Few emotional tidal waves rival the joy of expecting a baby, but dealing with a pregnancy loss could cause a devastated family to ask, “What do we do now?”
According to the March of Dimes, there are about 4.4 million confirmed pregnancies in the U.S. every year and 900,000 to 1 million of those pregnancies end in loss.
When a child’s life is cut short, it affects everyone close to the situation in some way. It’s a time for families to grieve and also find ways to preserve the memory of their little one.
A Mother’s Advice
Kevin and Katie Burns, the founders of Forever My Baby You’ll Be, started the organization after they lost their first child, Emma, when she was stillborn in 2014. The group provides information, guidance and support for grieving families after losing an infant.
Katie Burns believes that a loss of this magnitude can be the beginning of the end for some couples who don’t work through the grief, and she gives a reminder that each person has their own process of coping.
“One way that the mom and dad can help each other is to lean on one another,” she says. “Men and women grieve differently and everyone is different, but at the end of the day, your partner is the person in your circle who is experiencing the loss as closely as you are. Even though my husband didn’t want to go to individual counseling and I did, he fully supported my going and vise versa, and we talked about it together. I’d say do as many things together as possible.”
Burns recalls that just knowing others were thinking of her made all the difference. She suggests for close friends and family of a couple who has lost a child, “Make the call. Leave a voicemail. Even if all you can say is, ‘I don’t know what to say but I am here for you when you are ready,’ or, ‘I want to take you to lunch when you are ready,’ or, ‘I love you and am thinking of you.’”
Cherishing the Unforgettable
Every loss is handled differently by each family, but there are many special ways to honor the baby’s memory.
Cornerstone of Hope is a center for grieving children, teens and adults. Mark Tripoldi and his wife, Christi, opened the center after suffering the loss of their own son. They wanted to be a source of support to anyone who was hurting and in need of counseling.
“It’s so important to memorialize,” Mark Tripoldi says. “Even though the baby didn’t have a live breath outside of the womb, he or she is still a part of the family. It’s part of the healing process, as well. If you know that the outcome isn’t going to be good, the more you know ahead of time, the better you can plan for pictures to be taken.
“Cornerstone of Hope has ongoing support groups for mothers, and dads participate in a group called MENtouring,” Tripoldi says, adding there are different events throughout the year to help celebrate a child loss, such as candlelight service for families on Infant Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, Memorial Day and a special Mother’s Day Tea.
“The event happens around Mother’s Day because even though they may not have a baby to care for, they are still mothers,” he says.
Tripoldi also shares a few ideas to cherish the short life of the baby:
- Pictures taken by organizations like Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, which provides photography services to create heirloom portraits for parents. A more private option is to have a loved one take the pictures.
- Hand and feet ink prints are normally taken by the hospital medical team and given to the mother.
- Remembrance jewelry such as pendants, rings and bracelets can be great tributes.
- Clay imprints with 3D hand life casting molds
- Ornaments, says Tripoldi, adding, “Holidays are timely and decorating an ornament with the name on it is a constant reminder for family and siblings, even though they may not have met the baby. It’s also a teachable moment for kids that life can be tough and there are gentle ways of dealing with it.”
- Stuffed animals like Molly Bears are made the exact weight of the baby lost, regardless of their gestational age, and decorated accordingly.