of loving support for bereaved parents
Rituals/Memorializing Our Precious Babies
By Maribeth Doerr
For many bereaved parents, keepsakes and mementos of their babies are very special. Memories help us grieve in a positive way, but with pregnancy/infant loss, there are very few memories. If you weren't able to have keepsakes of your baby(ies), there are many other ways you can memorialize your child. No one can take your pain away, but by creating rituals and memorializing your baby, you will find a warm peace inside by knowing that your baby will always have a special place within in your life. Here are some ideas . . .
However you choose (or not choose) to memorialize your baby, it should feel special, comfortable, and meaningful. One of the objectives of memorializing your baby is to promote healing, and sometimes we feel pressured by family, friends, and even support groups to do things that do not feel comfortable to us (i.e. naming your baby, having a funeral, celebrating Christmas because your baby "would have wanted you to"). If it doesn't feel appropriate to you to do these things, please don't do them to pacify others. It doesn't mean you didn't love your baby. Memorializing is an individual expression; it is something done to assist you in finding peace within. Hopefully some of these suggestions will aid you in that goal.
Ideas from our members . . .
- Plant a tree or rose for your baby. Siblings can participate in nurturing and seeing the fruits of their labors. If you live in an apartment, you can plant a mini rose in a clay pot with very satisfying results.
- Donate toys, books, bibles, or money in your baby's name to local children's hospitals, children's libraries, favorite charities or schools. (i.e. I donated books to the school library in my son's name when and where he would have started kindergarten.) Make a memorial donation to a support group.
- While at the cemetery, place flowers on bare children's graves. Parents may have moved away and can't care for the markers.
- If you didn't bury your baby or if you had a miscarriage, you may still place a headstone at the cemetery. Depending on the cemetery, you need not bury a child to have a marker placed (called a memorial marker). If you have a family plot or crypt, your baby's marker can be located with other family members. If you don't have a plot or crypt, you can purchase one. You can bury ashes or even something meaningful such as a picture, toy, letter, etc. If calling a cemetery feels uncomfortable to you, they are very willing to work with you through the mail or e-mail, or you might try contacting the headstone manufacturer for assistance. A friend or relative may wish to help with the details.
- Have a portrait done of your baby. Many artists can do an "artist's conception" based on other family photos if you don't have a picture of your child. If you have pictures but are unhappy with the quality or feel they may be frightening for others to look at, an artist may be able to do a sketch or painting from your photos that is more pleasing.
- Write letters or poems to your baby in a journal. Make an album or box for keepsakes such as pictures, hospital bracelets and records, footprints, hand prints, sympathy cards, and mementos of your pregnancy. Include special items you made or purchased for your baby. If you had started quilts or afghans but were unable to complete them before your baby died, finish them now or ask someone to do them for you.
- Stitch a cross-stitch or needlepoint with your child's name and dates. Footprints are a nice pattern.
- Include your baby's birthstone in a mother's ring or have a special locket or jewelry made symbolizing your special child.
- On your baby's birth/death date: send a flower arrangement or booties to the hospital to be given to the next mom experiencing a loss; light a candle; bake a cake or cupcakes and share them with other bereaved parents. Many parents like to release helium balloons (the biodegradable kind that doesn't harm wildlife). Place a pinwheel in the grown to blow in the wind, toss a basket of flowers into a lake, river or ocean; tie ribbons to a tree; scatter wildflower seeds in a meadow.
- Have a special Christmas ornament or stocking made for your special baby to hang on the tree or fireplace.
- Plan a memorial service. It can be held anytime, even years after a death. Many encourage naming your baby. Again this is a personal decision. It can also be done anytime if you should later change your mind.
- Dylan Inskip was born December 7, 1991 and died 5 days later from a heart defect after two unsuccessful surgeries. His parents set up a memorial fund for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the hospital in which Dylan was born. In August 1992, due to the generosity of friends and family along with some grant funds, a neonatal transport unit was purchased. This equipment is a much needed state-of-the-art unit which will safely transport sick babies from outlying communities that need intensive care. Dylan's mom writes, "What a wonderful feeling this gave us! The dedication was very emotional as the pain was still very raw but the joy at the thought of the many little ones that our family and friends have a part in helping!"
© 1992-2001 Maribeth Wilder Doerr. All Rights Reserved.