In a perfect world, I would have celebrated Jack’s sixth birthday in June at a swimming party with friends, family, and Jack. But since he passed away when I was five and a half months pregnant, I have found my own ways to celebrate and remember him.
In recognition of October as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, I’d like to share my efforts as a bereaved mom with you.
It is very difficult to accept that there are so few tangible objects that represent my baby’s life. The hospital gave me his footprints, an unofficial death certificate, and a blue blanket that he laid on while they weighed him and took photos of him.
Because of the urge to have something representative of him with me at all times, I wore a silver bracelet with his name on it.
About ten weeks after he passed away, I went to a six-week professionally guided grief group at the Ronald McDonald House for parents of perinatal loss. I met parents there who knew what it was like to carry a child inside you and then lose them before you had the chance to know them. These parents are my closest friends to this day. And our relationship is not about the grief but about having that shared experience in our hearts, being able to talk about our babies without awkwardness, and giving each other permission to go forward in life. [You can visit Hand to Hold to be matched with a bereaved peer.]
On the first anniversary of his death, I wrote an email to my friends and family. I asked them to remember him and I shared modest details of giving birth to him — which was important to me because I didn’t want anyone dismissing him as a non-person. He is their great-grandson, grandson, and nephew! I also asked them to make a donation in honor of him to a nonprofit that provides meaningful support to families of premature birth and loss.
Months later I found myself on the Internet searching for more ways to memorialize Jack and I found some special women that write your baby’s name in the sand, take a photo, and email it to you. I cherish these photos as the ocean and beach are associated with some of my favorite memories and having Jack’s name physically in the sand gives him a presence. [Links to photographers provided at the end of this post.]
Through one of the bereaved moms I knew, a hospital invited me to speak on a panel of parents at an educational conference for nurses. This experience was wonderful because “telling my story” keeps Jack’s memory alive and it gave me the opportunity to help educate medical professionals on how to treat parents who have just lost a child.
Once my daughter was old enough to understand, I told her about her brother. This became a huge opportunity for healing. I was terrified that I would scar her for life by crying but she was so calm and asked such thoughtful questions. She talks about Jack often and brings such comfort and peace to our household. Last night was Back to School Night and one of her drawings displayed on the classroom wall said, “I love Mom. Dad. Jack.”
Just before Jack’s fifth anniversary of passing away, I sent out an email to friends and family asking them to remember him and to make a donation to Hand to Hold. A week later, I received a book in the mail from my granny called Heaven is for Real. Reading this book changed my life. I am a Christian and have struggled to find a passage in the Bible that addressed babies in Heaven that would provide the insight and comfort I craved. This book provided those virtues for me. It was the first time I celebrated his day instead of grieving it.
Since grief is a cycle, I still have days where I feel resentful that I can’t watch him grow up. I still cry. But most often, I am at peace because I believe he is watching us grow up, wouldn’t want us to be sad, and is waiting for us in Heaven.
Sue-Ella Signature Designs – Keepsake & Memorial Jewelry
Hand to Hold – Bereavement Resources
Luke Lives On – Bereavement Resources
Now I Lay me Down to Sleep – Photography
Ronald McDonald House – Bereavement Resources
Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope – Bereavement Resources
Photographer: Bereaved Mother – Names in the Sand
Photographer: A NICU Nurse – Names in the Sand
Still Standing Magazine – Bereavement Resources