I want to start this out by saying that you will never forget the baby you lost. I am proof that 22 years later you still remember, and I have several other examples of people who have suffered their loss for that amount of time or longer that will agree with me. I originally titled this "Ways to Remember Your Baby" but since I am confident that no baby will be forgotten, I changed the word remember to celebrate.
As I work with one on one clients I begin each session by asking them to celebrate their baby with me and I ask what they are imagining they look like, where they are or any details needed to "feel" the baby is there in the session with us. I love to get them to have a tangible look and feel of their baby right there with them, then From there, we can address their feelings, issues, or anything they are dealing with at the time that they need help with.
The "fun" part of my coaching practice is helping loss parents find ways to celebrate and honor their babies. Whether it is through better thoughts and healing or physical items, it is a great feeling knowing that somehow they have found a bit of peace with their loss in the work we do together. I thought it would be fun (there's that word again! and although I am a fun person and I love to have fun- it's not a word I get to use too much here!) to tell you some of the best ideas I have helped my clients create to memorialize their baby. There are special celebration items and traditions all over my house too that reminds me of my babies that I will share with you also.
Memorial Garden- I have a few different ideas for this one but you could create a memorial garden anywhere whether it is in your yard, or on a shelf in a corner of your home. I have a bleeding heart in my flower garden that my friend gave me as a gift the spring after my twins died I planted and it keeps growing and gets bigger every year. The little bleeding heart blossoms are a reminder of how far I've come. You can create a garden with a few pretty plants, decorations, painted rocks, lights, or anything you like that will bring you a little joy when you look at it. Let your creativity flow and it is something that can change, grow and evolve with time just as your baby would. I need to make a confession: I am not great about visiting the cemetery where my twins are buried. I don't really have any reason except that as my other children were growing it just was not someplace we stopped by very often. For the first few years, I would get a basket of flowers and put on it for Memorial Day. It felt so good to go there and clean it off after the long winter then make it look pretty for the holiday when all around the cemetery there were fresh, pretty flowers and decorations. Then I would go back after a week or two to find that this beautiful flower basket was dead. Insert the guilt. I felt guilty for not even being able to keep the flowers that I memorialize my babies with alive. It felt terrible. After about 5 years of this I had an idea- why don't I get the flower and decorate it as I usually do, then after Memorial weekend is over I will bring it home to nurture and enjoy it for the rest of the summer? And that's what I do still to this day. I choose something different every year for them and enjoy it all summer long.
Special object- There are so many items you can find that you can place on a shelf, hang on the wall or even cuddle with. I love the sculptures from Willow Tree that you can find in gift stores like Hallmark that can symbolize motherhood, or maybe you would like a plaque personalized with your baby's name on it that you can hang up. I have seen pillows and blankets or clothing that can be a special reminder to yourself and others about the baby who you didn't get to raise. I have a pair of star candles that were given to us as a gift to symbolize our twins and I treasure them and what they stand for. I have a passion for home decorating and I will often look for things that remind me of my girls and you can find evidence of it everywhere in my house. Remember what I said at the beginning about how you never forget?
Fundraiser in your baby's name- Some of my clients have organized a run or walk, or charity event to donate to a cause that supports pregnancy loss research or support for loss parents. Some have created a scholarship or used money raised to provide gifts to give to their local hospital to hand out to mothers who are admitted after delivering their angel babies. I have seen things like care boxes, stuffed animals, and even real-like baby dolls for them to cuddle when they get home.
Christmas ornament-I love a special ornament or seasonal decor item that is a special reminder of the ones missing at holiday time. We have a special one for sisters that we carefully place near the top of our tree each year with their names and the year of their birth on it. Another thing I did with my kids was to choose 2 girls' names (representing my twin girls) off of the local angel tree gift donations for families in the area who were in need of help providing their kids with gifts. I tried to get some that were similar ages to what my girls would be and we would shop for them. It felt so good to be able to buy for "our" girls, help other families in need to provide a special day for their children, and taught my own children the art of giving to others. I highly recommend it if it is something you are able to do.
Shadow Box or Photo Shelf- I love the idea of gathering some special items and putting them into a shadow box to display. Instead of putting them in a box to store away, you can allow them to feel like part of your everyday life. I have seen beautiful displays of photo shelves and special areas where the baby and the few things they have accumulated have a special place in the home.
Book for grieving mothers- Is there a special book or resource that helped you in the days or weeks after your loss? I loved I'll Hold You in Heaven by Jack Hayford so I bought a bunch and donated them to all the local libraries in the area and they will put a sticker on the inside that notates who the book is in remembrance of. It felt good to help others who were looking for a book that may help and everyone who opened it saw my babies' names and knew they weren't alone.
Buy a Star- Did you know this is possible? We are sky watchers in our house so I think it's a beautiful way to memorialize someone who has passed. There's a website called CosmoNova (I'll link it in the show notes) that allows you to choose what constellation you would like to purchase it in so if you're baby was a Gemini you can purchase it in Gemini. It allows you to purchase and name a star in NASA's National registry and you get a map that shows exactly where it is. Check it out if it sounds interesting because it's a really unique way to feel at ease knowing your baby has a special place in the galaxy that's all their own.
Piece of Jewelry- Choose a special piece of jewelry that you can wear every day and keep your baby close to your heart. Maybe a pair of earrings or a mother's ring, a Pandora charm if you have a Pandora bracelet or a special charm for a bracelet or necklace. A locket is nice if you have a photo of your baby so you can wear it close to your heart. Anything that is meaning full to you that you can touch or look at when you need to feel close to your baby is a comforting way to memorialize them. Something that is gaining a lot of popularity is breastmilk jewelry. I have seen it on Etsy and the artisans have you can send a sample of your breastmilk and they put it through a process where they create a stone from it and make it into jewelry. This may be a good option for you if this is a possibility.
Host a Birthday Party- Why not? It's your baby and if this will help you deal with these milestones then go ahead and celebrate any way you want. Whether it's just a cupcake for you and your partner or a whole big party with friends and family and lots of decorations, go ahead and celebrate the short life your baby had. This is a great way to honor your baby and express your desire to include them in your family.
Tattoo- I have seen so many memorial tattoos that are all kinds of shapes and sizes, they have footprints, handprints, butterflies, angels, wings, names, and dates. The sky is the limit as to what kind of creative memory you can place on your body forever in a place as visible or as private as you would want it to be.
No matter what way you choose to do it or if you choose to do nothing at all, take time to enjoy the moments you spend celebrating your baby. As painful as all the "what if's" are there is a lot of comfort in actively finding things that help you celebrate the short time your baby was with you. All of these ideas and any links will be listed in the show notes so you can go there to check them out.
I hope this episode gave you some ideas and I would love to see and hear about what you have done to memorialize your baby. You can find me in my private Facebook group Navigating Baby Loss Community and you can make a post or add a picture there to share.
Jennifer Senn is a Pregnancy Loss Recovery Coach who specializes in helping women heal and move forward after a stillbirth loss to live a life full of possibility again. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org