By Carrie Schaeffer, Perinatal Bereavement Services Manager
After a pregnancy or infant loss, many parents wrestle with finding ways to honor their baby and keep his or her memory alive. The desire to maintain a connection to the baby is a normal and healthy part of grieving. But, this process looks different for everyone and takes time.
For those who are looking for ways to honor their babies, here are some suggestions:
- Keep the baby’s memory alive at home. Hang photos of the baby if you wish or keep them in an album or memory box that has a special place in your home. Some choose to designate a wall or bookshelf for their baby, others choose to place these reminders throughout their house.
- Save a blanket or stuffed animal as a reminder of your baby and something soft to hold when you are in need of comfort. You may not choose to keep every item that your purchased as you prepared for baby’s arrival but it is healthy to hold on to a few keepsakes. Some parents choose to have a stuffed animal created that weighs the same amount as their baby such as a Molly Bear.
- Keep your baby close. Many parents long to feel their baby’s presence at all times. With this in mind, some have a piece of jewelry created with their baby’s initials or birth stone. Parents who choose to have their baby cremated can have a stone made from the ashes. Other parents choose to memorialize their baby with a tattoo of his or her name or of a symbol that has become a meaningful reminder.
- Use nature and outdoor space to honor your baby. Many parents feel close to their baby when they are outside and, therefore, choose to create outdoor memorials in remembrance. A bird house, a garden stone, windchimes or an outdoor bench, can all serve as peaceful reminders of your baby. Some parents plant trees or bushes in their baby’s honor. Others have named stars or moon craters after their baby.
- Incorporate your baby’s memory into the holidays. Holidays are often a painful time for those grieving a baby’s death. Creating an ornament for the baby, displaying a piece of décor with the baby’s name or symbol or lighting a candle for the baby at special occasions can help families maintain a connection to the baby’s memory.
- Create an annual remembrance ceremony for your baby. Choose a meaningful date such as the baby’s due date or birthday and honor his or her memory by lighting a candle, reading a poem or releasing lanterns into the sky or across a body of water. If no other date feels right, October 15th is the national day of recognition for pregnancy and infant loss.
- Write. Keeping a journal or blogging about your memories and your grief can help you maintain a healthy and meaningful connection with your baby. Some keep these thoughts private and reflect on their words from time to time. Others make their thoughts public through social media and are able to connect with others who may have experienced a similar loss.
- Get involved. Some bereaved parents honor their baby’s memory by getting involved with an advocacy organization such as the March of Dimes or by offering support to their hospital’s NICU or a local charity. Some parents forgo formal advocacy and simply honor their baby through random acts of kindness to strangers.
- Say your baby’s name. Saying your baby’s name out loud keeps their memory alive and lets others know that you want to talk about and celebrate your baby. Say their name to friends and family members. Say it in a prayer or mantra. Write it on a stone as you hike or a seashell as you walk on the beach. Put your baby’s name out into the universe so that their memory lives on forever.