Loss and grief are hard on the entire family and complicated feelings even carry on to children born after a loss. Every family processes a loss differently and many come up with wonderfully creative ways to include their angel babies in older and younger sibling's lives - keeping their memory alive and ensuring they continue to be a treasured part of the family forever <3
Here are ten really sweet ideas:
1. Embrace rainbows: not everyone resonates with this analogy but many loss families find comfort in the visual of a rainbow coming after the storm. You could plan a rainbow baby shower, decorate a nursery in rainbows or rock some adorable matching outfits. There are tons of ideas for ways to incorporate rainbows into maternity/newborn portraits as well!
2. Rainbows not your thing? Some families choose another symbol to represent the memory of their angel babies. Cardinals and butterflies are often used but it could be anything - one of my precious Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep families used hippos!
""HIPPO!" was the 1st word Johnny & I thought of when Beka & Whitney (from ACH's AMAZING Angel One team🚁) sat down with us right before they took Brandon to Children's & asked us what we wanted our "keyword" to be in order to call in & check on our sweet boy as we were stuck at Baptist for the night. "Hippopotamus" was actually an insider between us since we were dating....so naturally we continued with the theme when our son was born. Since then we have LOVED collecting little stuffed hippo toys & things"
3. And speaking of Brandon and Hippos: don't forget to celebrate birthdays!
It may feel really awkward and will come with it’s own set of complicated emotions but Ashlee at themorning.com has some words of wisdom as that big day draws close:
“So my first word of wisdom to any grieving mother who is anticipating a child’s birthday: do your best to lay aside the idea that what people think of you, your grief, or how you should or shouldn’t celebrate has any actual weight or influence. …Secondly make a plan. In my experience, now 9 years of birthdays, it doesn’t actually matter what you do to celebrate, so long as there is some kind of plan in place. A plan protects as it makes communicating about expectations necessary, which is especially important on a day that is filled with so much emotion.”
4. Visit baby: whether its at the graveside or perhaps at a tree that you’ve planted in their honor, it can be very meaningful to spend time where you feel their presence. One mom wrote that she loved bringing small Christmas gifts each year and then watching her children play with them every time they visited:
“Usually, the cemetery leaves the toys there for a few seasons or so. In the spring, summer or fall my kids end up playing with those toys whenever we go to visit. Watching them do this is so beautiful and precious to me. For them it’s just playing with toys, but for me it’s the only way I get to see them play with each other.” - Rachel Quenzer
5. Volunteer in baby's name. There are lots of ways to do this: remembrance walks, making a family team for a “cause race” or even giving a monetary gift to a charity in baby’s name.
6. Journal together. Older children may be ready to embark on a grief journal with you - Adriel Booker has some journaling prompts here: http://adrielbooker.com/journal-prompts-grief-miscarriage-pregnancy-loss/or you could purchase one like this:
7. Create some custom art to hang in your home. There are a lot of options here! Locally, Milk Mama Creations makes DNA art that can incorporate various inclusions including umbilical stumps, breast milk, and even ashes. Etsy has a wide range of artists you can commission a custom print with. I’ve personally used Spaghetti Toes to for a few customs pieces and I’m over the moon with them. DillyDesignsArt has some beautiful options too.
8. Incorporate baby into holidays. Buy them an ornament every year, hang a stocking for them, and incorporate them into your greeting cards. Similar to the idea of giving to charity, some families enjoy giving holiday gifts in baby's name.
9. Include them in family travels - perhaps bring a special stuffed animal along for photo ops or make sure to write their name in the sand when you head to the beach.
10. Hook into a community of other families who have experienced child loss. It's a club that no one wants to be a part of but supporting each other once you are is so important. And not just for moms and dads - children need a group of understanding friends as well.