There are no adequate words to describe the pain of the loss of a child. When you lose a baby early in pregnancy, or due to termination or stillbirth, you may feel as though somebody hit the pause button on your life: how do you begin to heal when you're hurting so very deeply? How does the world seem to turn for everybody else when yours has stopped?
You are not alone in this often isolating, heartbreaking experience. As you begin to navigate life without your precious child, you may want to consider creating a grief ritual to help you begin to cope with this enormous loss. While most of us may think that rituals need to be large and ceremonial, this is not always the case. A grief ritual can be small, practiced only by you, or in an intimate group setting with another family member. It can involve words, song, and art, but does not have to. Here are a few suggestions for creating a ritual to honor the baby that you lost.
1. Create a memory box or memory book. You can buy a scrapbook at most art specialty stores or order one on amazon, or you can even create a digital memory book online. You may wish to buy a box and keep it in a safe place to return to when you need to feel close to your baby. Include any items from your baby's life as you need. These can include ultrasound pictures, pregnancy announcements, footprints, an outfit you hoped the baby would wear or wore, notes from you to your baby, or gifts from others. Visit and update the box as frequently as you would like.
2. Consider commemorative jewelry. It can be especially comforting to feel as though you can still carry your baby with you. You might want to order a ring with your baby's birth stone, or custom memorial jewelry through an online shop like Etsy. Some shops will allow you to engrave a message or the line of a poem (A favorite is e.e. cummings' "i carry you in my heart") on a piece of jewelry. There are also a variety of online shops where you can buy necklaces to keep ashes or cremains in. You don't have to wear the jewelry every day, but some days might feel easier to get through wearing it.
3. Consider donating your milk. I have known some babyloss mothers who have found meaning in donating their breastmilk to mothers of living babies that could not produce their own. This is a deeply personal decision and not right for everyone, but it may feel helpful for you to commemorate your baby's life by pumping and providing milk through a local hospital milk bank or an organization like Eats on Feets. Feeding another baby may allow you to feel as though your baby lives on in him or her.
4. Create an annual tradition. It may be as simple as making a Spotify playlist and lighting a candle, a balloon release, planting a flower that blooms every year, or signing up for a March of Dimes event that provides you with a dedicated ceremony, activity, or action for you to focus on with your baby in mind. This can be a dedicated day or symbol created just for your little one, and you can keep it to yourself or involve anybody you want. You can also create smaller weekly or even daily practices to help you get through the week. Turn on a special song before bed, write a single line of a letter to your baby, or wear a special color in his or her honor. There is no wrong way to create your own tradition.
Rituals that you create, repeat, attend, wear, or contribute to can help create a sense of meaning from the loss of your baby. Some days may feel as though you will never be the same again, and that's OK. You may not even feel like creating a ritual right now. There is no timeline for commemorating your baby, so go gently and with an open heart when you're ready.
If you find that you need further guidance creating a ritual and honoring the loss of your baby, we are ready to walk this path with you at the Center for Growth. Give us a call today.