When I lost my second child through miscarriage, one of the things I found incredibly difficult was validating their existence. It seemed particularly sad that I was grappling with how to memorialize life lost instead of celebrating what life would be like as the mother of two. Having been nine weeks pregnant at the time my baby passed meant there was no body to lay to rest. I had but one ultrasound picture to prove they had existed at all. Even the pregnancy test that I had kept no longer showed the word ‘pregnant.’ The small screen now black and empty.
I was compelled to find ways to memorialize life lost through miscarriage. I. Had. To.
My devastation and grief were real. As soon as I had heard my baby’s heartbeat in the initial doctor’s visit, they were as real to me as my first child, my son, toddling around my feet. Their heartbeat became a part of my own beating heart. Now they were gone as quickly as they seemed to arrive.
Looking back on those first two weeks after the loss, I realize now that powerlessness and the feeling of failure drove my need to determine how to pay respects to this short life. My body aborted my pregnancy, my child, and there wasn’t a single thing I could do to stop it. For a week I witnessed my baby leave my body before a final ultrasound confirmed they were gone.
So, how could I honor my baby? How could I memorialize a precious life lost through miscarriage?
I needed to make them a part of me spiritually and emotionally while they physically no longer could be.
Being at home from work, I had lots of time to think, read, and research. I wanted to know what other people did as I knew I wasn’t the only one in this unfortunate position. Several things spoke to me, and I found myself compulsively ordering online for days.
Again, looking back, I recognize that my compulsion to buy things commemorating this baby’s life had more to do with controlling something than it did with being able to figuratively lay this baby to rest. Just like a funeral or memorial service focuses your attention on the details of the event but doesn’t actually heal your grief, I wanted a symbolic touchstone to focus my grief.
Here are the 10 things I did (or still do) to honor my baby and memorialize life lost through miscarriage:
- I gave them a name. Despite not knowing what gender baby I was having, I selected a gender-neutral name that had meaning to me. And I shared this name with those I felt the safest with to do so. In giving them a name, I truly felt I made them real for myself and this also helped validate the pain I felt. Additionally, my family also knew my child’s name and could speak to me and be in the space with me that I needed.
- Using their name, I wrote them a letter. This ended up a mix between a letter and a journal entry. It was a raw form of purging my feelings and being authentic with myself.
- I kept a journal. At least for the first week or so. Anytime I felt particularly stricken with anger or pain or grief, I wrote.
- I had a memorial box made for them with their name engraved. Here I placed the ultrasound picture, the letter, the pregnancy test, the sympathy cards received, and the initial announcement we made to our parents that we were expecting again.
- I found a symbolic figurine to place on the mantle.
If you choose to memorialize your baby, do whatever it is that speaks to you. There is no right way to honor their life. Do what feels right.
- I had always loved the idea of mothers’ jewelry. You know, the pendants or rings with their children’s names on them. So, I had rings made with my toddler son’s name and theirs.
- I had a tattoo with a symbol of their life included in the design. The tattoo came a year later as I needed time to process what I wanted placed on my body, but the idea of getting a tattoo came in the first two weeks after the miscarriage itself. Having them tattooed on my body in some form was as close as I could get to ever feeling them physically again. I chose feathers. One feather represents my son who grounds me to this world and the other represents my lost baby who looks down on us from the heavens.
- I gave away newly purchased outfits to someone expecting. These were clothes I had already tucked aside. I offered them to my parents to give to an expecting cousin and asked they not share where they came from or why. There was a little bit of peace from offering something to someone else bringing a new life into the world.
- I created annual traditions. Each year on my due date, I write a new letter to my baby to put in the box. On this day, I also release a balloon into the heavens with a note scrawled on the outside. When my son is old enough to understand, I hope he’ll join me in the balloon release. This year, I added a lit candle to the ritual. And next year, I may take the suggestion of a friend and purchase a toy to donate to the children’s hospital.
- Continue to talk and write about it. The pain may not subside, but it doesn’t need to be hidden or ignored or silenced. I feel stronger and more validated when I share my feelings about my loss and speak about the life now gone, than when I shield myself or others from that loss.
None of these ideas for memorializing life lost through miscarriage will bring back my baby. They do help, however, to honor that life that existed inside me.
I needed to know my baby was real even if not seen or held. I needed others to know this, too. Whenever my feelings were minimized it was one of the worst feelings; I was already at my ultimate low. I felt a critical need to ensure that those around me understood that this was a matter of life and death. This was not just bad cramps and some bleeding like a horrible period.
A year or so later and I am still baffled by why this miscarriage occurred. I am still crushed by the powerlessness that came with it. Yet, there is some peace in knowing I have done everything I possibly can to memorialize the life lost through miscarriage. I hope and pray that through these simple acts the spirit of my baby knows their mother loved them incredibly.
I invite you to comment below something you or someone you know does to memorialize life lost through miscarriage.