When you lose a baby in pregnancy or infancy, parenting is no longer about teaching your child about the world, or helping to make wonderful memories for your child, but rather is about teaching the world about your baby and your grief journey and preserving the memory of your child. You’ll feel it’s your mission to make sure everyone remembers your baby and understands your grief experience. At no time are those feelings stronger than when you go on to have a subsequent child.
Author Elizabeth McCracken once wrote (while expecting a baby after losing her son to stillbirth), “I’m not ready for my first child to fade into history.” That’s the feeling that many parents feel when they’re expecting again after loss. They’re not ready for their other child to fade into history. They don’t want that. And when you’re expecting again and a loss anniversary comes up – whether it be the birthday or death day, or whatever anniversary that triggers grief for you – it feels all the more important to have that day acknowledged and to do something for your child that day.
Here are 11 ways you can honor your baby who died during the loss anniversary.
1. Make a Donation in Your Baby’s Name/Memory
Making a donation in your baby’s name or memory is an incredibly fulfilling way to honor your baby on an anniversary. There are so many different donation ideas that parents have done. Some parents choose to donate books about pregnancy and infant loss to their local library so other grieving parents can find support. You can donate items for memory boxes at your local hospital or medical clinic. Put together a care package for families with babies in the NICU. Other parents have chosen to buy items off of a teacher’s “wish list” at the daycare or school where their baby would have gone. This is an idea you can keep doing annually as well: making a donation to each class your baby would have been part of through high school.
2. Hold a Fundraiser for Your Favorite Charity
There are many charities and organizations that help families who’ve experienced pregnancy and infant loss. Consider holding a fundraiser for one of these organizations leading up to the anniversary of your loss. If your loss anniversary is also your baby’s birthday, you can ask friends and family what they would have given your baby for a gift and donate that amount to your fundraiser instead. It’s also a way for those friends and family who want to help support you on this day to feel like they are. As a bonus, sometimes, the organization will send you a card acknowledging the donation made. It’s a lovely keepsake especially if your baby’s name is printed on the card.
We at Pregnancy After Loss Support are always honored when families hold fundraisers in memory of their babies. If you’d like to choose PALS to host a fundraiser in memory of your baby, you can host a fundraiser on Facebook or GiveLively. Or plan to walk in our annual Waddle Walk.
3. Have Cake!
If the anniversary is also your baby’s birthday, get a birthday cake! At first, it’ll feel weird to have a cake for a dead baby. That’s normal. But people celebrate the birthdays of their deceased love ones all the time. Singing Happy Birthday and blowing out a candle for your baby will fill your heart in ways you didn’t expect. There may be (probably will be) tears, but they can turn out to be good ones.
If you have living children, it’s also a special way for them to be included in the anniversary. And, if they’re young and excited about a birthday party, you’ll be reminded that birthdays are also joyous occasions filled with love for the person who was born that day. And your baby was so very loved.
4. Light a Candle
Sometimes the best way to honor your baby is the simplest. Lighting a candle for your child is therapeutic. It helps to bask in the gentle glow of the candlelight and remember how much you loved your baby. There are many wonderful remembrance candles you can buy, but a small tea light is just as beautiful.
5. Write a Letter to Your Baby
It feels funny to write to a dead person, especially a baby, but it is something many parents find soothing on a loss anniversary. Writing a letter to wish your baby a happy birthday, update them on your life’s happenings, or just to tell them you love and miss them is therapeutic. It’s a form of journaling that can help you digest the feelings of the anniversary and make it feel easier to bear.
6. Do a Memorial Release
There’s a beautiful scene in the animated movie Tangled where the king and queen release sky lanterns on the baby princess’s birthday, a tradition they continue to do even after she’s gone. The scene brings tears to many bereaved parents’ eyes. Of course, balloon releases and sky lanterns floating high up into the air are familiar sights for many memorials. However, there are growing environmental concerns about doing large releases like these. While there are some eco-friendly ways to do them (with special biodegradable balloons and lanterns), parents may want to explore alternatives to this type of memorial release.
There are plenty of alternatives! You can blow bubbles in memory of your child. There are so many wonderful ways to do small and giant bubbles that will look beautiful as they blow into the wind and float up to the sky. You can purchase “flying wish paper” where you can write a note on the paper, light it on fire, and watch it burn out in the night sky. It has a similar effect to the sky lanterns. Some parents also float flowers out onto water in memory of their baby or write their baby’s name on a beautiful fall leaf and float that out into the middle of a lake or put into a river. You can also fly kites. There are many different ways to hold a memorial release that will be beautiful and honor your baby in the way they deserve.
7. Perform Acts of Kindness In Your Baby’s Name
Losing your child brings a type of empathy you may have never known existed. Many parents like to perform random acts of kindness on the loss anniversary. This can be anything from paying for someone’s coffee, to volunteering at a local shelter, food pantry, etc., to leaving flowers for neighbors. Some parents have even made little “in memory of” cards noting that the act of kindness was done in honor of their baby.
8. Plant a Memorial Garden or Tree
A long-lasting and eco-friendly way to celebrate your child is to plant a memorial garden or tree. Planting a tree and putting a plaque on it memorializing your baby is an amazing way to permanently honor your child. Many parents find peace and comfort in planting a memorial garden for their child, which they can care for and grow each year. Seed paper also allows you to write messages, wishes, memories, or simply your child’s name, as you plant the flowers for the garden. You’re also able to adorn the garden with a memory stone or other symbols like butterflies that remind you of your baby.
9. Leave Painted Stones Around Your Neighborhood
You can paint small stones and leave them scattered throughout your neighborhood, in a nearby park, or on a biking or hiking trail. There are many memorial stone kits you can get to paint pictures, symbols, or write sayings on to leave around for others to see. You can also put your baby’s name or initials on the stone and write “in memory of…” Putting them at a park where your baby would have played is a great way to honor your baby and will be a nice way to include that baby in play time when you return to play at the park with your rainbow baby.
10. Mark the Anniversary on Social Media
Consider drafting a special post about your baby on social media for the anniversary of your loss. It helps to tell others how you’re feeling that day – so they know, can understand, and try to support you throughout the day. The support you get from your online community can be amazing and you may hear from friends and family who you didn’t expect to comment.
11. Take the Day Off
Take the day off of work or simply deviate from your normal routine to take a walk, go on a picnic, or simply relax at home. Making time for yourself and taking care of your bereaved heart is a way to honor your journey and remember the baby who died.
Sometimes the weight of the day can be overwhelming, more so when you’re expecting again after the loss of your baby. It’s okay if it’s too much to do anything listed above. You can still remember and celebrate your baby by doing nothing at all. It doesn’t mean you love your baby any less. You know what will work best for you and your family. Whatever way you decide to honor your baby will be perfect and they will know they are loved beyond measure.