process difficult emotions.
“Sometimes grief can become unbearable, and in that case, it’s OK and good for you to allow yourself to distract from it,” Behnen explains. “But eventually, it’s also good to gently come back to these feelings and listen to them.”
Although grieving a miscarriage can feel different from mourning other types of losses, it’s still a reflection of the deep love and hopes an expectant parent felt for the child they never met.
“Letting yourself feel the pain of loss is also honouring the great love that you have had,” Behnen says. “It is a way of pulling the broken pieces of your heart back together again. The cracks will always be there, a reminder that you have loved greatly.”