After a pregnancy loss, it’s natural to want to do something to honor your child’s memory. Perhaps you want a physical keepsake to validate his or her existence. Or maybe you want to do something in his or her name to leave a lasting impact on the world. Here are a few things I’ve come up with. Feel free to comment with more ideas.
Hold a memorial service, whether it’s just you and your significant other, or a larger gathering with loved ones. Whatever your religious or spiritual beliefs may be, it can be therapeutic to hold a little event to honor the life of your child. My husband and I buried our daughter at home in an indoor flower pot, popped a bottle of champagne to celebrate her life, and spent a quiet night of reflection and bonding. If you have your child’s ashes, you could go somewhere special with family to spread them and say a few words. If you want to keep the remains with you, or don’t have the remains, you could say a prayer at home with family. It’s really a great feeling to know you’ve put your child’s soul to rest and made peace with her passing.
Plant a tree or shrub for your child. You don’t need the remains to do this, although if you do want to incorporate them into the soil you certainly can. My dad planted a tree after my sister died, and every spring when the purple flowers bloom it reminds us of her beautiful life.
Write a letter to your child. You can keep it private or share it with others by displaying it in your home or posting it on social media. My husband wrote a letter to our daughter the night we lost her after I had gone to bed. It was so beautiful to read his words when he shared the letter with me. Sometimes you need to put pen to paper to get all your feelings out and articulate them in a way you can’t do on the spot in front of others.
Create a journal or scrapbook with all your happy pregnancy moments and milestones. This may be really short but that’s ok. Any happy memory can be documented, such as the moment you found out you were pregnant, the day you told your significant other and family, funny cravings, belly photos, sonogram photos, how you chose your child’s name, and how you felt when you found out the gender. If you didn’t get to some of these milestones that’s ok! Your child’s life was still valuable, however short it was.
Light a candle. Get a special candle for your little one, maybe in a color or scent that you think represents your precious baby’s spirit, or that has something special carved in it. This candle hopefully makes you feel like you are keeping your child’s fire burning.
Decide on a symbol or animal that you think represents your child’s spirit. The goal would be that every time you see this object or creature, it makes you think of your angel. When we lost my sister, we became emotionally attached to the symbol of the fleur de lis, which she had tattooed behind her ear. Now every time we see it we think of Jillian and feel her presence. I keep several fleur de lis symbols in my home (wall art, book ends, etc.) so that I can have my sister with me always.
Paint your child’s sonogram. I’m no artist, but I found it therapeutic to get a small canvas and some acrylic paint to honor my daughter. The only good photo I have of her is her 12 week sonogram, so I painted it to the best of my ability, with lots of color.
Order a piece of jewelry you can keep on your person and close to your heart. It can have your child’s initials, if he or she had a name. It could also have a date or other special symbol.
Order a plaque with your child’s name and date of birth/date of loss. You can find some great ideas on Etsy.
Donate to charity in your child’s name. It doesn’t have to be related to pregnancy loss; it can be any cause you feel passionate about that you want to help.
Run a 5K in your child’s name. Get your loved ones to run with you. Maybe even make T-shirts for your son or daughter.
Get a tattoo that represents your love for your child. My husband and I are thinking of getting matching tattoos of a small heart within a large heart. You can check Pinterest for good ideas.
Help other mothers and fathers cope with their loss. You can do this by joining support groups, either in person or online, and answering questions and/or sharing your story.
Look into fostering a child, being a volunteer cuddler at your local NICU, or volunteering to babysit for organizations that help single, struggling mothers. It might take quite awhile after your loss for you to be ok around babies, but if you ever get to a point where you’re craving a child’s presence, these are good options to help both yourself and others.
Celebrate each year on either the anniversary of your child’s due date, or the date of your loss. You can go as far as throwing a birthday party, or as small as buying a little cupcake and blowing out the candle yourself.
And lastly… talk about your child! There’s no better way to validate your child’s existence than to talk about her. And there’s no worse feeling than believing the world has moved on and forgotten her. So keep her memory alive!