When you learn the news that your loved one is facing a prenatal diagnosis of a life-limiting condition and the loss of their precious baby, you might feel compelled to do something to comfort the parents and honor the little life they have created.
That desire is tender, wonderful, and valid. One of the greatest gifts you can give to grieving parents, both during pregnancy and following delivery and loss, is your support and the fact that you remember. Giving gifts and keepsake items to parents is one way to show that support and remembrance, and I want to help you feel informed and empowered to give thoughtful gifts that will be received well.
Truly, the most important aspect of giving gifts and keepsake items is not the item itself but the way in which you approach giving the gift. As someone who is thoughtfully choosing a gift, I know it is never your intention to trigger a negative emotional response or cause additional pain for the grieving parents, and that is why it is so important to be tender and thoughtful in your mode of delivery. You are never going to be able to completely control or predict how your gift is received by the parents, and that fact should not prevent you from giving a gift or keepsake item. What I am encouraging you do to is to put yourself in their shoes and consider how you would want a gift given to you in the midst of carrying a baby who you know you will have to say goodbye to too soon or in the midst of the unimaginable grief that comes home with you from the hospital in place of a living baby.
Speaking from my own personal experience, there is a heartbreaking reality that you will only have a finite number of memories and items that belonged to your child or were carefully chosen for them. Every single gift, keepsake, card, text message, and letter that I received during my pregnancy and after losing my triplets are cherished items to this day. Every item that was thoughtfully chosen and given to us was tenderly packed away in memory boxes for my babies. To be able to pull out those boxes and feel and see tangible reminders of my children means the world to me. It is proof that they existed, and that they are loved deeply. It is proof that they mattered to more than just my husband and me. To hold their memory items and trace the outline of their handprints and footprints is a gift and a way for me to feel like their mother. That is the gift you are giving when you send something in honor and memory of your loved one's child.
My friends and family were very involved in our story, and the care and support they provided inspires so much of what I write to you as friends and family supporting your loved ones. This process of caring well is a learning experience. No one expects you to know what to do and how to do it if you have never walked this path yourself or if you have never been in a support role for these circumstances before. The reality is that you will likely make missteps. I have made my own missteps in caring for grieving friends and family, and I am intimately acquainted with the process. You are human, and it is okay to not be perfect.
To help you feel confident as you choose and deliver gifts and keepsakes to grieving parents, I have created a few simple guidelines:
After all the thought and care you put into choosing a special gift to give, take a moment to include a card explaining your heart and thought behind the gift. Giving context for the gift you have chosen helps the parents understand your tender intentions and the love you have for them and their baby. If you have ordered something that will be delivered directly to the parents, and you do not have the option to include the context in a card, consider making a phone call or sending the parents an email or text so that the arrival of the gift does not catch the parents completely off-guard.
I do understand the desire you might have to give a gift anonymously. I can understand that you might wish to do so in an effort to remove the pressure of sending a thank you note or acknowledgement from the parents. While I think that is a noble and kind thought, I would encourage you to consider letting the parents know who the gift is from. Part of the joy and emotion behind receiving a remembrance gift is knowing who was thinking of you as a grieving parent and your precious baby. You can always address your concern in your note, letting them know that there is no pressure to respond or send a thank you. I still look back at gifts I was given and smile thinking of who took the time to send such precious items to us. I have even followed up with those people years later to let them know just how much their gift still means to me. It is a beautiful means of connection.
Opt for Something Permanent Over Something Temporary
This guideline is not a hard and fast rule; it is simply a suggestion for you to consider.
Sending flowers, which are not permanent, is a beautiful gesture, and I absolutely encourage you to send flowers or plants if that is what feels right to you. Opting to send something is better than not sending anything because it conveys that you remember them and what they are experiencing. The reason I give the guideline of opting for something permanent over something temporary is twofold.
One, by providing something permanent, you are giving the parents something they can hold on to forever. A permanent gift can be lovingly packed away in a memory box and pulled out when the parents need to feel connected to their baby or when they want a reminder of who was thinking of them during their pregnancy or after their loss.
Two, for some parents, receiving something like flowers or a plant, can have the unintended effect of compounding loss. It can be hard to care for a living thing like flowers or plants, and it can be painful when those things die. This was my experience with receiving flowers and plants, and I remember crying over each one as they died, and I had to throw them away.
Every grieving parent, just like every gift giver, is unique. You know your love one better that I do so use that knowledge to guide how you give a gift. These guidelines are simply a tool to help you think through gift giving not to dictate to you what to do or not to do.
Now, if the idea of sending a gift or keepsake item is too overwhelming or not your strength, that is absolutely okay. The number one rule of providing care and support to grieving parents is knowing your own abilities, strengths, and capacity. Not everyone is a skilled gift giver, and not everyone enjoys picking out gifts. If you find yourself wanting to send something more useful or practical in the moment, that is completely understandable. I have written an entire post about providing practical and tangible support to parents, and you can find that post here.
Consider Both Parents, Not Just The mother
It is very common for the mother to become the focus of a family's support network. After all, she is the one who has continued to carry their baby despite the physical toll on her. She is the one who will face one of life's most cruel and difficult challenges: laboring and delivering a baby who will not live a full life. She is the one whose body and mind will wage war after going home without a living baby. Her mind knows there is no baby to feed and hold and comfort yet her body will still produce nutrition and long to hold that baby with every fiber of her being. So, yes, grieving mothers need support from her family and friends but so does her significant other.
There is an added layer of grief that is unique to the significant other of the pregnant woman. Not only are they losing their child, too, they are also watching the woman they love suffer unimaginably. They carry their own grief and the grief of their significant other. It is easy to assume that the grief is somehow less for the parent who did not carry and bear the baby who died, but the reality is it is different not less. The other parent often becomes an invisible sufferer; someone expected to manage their own grief and be strong for their significant other and family. Many parents manage to do that well, but as their support network, I encourage you to see them and acknowledge their grief, too.
As you begin to search for bereavement gifts and keepsake items, you will notice that the vast majority are designed with the baby and the mother in mind. Rarely will you find gifts specifically for the father. So, when you go to get a gift for grieving parents, consider giving something for father, too, or something for the whole family to cherish. The same consideration goes for the living siblings of the baby who dies. Keep them in mind as well and consider giving them something that is their own as they navigate their grief.
The loss of a baby during pregnancy or following birth does not happen in isolation. It is not something that happens to just the mother or even the immediate family. The effects of this kind of loss are devastating and far-reaching. So, if you are reading this and thinking that you do not have the kind of relationship with the parents where you would feel comfortable sending them a gift, consider your relationship with the baby's grandparents. Would they be someone who you would feel comfortable supporting with a gift or keepsake item?
The above guidelines are intended to help you in the process of gift giving. They are not meant to overwhelm or discourage you. I can imagine how daunting it might feel to navigate the metaphorical landmines that exist in caring for grieving parents so to help you feel confident, I am providing you with some ideas of gifts you could give. This list is not exhaustive. There are so many other things you could give that I might not have thought of. If you have given a gift or have an idea that I have not included, please let me know. I want to learn from you, too. You can contact me directly by filling out the form found here.
Grief books can be incredibly helpful for some parents. With this gift, it is incredibly important to know and consider the parents you are giving this to. I strongly recommend that you pre-read any book you plan to give to grieving parents.
Also, be considerate of the parents personal and spiritual beliefs. Their grief is not the time to challenge their views or present your own, especially through a book. Not every parent will want to read about another family's story, experience, or faith. This is a gift that absolutely should come with context. What about this book spoke to you? What about this book was helpful for you if you are also a parent who knows the loss of a child?
Casting kits for making hand and foot casts or prints help parents create keepsakes that will last a lifetime. These casts and prints can serve as tangible proof that their baby existed. I think we can all relate to studying and feeling a sense of wonder at the sight of the tiny, perfect hands and feet of the babies in our lives. Hand and foot casts and prints are a cherished keepsake for all parents, especially grieving ones.
Many hospitals provide this keepsake, but this could be a tender and thoughtful gift to send to the loved one in your life. Again, I would encourage you to be mindful of the guidelines above and how you go about delivering this gift.
Donations and Charitable Giving
Donating to a family to help with funeral expenses or medical bills is an incredible, generous, and thoughtful gift. The topic of finances in the middle of dealing with the news of a diagnosis, continuing a pregnancy, saying goodbye to their baby, and then transitioning into life after loss can be an uncomfortable and difficult conversation. The medical bills and funeral expenses can be daunting and even crippling for some families so this is an area where you can come alongside your loved one and provide tangible and memorable support.
You can also give a financial gift in the way of charitable giving. When my babies died, my husband and I did not want people to bring flowers to their memorial service or send flowers to our home. In lieu of flowers, we provided the opportunity for our friends and family to donate to a non-profit in memory of our babies. For weeks and months following the memorial service, we received cards in the mail, both from the non-profit and our friends and family, letting us know who had donated in memory of our Bridget, Vivian, and Liam. To this day, I have a binder full of those cards, and it is one of my most cherished items.
Many organizations and non-profits are funded by donations just like that, and it is an incredible feeling to know that part of my babies' legacy was doing good for other families. If there is a particular organization or non-profit that means something to you or your loved one, consider this as a way to give and remember the precious baby in your life.
If you decide that a charitable donation speaks to you as a means to support a family, Carrying To Term would be honored to help you remember a precious life gone too soon. You can donate to our non-profit by visiting our giving page found here. If you want us to send a card to the family you donated in memory of, I would be honored and humbled to personally handwrite a card to those parents. You can let me know of your donation and the address you want the card sent to by completing my direct contact form found here.
There are many options under this category of gifts, and this is another area where your knowledge of your loved one will help. From this category, you could give:
- hand-lettered or quote prints
- memory boxes
- picture frames
If you have other ideas for this category, please let me know! You can contact me directly here.
Jewelry is a beautiful and personal way to honor a baby's memory. Many mothers find comfort in wearing a necklace, bracelet, or ring bearing their baby's memory. I can personally attest to the comfort I find in the sweet and tender jewelry gifts people have given to me or that I purchased for myself. I love that these pieces are often a conversation starter when I am out in public because it provides me the opportunity to share about the precious lives who changed mine. I did not stop being their mother when they died, and I love to honor them by sharing their lives and their story. The jewelry I have been given has provided me that chance more times than I can count, and I am incredibly grateful for that.
This is another gift where you will want to use your knowledge of your loved one to pick jewelry in keeping with their style and preference. You may also want to just provide a gift card to the place of your choice so that the parent can choose their own item.
For men, jewelry may not be something they want or wear. There are many places that do customized engravings for keychains or other items so keep that in mind if you are struggling to come up with something for the father.
Some parents find it cathartic to write following diagnosis, during pregnancy, and following delivery and loss. This journey can blur and fade over time so many parents want to journal their thoughts, feelings, and experiences for reference later or for sharing with living siblings or babies who come after the loss. Providing parents with a beautiful and specially chosen journal can empower and encourage them to document their journey. Just like many parents buy a baby book to document their experience during a pregnancy without a diagnosis, carrying to term parents may have that same desire. A journal can be another way for them to honor their parenthood and create memories that will last a lifetime.
Since all of us here at Carrying To Term know the pain of losing a baby or babies, we have personal experience with receiving and giving bereavement gifts and keepsake items. We wanted to share with you some specific shops that create beautiful, tender, and thoughtful gifts for grieving parents. Below you will find the name and link to each shop and a description of what they offer. These shops are being shared with you simply because of our personal experience. Carrying To Term is in no way affiliated with these shops, and we do not benefit by sharing them with you. By sharing what gifts we have given or what gifts have meant a lot to us, l hope you will feel confident and supported as you choose and give gifts to your loved ones.
Bottle of Tears, found here, is a faith-based (Christian) shop that specializes in "mailing hope to those who need it most as a reminder that they are not forgotten and are deeply loved." Bottle of Tears offers a variety of gifts ranging from vintage bottles, jewelry, prints, home decor, and gift sets to help you curate the perfect gift for your loved one. Bottle of Tears has gift options that will be cherished by fathers, mothers, and the entire family.
The Cooper Project, found here, is a shop run by a mother who knows the pain of losing her son. She started this shop as a way to honor her son's memory and give comfort to other parents. For every item purchased, she donates a customized item to a loss parent. Every month, she opens up the form through which grieving parents can request a customized piece. As a friend or relative, you cannot request a donated item on behalf of your loved one, but you can purchase a gift knowing that your purchase will touch both the lives of your loved ones and the life of another grieving parent. The Cooper Project offers a range of handmade and customized jewelry items.
A Family Print Shop, found here, is run by a husband and wife team, and they specialize in high quality silhouette remembrance items. The shop does not specialize in pregnancy or infant loss, but they offer items specific for grieving parents like their remembrance locket. They are sensitive to the unique needs of grieving parents and offer a variety of options that will be cherished by fathers, mothers, and the entire family.
Laurelbox, found here, provides comfort boxes to bereaved mothers. Through laurelbox, you have the opportunity to personally customize and send a box, purchase a box carefully curated by the laurelbox team, or send a subscription of laurelboxes to your loved one. They offer a wide variety of comfort gifts designed for women and children.
The Midnight Orange, found here, creates "tender keepsakes for tender hearts." The artist behind this shop creates beautiful sculptures by hand with extreme reverence for the story behind the creation. Her shop offers a wide selection of ways to honor and represent a baby who has died and the family as a whole. Personally, this is the one bereavement gift that is the most cherished in my home. She created a sculpture for us that represents our complete family: my husband, me, our three babies lost to miscarriage, our precious Bridget, Vivian, and Liam, and our living daughter. Working with her is an absolute dream, and her sculptures will be cherished by the whole family.
Silveristic, found here, specializes in jewelry, particularly customized initial necklaces. This shop is not specific to pregnancy or infant loss, but many of the pieces in this shop would serve as beautiful keepsake jewelry. I was given an initial letter necklace from this shop, and I wear it every day.
Giving gifts is a deeply personal process, and the supportive nature of your desire to give to the grieving parents in your life is beautiful. My hope is that you feel confident in your ability to choose and deliver thoughtful gifts in honor of a precious baby. The heart behind the gift is what touches a grieving parent, and there is something so powerful about receiving a carefully chosen remembrance item. Through your gift, you are telling a parent that their baby is always loved and never forgotten.