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Commemorating a Pregnancy or Infant Loss

Rituals, Objects & Activities

Many families find it important to recognize, honour and remember their baby in both public and private ways. There are many ways that a family can commemorate their love and continue their connection to their baby.

As healthcare professionals, you can help the family in the creation of memorial rituals and objects. Your presence and participation helps validate that a significant loss has occurred.

Objects at the time of the loss

Many families express strong attachment to the objects that have been in contact with their baby, or are gathered to the time of the loss. Unfortunately there are limited opportunities and time for a family to gather or create these memorial objects, and they are often in too much shock to know what to do or what they may want. Your role in guiding a family to create rituals and collect objects can be very impactful. It is helpful for healthcare providers to be prepared to engage families in a discussion about what options are available to them.

Objects you can offer may include:

  • Footprints and handprints
  • Hand and foot moulds ( Hand and foot mould instructional video )
  • Photographs
  • Lock of baby’s hair
  • Ultrasound photographs
  • Placenta Prints
  • A special box, bag or container for the family’s memorial objects
  • Clothing or blankets that came in contact with the baby
  • Medical bracelets / hospital bands /name bands
  • Measuring tapes
  • Test results
  • Hospital appointment cards
  • Sympathy card or letter signed by staff who worked with the family

Rituals provide a family with a symbolic expression to recognize the significance of their loss. Rituals can give a family a way to both express and contain strong feelings and thoughts, while helping to create a sense of control and give meaning to a situation that has been very much out of the family’s control. There are many ways a family can perform rituals; they may be culturally established, the family can create their own, or a combination of both. They can be performed privately, within a closed group, or publicly through a community ceremony or event.

Ritual activities may include:

  • Blessing, prayer or naming ceremony in the hospital setting
  • Naming the baby, if the baby has not already been named
  • Creating a funeral, ceremony and/or memorial service
  • Visiting the grave, crematorium grounds or special place
  • Putting flowers or gifts on the baby’s grave, in the crematorium grounds or special place
  • Participating in a butterfly or balloon release, or other public memorial event
  • Displaying photographs or symbolic artwork
  • Writing a poem, letter or song to the baby
  • Showing objects of significance and speaking about their baby to others
  • Sharing experiences through a public forum, such as writing a blog, posting on social media, speaking at a community event, or presenting at a conference
  • Creation of a memorial object such as art, keepsake, video, scrapbook, embroidery or quilt
  • Wearing jewelry that symbolizes the connection with their baby
  • Lighting a designated candle for anniversaries or special days
  • Planting a tree, plant or garden in a special place
  • Burning incense
  • Smudging with sacred medicines (tobacco, sage, sweetgrass, cedar)
  • Offering a spirit plate at special meals with family and community
  • Adding an ornament with their name, image or symbol to a Christmas tree
  • Including a symbolic object, such as a special teddy bear, in family photographs, vacations and events
  • Adding baby’s name to the family tree
Symbolic objects

Objects can create a symbolic connection with the baby that are ongoing and tangible.

Symbolic objects may include:

  • Gravestone or Marker
  • A “rubbing” of a cemetery marker or plaque
  • Getting a tattoo – name, footprints, symbolic art
  • Pressed flowers from their baby’s funeral to display in a frame
  • Weighted stuffed animal or teddy bear
  • Special vase to hold flowers received on commemorative days
  • A memorial plaque for a public bench or tree in a well-loved place
  • Painting, sculpture, engraving or commemorative jewelry of an image or symbol associated with the baby. It could incorporate the baby’s hair, ashes, hand/foot, breastmilk
  • Hand and foot mold instructional video
Public activities
Some families find it meaningful to contribute to others in tangible ways. By helping others, they can feel an ongoing connection to their baby.

Some ideas might include creating or participating in:

  • Advocacy or public awareness campaigns
  • Creating or contributing to charities or trusts
  • Creation or participation in memorial walks or runs
  • Volunteering for events or becoming a peer support person for others
  • Fundraising or making a donation of funds
  • Creating or donating objects in memory of their loss
  • Purchasing supplies for their local hospital