By: Julie Linck
Memories are what exist after a loved one dies. For our precious babies, this is what we grieve the most. We are robbed of the opportunity to create memories and experiences together with our child. So how can we find ways to hold onto this sweet life that was taken much too soon? Keepsakes can bring a sense of comfort and a provide a small way to hold onto the children we have lost.
Pictures are Priceless
Although it’s been 17 years, I can recall almost every detail of my baby, Mia, after she suddenly passed away. What helps me to recall those details are the pictures that were taken shortly afterwards. A nurse came in and brought a small disposable camera for us to take pictures, but I let the camera sit. Finally, my sister-in-law, a NICU nurse, picked up the camera and started taking pictures. I remember her saying, “you’ll want these later.” Was she ever right. These pictures have become my most prized possessions. They are a part of Mia’s story. With the photography today, there are so many beautiful ways to capture your baby and family together. You may not want to view the pictures right away, but you will be ready for them some day. A framed picture on display is a forever reminder of how your baby is a part of your family. Hospitals have resources to help you find a photographer if you are not able. The hospital will assist with collecting handprints, footprints, locks of hair, and swaddling blankets. Don’t be afraid to ask. All these things help tell your baby’s story.
Journal the Journey
At some point when you’re ready, sit down and write a record of your baby’s birth story. First of all, it is actually a very healing outlet during the grieving process. You can then take your story and pair it with the pictures, prints, certificates and other mementos and create a scrapbook. This is a place to hold your baby’s story and share it easily with friends or family. Digital scrapbooks are popular and another way to easily compose a book of your baby’s life. In my scrapbook, my husband and I each wrote a letter to Mia about our thoughts and feelings as a way to help us walk through our grief journey.
A Chest Full of Hope
You will find that many family and friends want to support you while you grieve. You may acquire plethora of angels, books and other small to items to remember your baby. While all these things are meaningful and help provide healing, it can be overwhelming to display them. A hope chest or a small box is a lovely way to preserve any keepsakes from your child’s life, including outfits, blankets, and even sympathy cards. I cherish the hope chest that my brother made for us, and from time to time I will go through the treasures I’ve placed in my daughter’s chest.
Charms that Bring Comfort
Most women wear jewelry, so why not wear something to remind you of your baby on a daily basis? It can be something you touch as you find yourself thinking about your child to help ease your mind. Often times, bereaved parents can find it difficult that they don’t have opportunities to talk about their child. A piece of jewelry with your baby’s date or name can perhaps become a conversation starter that will allow you to share your baby with others if you choose. Jewelry isn’t just for women either. Grieving dads can also wear pieces specific to their child. I gave my husband a necklace with a small angel charm for Christmas after we lost our daughter. He never takes it off as it’s his reminder that she is always with him.
When I knew our family was complete, I started a tradition of a family “Birthday Plate”, a way to have our favorite meal as we celebrate our birthdays. Our family went to one of those places where you paint your own pottery. We painted our hands and placed our handprint and birthdates on the plate. In order to incorporate Mia on our plate, I took her handprint and outlined it on clear transparency paper and cut it out as a stencil with an exacto knife. Each year, we make a special cake or treat for Mia’s birthday. There are countless other ways you can create unique keepsakes for you or your family as the years go on. Framed pictures, casts and ornaments are some popular ideas. It’s never too late to design something in your baby’s honor.
Foundations & Fundraisers
Beside physical mementos, there are also other ways to honor your baby’s memory. Many families choose to create a foundation or will participate in a charity event in their child’s name. The physical act of “doing something” is a way to feel like you are parenting your child. Working a charitable event also allows for friends and family to become involved and provide continued support after the loss of the baby. My friend Emily created “Parker’s Army” after her son, Parker Ray passed away from complications of Charge Syndrome. Parker’s Army has helped with many events in the community, including an annual blood drive as a way to give back since Parker needed blood transfusions himself. There are so many great causes to help in memory of a loved one.
Grow a Garden
Parents may choose to plant a tree or place a statuary in the yard or garden. We planted a pink dogwood in the spring after Mia’s passing. We’ve watched it grow as she would’ve here on Earth, and each year when it blooms, we think of her.
There are so many special ways to honor our precious babies. Keepsakes and memory making serve as reminders that our babies lives mattered and were so important to us. Whatever you choose, it will come from a place of love and will be a way to provide a sense of comfort for you and your family.
About Julie Linck
Julie Linck is a wife, mother and elementary teacher who lives in the suburbs of St. Louis, MO. She and her husband, Tony lost their first daughter, Mia in December 2001 after complications from meningitis and a hole in her heart. She enjoys reading, traveling, and family time, including watching her kids compete in sports. Julie went through Share’s Companion Training in 2018 and would like to continue to help others who walk the journey of losing a child.