Creating a Lasting Legacy After Your Baby’s Death
By: Rose Carlson
Normally, when a loved one dies, you have much to remember the person by: Photos, cards, clothing and other possessions. These precious items, along with your memories, comfort you and keep your loved one’s memory alive. However, when a baby dies, there may be few (or no) tangible reminders you can hold onto. Even if you spent time with and were given keepsakes and photos at the time of your loss, you may now be wondering how you will go on and continue to live your life in a way that ensures your baby’s life means something. This can be especially true if your loss was early in the pregnancy or if you received few mementos at the time of your loss. Ongoing memory making can be a valuable way to connect and bond with your beloved baby. It can also be a significant way for your family and other loved ones to show their love for you and your baby.
Finding ways to honor and remember your baby as time goes by can not only be a powerful way to process your intense feelings of loss and grief, but it can be of great comfort and give you special times to look forward to each year. When your baby died, you were deprived of parenting him or her in the ways you dreamed you would, and bereaved parents often say memory making is their way of continuing to parent their child. It does not matter how old your baby was or how far into the pregnancy you were when your loss occurred—finding ways to continue to parent can give you something to do with the intense love you have while enabling you to create a beautiful legacy. This legacy gives the love you will always have for your child a place to go.
There are endless ideas, but following are some ways you can continue to memorialize and honor your baby as the years go by:
Some bereaved parents feel a strong connection to certain symbols or objects that remind them of their baby. Collecting things like angels, butterflies, birds, hearts, anchors, etcetera can be a way for you and others to commemorate your baby.
Music can be powerful, healing and help one deal with emotions in ways that are difficult to express with words. If you find solace in music, you may find great comfort in creating a playlist of songs that remind you of your pregnancy, the moments spent with your baby and/or songs that have comforted you in your grief journey. Listening to those songs can be a soothing balm to your hurting heart on difficult days.
Wearing memorial jewelry enables you to always feel a physical connection to your baby. The possibilities are endless, whether you want a piece of jewelry with your baby’s birthstone or engraved foot or hand prints. Some companies make jewelry from ashes and flower petals. Jewelry can also be a way to incorporate the symbol or object that reminds you of your baby.
Grieving parents typically love seeing their baby’s name, and there are countless ways to incorporate name into art work and everyday items. You may want to wear a piece of jewelry or hang artwork with your baby’s name in your home, create a personalized license plate or write your baby’s name in the sand or other spot when you go on vacation.
Holidays, birthdays and other special occasions can be the perfect times to do something in honor of your baby; finding ways to do so can make these days less painful. Purchase a holiday ornament each year, donate to an organization that is meaningful to your family in your baby’s honor, release balloons with notes to your baby attached, bake a special cake, or go on a family outing. Invite others to participate if that feels right to you. Collect something that reminds you of your baby when you go on vacations; if you have other children, encourage them to do the same. Take photos and keep an ongoing album.
For those who enjoy being outdoors, gardening might be relaxing and comforting. Planning and creating a garden, no matter how small, can give you something concrete to focus on while doing the manual work is a good physical outlet that grieving people frequently need. It is a project that can involve the entire family, and children especially enjoy picking out flowers, plants and other items for a garden. If you do not have enough space for a garden, some parks allow you to plant a tree in memory of a loved one.
Custom items made from clothing and blankets
Quilts made from walk t-shirts and bears made from clothing and other items are unique ways to preserve those items rather than packing them away.
Finding something worthwhile and personal to do for others in memory of your baby is a way to share the deep love you have for him or her in a positive, healing way. Whether you volunteer, perform Random Acts of Kindness, donate memory boxes, books or other items, you provide joy, hope and healing to those you share with. Best of all, you and your family will have life-long cherished memories.
You may feel overwhelmed after reading this, especially if your loss happened very recently. Every family is different, with different hobbies, plans for the future and dreams for their baby, and I hope you can find something in the above ideas that resonates in an exquisite way with you and your family. The things you do to honor, remember and celebrate your baby may become some of your family’s most treasured keepsakes and traditions.
What are some ways you have continued to parent and honor your baby?
About Rose Carlson
Rose is the Program Director at Share Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support. She came to Share in 2002 as a volunteer and eventually joined the staff in 2004. She has a BS in Psychology with a minor in Sociology and her personal experience as a bereaved parent brings an invaluable perspective to her work. Rose does much of the research for Share materials and has published articles in several professional journals throughout the country.