Thinking about a service for a baby that no one held in their arms or who was born long ago...
What about parents who have had an early pregnancy loss and/or there is no tangible memory of their baby. Or, perhaps, the service was long ago or the parents weren't greatly involved in the actual burial. Is it normal to want to do something "today" in memory of our baby?
After an ectopic, early miscarriage or where the hospital was responsible for the baby...
..a parent is left with little tangible evidence of having had a baby. Fortunately, today, more hospitals are giving parents small keepsakes and information about grief and there are support groups, such as ours, to encourage and help the parent. We encourage "creating memories" by making or purchasing mementos and items that bring comfort when thinking about their baby. "Parenting" by remembering, naming, and doing in memory of their child can bring much healing to a parent who has not given themselves permission to do so.
The Importance of Keepsakes and "Simple and Special" Services
We encourage the parent to save any keepsakes: sonograms, early gifts, any memento around this baby's presence in their life. Some parents throw these items away in hopes of escaping the pain and memories. Usually, this doesn't work and it may, actually, increase the pain and frustration(parents struggle with their pain in the face of denial...).
In our group, pain usually eases, when a parent acknowledges their baby and plans activities or mementos that allow their love for this child to be expressed(freed?). The energy used to deny can be turned to acceptance.
Pain is allowed to surface, recognition is permitted and love is given. Some parents gather keepsakes, sonograms, writings, into a small box or book. Others plant flowering bushes or flowers. Some do this alone, others with supportive friends and/or family.
One mom, who had experienced a miscarriage, gathered her two closest friends and her living children and went to a quiet park. While the children played she read a poem, and they released a balloon in her baby's memory. Later, she expressed how important this "ceremony" had been in her healing process.
When others deny your loss
One important thought - especially about a very early loss. Sometimes, the mother has a real desire to plan something in memory of her baby, and she senses or is told by the dad(and often others, but the dad is her focus) that she should move on and she will heal faster. This is usually done in love, but with little understanding for the bonding that a mother can have, early on, with her child.
Sometimes, a mother has to do what is in her heart. It helps to remember that in grief, those closest to us can't always "be there" to support us. If a mom can find peace in doing something in memory of her baby, I believe she should do so.
If she wants to share this with others, she must remember that others have not been through what she has(not even the dad) and may not always be receptive. The joy and peace that I have witnessed as a mom makes, buys or plans something for her baby is incredible. If the dad can be a part of this, she is twice blessed. Often, a father will support such an activity, after the fact, when he realizes how much peace his wife has gained from doing it.
Ways to Remember
At SHARE Atlanta we have our Outreach for Heaing Programs, our candlelightings, Memorial Services, and a Angel Garden with memorial brick pathway in Sandy Springs to visit - all further fulfill our need for tradition, closure, memories, and remembering.
Many parents have found much closure around laying a engraved brick in the SHARE Atlanta pathway at Arlington Cemetery. I am touched by how many have shared that the bricks in the pathway provide them a place to have a lasting memorial to their child. They also can order a keepsake brick for their own garden or home.
I believe it is very human to want to recognize, forever, those we have lost and loved.
Because of the nature of our loss, we need ways to make our baby real and special to us. This is especially important, when others want us to hurry on. It's okay and normal to reach out for concrete ways to remember our baby - we heal as we do.
Page written by Marcia McGinnis, 2001 and updated...2007
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