5 Ways to Create Memories of Your Child

Teddy bear and white flower on wooden background accompany sympathetic card

The death of a child is devastating. You may feel overwhelmed by suffering and intense emotions that flood the days, weeks, months, and years following the loss of your child. The pain of grief is extremely intense. You are digesting the pain of never seeing your child again, as well as the loss of future hopes and plans.

Many families find comfort in activities that help them process their feelings or create a legacy for the child they lost. Parents of children lost to Trisomy 18 often feel robbed of the chance to make memories with their precious child, compounding their grief and loss.

Creating healing memories of your child even after their death can provide important experiences, memories and rituals to lean on during painful times, such as anniversaries or birthdays. Here are 5 ways to create memories of your precious child.

Begin Making Memories As Early As You Want

Creating memories during your pregnancy can be especially significant for parents facing a Trisomy 18 diagnosis. Ultrasound pictures become much more meaningful when a child is lost to a Trisomy 18 diagnosis. Anything belonging to your child can also be important and meaningful. Don’t hesitate to ask your healthcare provider for any memento of your child you wish to keep.

In the hospital, sing to, talk to, rock and love your child without reservation. Bathe and dress your baby if you would like and rub him or her with lotion or baby powder—the scent will be a lifelong reminder of your child—and take pictures with your child. Feel free to bring in special items—a special stuffed animal, an outfit, a blanket, or other meaningful items to include in photos. These items can provide comfort and become meaningful possessions belonging to your child.

Many parents want to take as many pictures as possible and take a variety of photos and videos, including photos with siblings and other family members. Organizations such as Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep provide professional photographers at no cost and can be a wonderful option for families who want professional-quality photos taken.

Hospital mementos can also be very meaningful for parents and may include the crib card, baby beads, ultrasound and/or other photos, a lock of hair, feet and handprints, or a record of weight and length. Any item that the baby comes in contact with often means a great deal, such as a hospital-issued blanket or a prop from the picture. These items provide tangible evidence that this baby did exist, and these kinds of mementos have been found to help parents with their healing.

But you may also decide that holding or seeing your child is not the right decision for you. You may not want photographs. Your decisions about such things are complex and deeply personal, and your healthcare team should always respect your wishes and abide by your decisions. Remember, there are no right or wrong choices. Each family must make the decision that works best for them.

Plan a Memorial or Remembrance Ceremony

Planning a funeral or memorial for a child can be very painful, but it can also provide comfort in bringing together loved ones to honor your child’s life and be a powerful way to create memories of your child.

If you do choose to have a funeral or other memorial service, your healthcare provider, as well as a chaplain, minister or faith leader of your choice, can help you explore what options might be right for your family. A funeral director can also help you understand the range of options available to you.

Make sure you plan a ritual or ceremony that is individualized to your wishes, beliefs and preferences, within the bounds of whatever state and local regulations may exist regarding burial. If your wishes are within regulations, your healthcare provider should honor them. Don’t feel pressured to do things simply because you feel that that is the way they are supposed to be done.

Some families choose to have a funeral for their child. Others may choose a memorial or other form of remembrance ceremony. Some people wish for a small and private memorial, whereas others welcome the support of a larger group of friends and family. Other families may choose not to hold a memorial at all and grieve privately. Again, it’s important to note that there isn’t a right or wrong approach.

If you do decide to hold a service, it can be similar to a traditional service for an adult, or as simple as spending a few minutes in quiet prayer at the graveside, church, or other significant place.

If you will be choosing burial over cremation, your funeral home will guide you through all of the choices. With cremation, some parents prefer to wait a while prior to having a memorial to decide what they want to do with the ashes. Some people wish to keep ashes in a special jar, whereas others prefer spreading them in a special location that honors the baby.

Use Creative Pursuits to Preserve Your Child’s Memory

Many people turn to creative expression or hobbies to help preserve their child’s memories. For some, writing a letter to their child or journaling about their experiences during pregnancy or after the birth of their child provides opportunities for both expressing their emotions and creating a lasting legacy of their child’s time with you and your family.

Other parents might employ hobbies such as sewing, knitting, scrapbooking or creative pursuits to create keepsakes for their child. They may knit a special blanket or sew a quilt that weaves together memories of their child into a beautiful, lasting family heirloom. Scrapbooking, or even having a bound book of digital photos, can be a particularly accessible way for a parent to create a tangible, photographic record of their child’s life that can provide comfort for years to come.

Connect With Nature to Create Memories

Many parents may wish to preserve their baby’s memory by connecting with nature. Some create a memorial garden or plant a tree in a favorite location, offering a comforting location to visit on birthdays and anniversaries. Adding a plaque or other designation in honor of your child can make the location even more special to your family.

Others choose to name a star after their child, write their child’s name in the sand on a favorite beach, or otherwise connect their child’s memory to a significant place in nature. And some families choose to incorporate this element into their service or memorial by, for example, holding the service at the memorial garden or planting the tree as part of their service.

Engage in Symbolic Activities to Memorialize Your Child

Doing something symbolic in memory of your child—lighting a candle, saying a prayer, or singing a special song, getting a memorial tattoo—can also help you make important memories and can be part of special days or remembrances in the future.

You may also have cultural and religious practices around death and grieving that you would like to engage in during this time. Request the support of a hospital chaplain, a minister, a rabbi, a priest or other faith leader of your choice, and feel free to engage in the cultural traditions that are meaningful to you.

Remember, however you choose to memorialize your child, it will be the right way to remember and honor your precious child.

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