10 Ways to Honour a Baby Lost in Miscarriage or Stillbirth
Holidays like Christmas can be especially difficult after a pregnancy loss or child loss.
When Christmas comes, you constantly think about what might have been. For me, this was supposed to be my son’s first Christmas. It would have been full of all those fun things like cute “My First Christmas” outfits, a family Christmas card photo, a new stocking just for him, and opening up cute gifts full of baby items.
Even in the sadness, I’m grateful this holiday season for the family and friends who are helping us honour and remember our son.
Throughout the year, and especially at holidays and significant dates, it can be healing to do something to honour a baby who was lost in a miscarriage or a stillbirth.
Here are some ways you can honour a baby lost in miscarriage or stillbirth. Before doing any of these, I must caution you, if you aren’t the parents of the child, please consider them first and foremost. What would they appreciate?
10 Ways to Honour a Baby Who was Lost in Miscarriage or Stillbirth
Talk About the Baby Using Their Name
Lost babies are often named by their parents, especially when the baby is stillborn. My son has a name. I’ve shared it with family and close friends. And when they use his name, it brings warmth to my heart along with the requisite tears to my eyes. I love his name. So much. And I love hearing it. He was a real person. Names are important and signify value and life. My son may not have lived outside my womb, but he lived.
Unless the parents say otherwise, talk about their child with them and use their name. Don’t let this holiday go by without recognizing that child’s existence and the fact that the celebrations and family get-togethers are missing someone very important.
Get a Christmas Ornament in Honour of the Baby
Buy it or make it. Get it for yourself or gift it to the parents. A Christmas ornament is a great way to honour a baby’s first Christmas, even when they aren’t here. It’s simple. It’s unobtrusive. Parents can choose whether or not to hang it on the tree. It can be hung up year after year.
So far, we’ve received three beautiful ornaments in honour of our son. They are all completely different and completely lovely. One is a glass heart that is artfully cracked all over it. It’s beautiful in it’s brokenness. One is a cross with our son’s name engraved across it. It symbolizes the hope that we will see our baby boy again one day. One is a colourful snowman with his first initial and year of birth on it. It’s joyful and bright. They are all on my tree and they will be on my tree every year.
Gift the Family Something that Represents their Entire Family
We’re part of a small group through our church. This group of people have become some of our closest friends and have been an amazing support for us throughout this journey of grief and healing. One of the many amazing things they have done for us is commissioning a gorgeous little sculpture of our family.
This is such a beautiful way to honour a baby who was lost too soon, and to recognize that even if a child isn’t here on earth, they are still very much part of the family.
Write a Heartfelt Note to the Parents
It can be difficult to know what to say. You don’t want to accidentally say the wrong thing. But you also feel like you need to say something. So write it down. Write the parents a note or a card expressing your love for them, your desire to support them in any way you can, your grief over the loss of their child, your understanding of how difficult holidays can be with that loss looming.
We’ve received beautiful cards from friends and family near and far. I have kept them all. And will probably keep them forever. I’ve even kept the notecards that came with flower deliveries. Some have a lot of words. Some only have a few. But they are all dear to me.
Taking the time to write a note and pop it in the mail makes a significant impact.
Light a Candle in Honour of the Baby Who Was Lost
This simple act can have a big impact. You can do it as a family or on your own. Light a candle and sit with it for a few moments. Spend that time reflecting, praying, or meditating on the experience of the loss and how it has affected your family.
Gift the Mama a Piece of Jewelry in Honour and Memory of Her Baby
A memento that can be worn every day to keep that baby close can mean a lot. It can be subtle like a heart or the baby’s birthstone, it can be a little more obvious like angel wings or a pregnancy or infant loss symbol. A necklace or bracelet can be a kind and sweet gift.
Get a Tattoo in Honour of the Baby
As wonderful as a piece of jewelry can be to have a physical something that represents your baby with your at all time, a tattoo is a permanent addition to your body just as the loss of a child is a permanent addition to your identity.
In September, six weeks after my son was stillborn, I got my first tattoo. In honour of both my angel babies, I now have two hearts on my left wrist.
I know of other mamas who have tattoos of their angel child’s footprint, their birthdate, hearts, poems and more.
Donate to a Charity in Honour of the Baby
There are charities that help children, that help babies in the NICU, that help mothers take care of their children, that help people through grief. If you’re not sure how to let the parents know that you love them and their child, consider donating in their child’s name to a charity they care about.
Bringing joy to others really does help with the grief. As I wrote about earlier this year, Grief, Jealousy and Joy are all intermingled when a baby is lost in miscarriage or stillbirth.
Ask the Parents How You Can Support Them During this Holiday Season and How You Can Honour Their Baby
All of these ideas may be wonderful to some pregnancy-loss parents and not-so-wonderful to others. If you’re ever unsure how you can support someone, ask them.
If you want to honour them and the memory of their baby at a holiday function, give them the option to say no. We received one of our Christmas ornaments at a family Christmas gift opening. After all the gifts were opened, one final gift appeared. We were told that we could open it then if we wanted or we could take it home and open it in privacy, but that it was be a gift that would likely us cry. There was no pressure to open it in front of the group. It was a very kind way of giving.
If the Parents Prefer, Don’t Mention the Baby
This is perhaps the most important item on this list. In everything that you do to honour a baby lost in miscarriage or stillbirth, in everything that you do to support parents who have lost a child –> always defer to the parents. For some of us, talking about our children is healing and while it often brings tears, we appreciate it and it helps us. For others, it’s too painful. The reminder hurts to much right now. For some of us, the physical mementos and notes are lovely and bring us hope and healing. For others, they hurt too much too look us. The situation and context are also important, some functions may be better suited for honouring the baby than others.
Before doing or saying anything, think about your friend or family member and what they need – not what you want or need. And, if you’re not sure, ask them.
Thank you for seeking out ways to honour a baby who was lost in miscarriage or stillbirth. Thank you for acknowledging that child’s life.
Dearest Trisha Jenn,
I love when parents let us know the names of their children who’ve passed as I know how that not only honours the child but it also helps the parents know their child was beloved. I agree – it is a very important step in reaching past grief and of bringing the light of the child back into the present. Those children have a valid place in our lives and to honour them in memory and in name is a beautiful gift. They hear you and they’re always with you.
OOh I love the ornament idea with the initial and the birth year! 🙂 I tried to reach out to a friend who lost her child the same way you had but for me, reaching out ended the friendship. I was trying to do similar things you’ve suggested in this post but I think it was too close to her loss… I didn’t overstep, but I think even the simple things I did to show I cared were ill-timed. It is hard to know how to hug and support someone — which is why I love the idea behind this post. Even if trying in the future to reach out in these ways doesn’t work, it gives me newer ideas. The only thing that did leave a positive impact is she liked the prayer shawl my Mum knitted for her which I asked Mum to do as I’m not a fast knitter. It takes me six months to a year to make one and Mum managed to make one for her within two to three months – I always hoped my prayers reached her even if my presence was unwanted.
That is what I had done – writing the heartfelt note with a card of sympathy. I also included a copy of a book about loss from a faith perspective as she had mentioned something to me in a letter that led into that being given. Again, I erred on everything and had to let my prayers take over as I felt rather guilty at the time I had affected her instead of uplifting her the way I had tried.
I’ve lit candles before, too! Sadly, I get flak for doing that and actually told – next time don’t tell me you did that as that is not within my faith beliefs to be done. (ironically I wonder how having a compassionate heart is ever invalid but it is) By the way, I’m not Catholic (I’m Protestant) but I reached out on different occasions whilst visiting near Catholic or High Episcopalian churches to ask if I could light a candle for a friend and their family; I also put their first name on prayer lists – trust me, I’m never sharing those acts again as I was incredibly shunned by the caustic reactions I received when I mentioned doing them. Those churches warmed my heart for embracing me – as sometimes interfaith doesn’t reach well between denominations. I don’t regret my actions – I did them with sincerity and a lot of prayerfulness, but sometimes I find people love to judge you or make you feel guilty for having empathy and sympathy.
The jewelry idea is a lovely one! I will earmark that along with the ornament as I really love those two new ideas. I’m unsure if I can ever use these in the future… but if I can or rather, if I just follow my heart again even if I get yelled at for it, at least I followed your advice and led with my heart. We can only do so much… if all our actions are misunderstood there is less hope for all of us.
What a beautiful keepsake on your wrist! I love how you call them your Angel babies – this is a term I used in the card I wrote and again, to a negative outcome – you really made me smile how you used a tattoo and design to etch their presence and love into your skin. You are a beautiful soul, Trisha Jenn.
Sadly, I did the final step you suggested – I asked before I did anything and I was going by what they were requesting of me and of some of the suggestions they were cluing me into doing. I’m not sure how it all backfired but like I said, I accepted that grief is difficult to understand from the outside. Perhaps at the time of the suggestions they were okay but by the time they were received they were in a different frame of mind. Now, on the other things I did – the prayers, the candles, etc I never thought that those actions would be rejected and taken with such harsh backlash — we all walk individually through faith and if we have a different faith life than each other, I don’t see how that devalues what we did in the moment of doing them. Again, I had to let a lot of this go through prayer and let it be.
A very beautifully written post and I hope these prompts help others. Especially if like me, they find that their actions are not welcome — try not to take that personally… as hard as it is as we all are emotional beings.. we feel with our hearts and we lead with our spirits. Trust your instincts but also respect that sometimes even without knowing how we can hurt others with our thoughtfulness.
Oh Jorie, I’m so sorry your experience with trying to help has been so negative. I’ve found in my journey that even when someone does or says something that seems a little weird or strange to me, I’ve been able to see the kindness and desire to help behind it. But as you say, grief affects us all differently and can change over time and so it can sometimes be hard to see through it. I’m sorry your actions weren’t accepted well, but on behalf of other loss-mamas, thank you for trying. It really does help, even if we can’t always appreciate it in the moment.
I’m working on some more projects to help kind-hearted people know what to do or say to help in situations like mine and I’ll be including some more perspectives too. Hopefully that will be helpful.
Thank you so much for this beautiful comment. 💗
This is so well written Trisha. All of it are perfect suggestions and the #1 is so important. Giving the parents what they want and need are so critical. Sometimes it can be so difficult for people on the receiving end to see the intent as good if they are in a deep grief, and yet once they come out of that grief and reflect upon it the gift can take on new meaning. Sometimes in grief it was to difficult for me to see good intentions as some of the comments that would come with a gift (ie get out more, or if you’d just pray more, etc) cut deep and were not beneficial. In fact some of those things that came across as judgments or lectures afflicted our faith walks. I noticed looking back on our journey through infertility that for our initial losses all of these gifts I could say would have been well received. After many losses and being triggered every month (as there was almost a loss or milestone every month, I could no longer function with the trauma) receiving gifts at that time might have hurt more then help. So there is great wisdom in checking in with the parents.
The kindest gift I received was Heaven is for Real by Colton Burpo from our grandmother. She sweetly brought it all gift wrapped to brunch.
Not being able to write down that I am a mother or that I do have children, they’re just stored up in heaven or not receiving a flower for mother’s day at church was really hard. A kind gesture or gift in the form of action was tho acknowledge me as a mother and include me in conversation. I know my pregnancies were short, but I still had pregnancy stories or advice I could share. Those were such rough years and they still effect us now. The smallest trigger can make me cry for days, so having a balance of positivity in that journey is so essential and gifting is once of those ways.
Best gift were gave ourselves were plants. Plants are a great gift, too. 💜
Do you mind if I share? Is it ok if I refer to you as a mother Trisha?
Have many blessings today and a Merry Christmas.
Cora, I’m so sorry for your losses and I’m so grateful our babies are in heaven waiting for us. We are mothers. ♥️ Please feel free to share any of my posts that resonate. I write about these experiences to help others. We are not alone.