Parents who have experienced a miscarriage, stillbirth or death of a newborn baby often struggle in the early days, weeks, months and even the following years to find ways to comfort their grieving hearts while they also search for ways to cherish and honor their baby’s memory. It can be healing to find things and places to focus on when you are unable to think of nothing more than your aching, empty arms. Just as every bereaved parent grieves differently, they also find peace and solace in different ways. Some parents have a meaningful place or a special symbol they connect with while others find comfort in things they do in memory of their baby.
When I experienced four early losses many years ago, nothing was typically done to commemorate the loss, and I, like many others, had no place to go, nothing to remember those little souls by. My only memento from four losses was a business card from my doctor to remind me of my next appointment, the last one, since I didn’t make it to that appointment. I carried that card with its fraying edges in my wallet for many years as it was my only physical connection to that last little life that left me too soon. I no longer have that card, but throughout my years at Share, I have found several ways to incorporate those babies into my life.While my babies aren’t buried anywhere, I do have two places that have become very meaningful to me, that always bring some peace to my heart all these years later.
One place is a park in St. Charles, MO where an Angel of Hope stands--engraved bricks in memory of children who have left the world too soon surround the monument. Part of my job at Share is being the “Angel Keeper,” yet it hardly seems like a job to me. In that role, I plan ceremonies at the Angel three times a year and assist families with purchasing and dedicating their bricks. I also pull weeds, clean up and make sure she stays looking pretty. For many years, I didn’t have my own brick, but the Angel was still a special place for me because I knew how meaningful it is to families who have bricks placed there. I do have a brick now, and my best friend has a brick there as well…we placed them together, and whenever I go out there to clean or prepare for a ceremony, I feel a calmness settle upon me. I always take my camera, and I have many wonderful photographs from each season…some of showy flowers, pink dogwood blooms and colorful butterflies, others of spectacular fall foliage, and still others of pristine snow-covered bushes and trees. There is a wooden bench down one of the paths where I often sit and reflect on things that are weighing heavily on my heart, and many prayers have been said on that bench. I have tied balloons on her hand when friends go through their own losses. The Angel of Hope has become my place.
The other place that brings me solace—a place I feel connected to is the area of Baue Funeral Home’s cemetery where Share provides a quarterly burial service for miscarried babies. It is part of my job to plan and attend these services, but again, it doesn’t seem like a job to me. I look forward to it, and every time, I meet parents and hear stories that touch my heart and make me feel so very lucky to work at Share. Sometimes, I meet someone there whose story is very similar to my own, and I have shed many tears in the car on my drive home. Once, I carried a tiny casket from the funeral home to the gravesite, each step reminding me of the precious treasure I was cradling in my hands. A monument marks the spot where the tiny babies are buried that says, “Our hopes and our dreams lie here,” and each time I attend this service, I think about how much something like that would have meant to me all those years ago.
As I began writing this article, I asked bereaved parents who have had all types of losses, to share with me the places and things that have brought them solace and comfort since the death of their baby, and as always, I was humbled and honored to be given a glimpse into their lives and hearts.
- The kids and I go and visit Olivia- we change her decorations with the seasons and for holidays. My husband can't stand to go to the cemetery, and has planted certain plants in our yard for her. That's where he loves to spend his free time. At first it bothered me that he wasn't interested in coming with us, but I better understand how he grieves.
- We still annually send off balloons on Becket's birthday and we have three small display suitcases with his items in them and a small scrapbook of NILMDTS photos. We generally don't open any of these items, but his brothers sometimes ask to look at them, and we do. Maybe three times a year. For me, the NILMDTS photos and process have brought the most peace to me. There are certain songs I associate with Beckett. They mostly bring me peace but sometimes, especially one of them, makes me a little sad. I ALWAYS notice when I hear the one song....car, store, wherever..it always makes me think of Beckett. (They are not traditional mourning songs).
- When I felt like I was ready to move forward, I found it therapeutic to make myself a bracelet with special beads and charms that I picked out. Nothing fancy just stuff from AC Moore. It was in remembrance of my losses and ectopic pregnancies.
- I like to go to his grave and sit with a book or my bible and read. I sometimes read to him and other times just sit quietly. I have taken each of my children (who are all grown) and we have spent time at the grave together. My daughter takes my Granddaughters and they not only clean up around their Uncle’s headstone but around others all around the entire place. They want "his home" to be special as well as others.
- Five months after my son was born still, I had a miscarriage at 13 weeks. We were able to find out through genetic testing that our baby was a little girl. The following fall, my 5 year old daughter, husband and I designed a beautiful garden in our backyard. We planted blue hydrangeas for our son, a pink rose bush for our daughter, and a butterfly bush. We made a stepping stone with each of our handprints in it along with special rocks and shells we had from different vacations we took as a family. Each spring, we pick out pink and blue/purple annuals for the garden. We also hung a hummingbird feeder. We enjoy spending time tending to our garden with our now 3 living children, and it is the most peaceful spot. I love looking at the garden through my kitchen window, and I love sitting in the grass having picnics next to it. Whenever I am having a bad day, that is where I want to go, no matter the season or weather.
- I know that some people think it is crazy, but I love to go into my baby girl’s room. In the months before her birth, I painted a mural of a field of flowers and butterflies on the wall and spent a lot of time picking out the perfect things for her room. It is painted a sunny yellow, and I love her room. It brings me so much comfort to sit in the chair that I should be rocking her to sleep in. I feel close to her there.