Once you’ve lost a child, your life is forever changed. Excitement turns to grief and plans for a baby’s homecoming are abandoned as we struggle to find ways to honor a child lost too soon instead.
One of my biggest struggles as a mom has been learning how to openly acknowledge my miscarried babies and incorporate them into our family life. I wanted our home and family traditions to reflect the three children we never got to bring home, but I didn’t know how.
Through years of struggling with how to honor my miscarried babies, I finally found resources and a community of other loss moms to help me navigate life after loss.
I found that friends and family were ready to acknowledge my little ones when they realized it was helpful and not hurtful.
I’ve learned to be open about the three children I miscarried and have found concrete ways to acknowledge them and make them more a part of my daily life.
Here are 6 things I have found helpful:
- Naming Your Child
Without a doubt, the thing that has brought me the most comfort was being able to name each of our miscarried babies and begin speaking that name openly.
After a long period of processing anger, grief, and acceptance, I was finally able to name our first — Adele Marie — and celebrate her loss anniversary. With our second and third losses, the very first thing we did was choose a name for our new baby in heaven — Catherine Marie and then Andrew Joseph.
By giving each a name that is meaningful to us, I felt closer to my children and it became easier to talk about my losses when I could refer to each child by name. We were also able to include their names on memorial items such as memory boxes, Christmas ornaments, and remembrance jewelry, as well as add their names to memorial books, Christmas cards, stones in memorial gardens, a molly bear, or at remembrance walks.
2. Memory boxes.
We lost Adele in January 2012. It wasn’t until after the birth of our second child, Sam, in 2014, that I realized how much I needed Adele to be openly acknowledged as a member of our family. I was surrounded by physical reminders of Sam’s presence in our home and was saddened that I had so few concrete mementos of Adele.
I went to a craft store and picked out a storage box that seemed to suit her and filled that box with the items that in some sense belonged to Adele — her sonogram photo, the hospital bracelet from my D&C, a few outfits and congratulations cards from when we were expecting and a few condolences and flowers from when she died.
Over the years, her box has grown as I’ve added new items like the candles from her yearly “Heavenly Birthday” cakes, remembrance cards from annual Memorial Masses, or a ballet shoe decoration that made me think of her.
Having these individual boxes filled with items for each child helps me feel physically closer to these little babies I never got to hold.
3. Remembrance Jewelry.
Once I was ready to speak openly about Adele, I wanted to have something tangible to wear as a way to keep her close. I looked for something affordable and simple that could be worn everyday, with any attire and found a simple cuff bracelet that said “I’ll hold you in my heart until I can hold you in Heaven.”
When I was blindsided by back to back miscarriages in June and September the following year, I desperately wanted something to wear that had all my babies’ names on it. So I ordered a custom name cuff bracelet from the same designer after we lost Catherine, and then another one with four names a few months later when I miscarried Andrew.
4. Memorial Artwork.
After my second miscarriage, a friend sent me a beautiful print with this encouraging quote, “We shall find our little ones again up above,” by St. Zelie Martin, who was a loss mom, too. This was the first of several pieces of memorial artwork which I have gathered to honor my children and feel their presence in our home.
Last year, my in-laws visited the National Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which has a beautiful Memorial to the Unborn. They brought me a small sculpture of the “Mother of the Unborn” statue from the Memorial.I also love this beautiful figurine of an angel holding a baby that my husband gave me. I keep it next to a vase of dried flowers I was given when Andrew died.
Each of these things, and the act of love and compassion that accompanied it, each acknowledgement of the reality and the depth of our losses, was a beautiful gift that helped us through that season of sorrow.
5. Christmas Traditions.
The Christmas after we lost Catherine and Andrew was an especially hard one, but we incorporated new traditions into our family that helped. Sam picked out an ornament for each of his siblings and we put those on the tree first. My mom sent beautiful personalized “First Christmas in Heaven” ornaments for each child with their name and loss date, and my husband, Joe, gave me this memorial ornament as well.
We also bought small stockings for each child and hung those up and sent out Christmas cards that shared our story and was signed with love from every member of our family.
These simple things have made a world of difference in the way we coped with our losses and by allowing others to share in our grief and to remember our children — their grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends — we all learned how to make the loss more bearable.
6. Loss Anniversary Traditions.
This year, we celebrated five birthdays for five children, as we now have another living child, Jack, who turned one in October.
For my miscarried babies, we have a special “Heavenly Birthday” celebration on their loss anniversary. We sing “Happy Birthday,” Sam blows out the candles, and we share Catherine’s cake, Adele’s cinnamon roll, or Andrew’s cupcake while Jack happily plays with his big sibling’s special balloon.
Loss anniversaries are still hard as I am filled with sorrow at the magnitude of what we’ve lost, but I also feel so much peace with the small ways our family has found to keep our little ones close.
We have experienced great loss, but we celebrate because we have also experienced so much life.
We recognize the gift of each one of our children, and are grateful for each little life that was entrusted to us, even if we had to say goodbye to three of them much sooner than we would have chosen.
Being a loss mom isn’t easy. I’m thankful that I’ve found ways to keep our three little ones with us, through these mementos in our home, the conversations we have that acknowledge them, and the traditions in which they play a central part. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about Adele, Catherine, and Andrew.
The grief of losing a child never goes away. But that grief can be transformed into something beautiful.
Having experienced loss helps me be a better mom and a stronger person. It helps me love my children here on earth more fully and I have learned to embrace my vocation as a loss mom, always hoping that I can help other mothers face the grief of losing a child.
If you have experienced a miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss, I want you to know that you are not alone in your sorrow. We recognize your grief and remember the babies you didn’t get to keep. I hope that you, too, are finding ways to heal and cope with life after loss.
I recognize that every mom and every experience of loss is different. What has brought healing and comfort to me may not be what is helpful for someone else. But nothing has been so freeing to me as learning to speak about my babies, whether that’s just one-on-one to close friends, or in such as public way as this.
The books I read that helped me find ways to acknowledge these little lives and have been a great comfort. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and there are many organizations and groups that offer support to families going through the loss of a child.
These are the books I have found most helpful:
- Empty Arms: Hope and Support for Those Who Have Suffered a Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or Tubal Pregnancy by Pam Vredevelt (2001)
- After Miscarriage: A Catholic Woman’s Companion to Healing and Hope by Karen Edmiston (2010)
- You Are Not Alone: Love Letters from Loss Mom to Loss Mom by Emily R. Long (2016)
- A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis (1961)
- Grieving Together: A Couple’s Journey Through Miscarriage by Laura Kelly Fanucci and David Franco Fanucci (2018)