When my son died, one of the things I worried about was that I would somehow “forget” him—forget his face or how he smelled, or feeling the softness of his skin.
When a life is so short-lived, any moment missed is one too many.
In my case, I journaled. Writing has always been a release for me, so this made sense. But there are so many other things we can do to honor and remember our children.
This is a list of 30 of them.
Please note: Adrian’s Elephant does not make use of affiliate links, and has not been compensated for links to products or services listed here.
Many hospitals maintain a list of local photographers and/or can contact Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep to provide free photos during your terminal pregnancy, stillbirth, or for your recently deceased child. These photographers have been trained to offer these services and to ensure they are honoring the life of your child in a respectful and professional way. Although this is isn’t a common subject, there is no shame in wanting or displaying these photos. In many cases, these are the only photos you will have of your child.
Some parents have mentioned being uncertain if they want photos, and this is normal. I do recommend, though, to have them taken anyway. If you don’t want to look at them, you can place them in either a physical or virtual drawer and never have to see them again. But if you find you want them later and didn’t take them, you can’t go back in time.
Hand and Footprints of your Deceased Child
Most hospitals will offer hand and footprints in your baby book or on any other items you have with you. Many hospitals also offer clay imprints. You can keep or display these prints in an important place to you, or even use them for art projects or tattoos.
Donate Your Milk
Depending upon the length of your pregnancy, you may produce milk. You may choose to take steps to stop your milk production, or you may choose to pump and donate to a milk bank. If you choose to donate, there is a Facebook group for resources and support
Funeral or Memorial Service or Birthday for your Deceased Child
Holding a funeral or memorial service allows bereaved parents to honor the life of their child in the company of family and friends. You can find details about Adrian’s funeral here and Adrian’s First Birthday here.
You may choose to hold a ceremony right away, but there is no timeline on events. Many parents find they feel more capable of planning the service they desire after the grief is no longer so fresh and overwhelming. If you choose to wait, you could pick a day that is special to you or your child, such as a birthday or special holiday.
Gravesite, Gravestone, or Urn
If you child was buried, you may want to choose a beautiful gravestone, or decorate the site with flowers, plants, stuffed animals, lights, or toys.
If your child was cremated, there are several options for beautiful cremation urns. Many companies will engrave your urn with your child’s name, dates, and if desired, a quote that feels meaningful to you.
Plan or Participate in a Memorial Event
Each October, there are memorial events in many cities to honor children gone too soon. There may be candle-lighting ceremonies, charity walks or runs, or simple gatherings. Some organizations also publish programs with a list of childrens’ names. Your local support group should be able to provide information on these events.
The Wave of Light is a virtual event held on 15 October each year. From 7-8pm in your local time zone, you may light a candle to honor your child and all others. The intent is to create a wave of light that lasts 24 hours around the world. You can follow the hashtag #waveoflight on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
Related: Miranda’s Blog: Wave of Light
If you would like to create your own virtual event, you can request names and details about deceased children in your local community or online support group, and construct a butterfly tree or candle walk or something else that feels meaningful to you. Some parents also create special displays for the holidays or take these names with them on special trips and photograph them for the community.
Participate in a Workshop or Retreat
Several organizations offer workshops or retreats for bereaved parents. Participating in such an event is a beautiful way to honor both your child and your grief. Retreats can be particularly helpful because you are separated from the outside world for several days, and aren’t distracted by the minutia of details at home.
Related: Resources Blog: Child Loss Retreats
Some retreats are listed here, but it is also worth asking your local support group or other local organization for information about workshops or events that may not be highly publicized.
Journaling, Blogging, or Letters
Many bereaved parents find journaling to be an outlet for their grief. If journaling is difficult, another option is to write letters to your deceased child, or you can sign up for prompt-based events like Capture Your Grief (annually in October), May We all Heal (annually in May) or Write Your Grief (periodically throughout the year). We also offer free journal prompts here under Sea Glass Parenting, as well as a private Facebook group for writing about child loss.
If you feel comfortable sharing in public, you can post your journals or letters on a website or blog. Blogger is an easy platform for a straight-forward blog, but if you want more customization, WordPress is a powerful option. (This site was built on WordPress). Squarespace, Medium, and Wix are also options.
If you don’t want to operate your own site, there are many online compilations accepting contributions, including right here on Adrian’s Elephant:
Many support groups also offer periodic newsletters, and are open to contributions.
Do you know of a magazine accepting contributions that isn’t listed here? Or are you interested in sharing your story on this site? Please contact me or comment below.
Find or Write Their Name
Write your child’s name in the sand at the beach, or use found objects to create their name in the woods. You can also write names of other children and share photos with their parents, or find street signs or other special places where your child’s name is displayed.
More information about Elijah’s Tropical Sunshine is available here.
More information about Camp Cullin, Scared Sidless, and Ginny Limer is available here and here.
If you are artistically inclined, or even if you’re not, there are several options to honor your child with art. You can draw, paint, take photographs, or create painted rocks or ornaments. You can also get involved in music or theater. Some organizations also offer art workshops specifically for grief.
If you are a skilled artist, you may also create items to sell or volunteer your skills to honor the children of other bereaved parents.
Purchase or Commission Art
There are multiple artists on Etsy or in other spaces online who create visual art in honor of our children. You can also purchase something that reminds you of your child. Several of the images used have been commissioned with local artists as well.
It is common practice for parents to wear their child’s birthstone or something symbolic of their child, and bereaved parents can do this too. Options are available in necklaces, rings, bracelets, and even key chains.
Custom jewelry can be created with breastmilk, cremation ashes, umbilical cord stump, or hair. Do-it-yourself kits are available on Amazon, and several vendors offer options for jewelry created with either breastmilk or cremation ashes on Etsy.
You can also purchase cremation jewelry with space to store a small amount of hair or ashes inside. Jewelry come in a variety of types, shapes, and metals. Although kits come with a sealant to seal the storage chamber, it is important to note is not recommended to wear cremation jewelry while showering or otherwise submerged in water.
Some companies offer custom engraving on your cremation jewelry, though placement options may be limited. I had Adrian’s pendant engraved by hand at a local jeweler.
Many parents find stuffed animals or lovies bring comfort, especially when items are weighted to approximate the weight of a child.
Comfort Cub offers free weighted teddy bears to all bereaved parents. If you would like to order a bear for someone else, use the code ‘Adrian10’ for a 10% discount at checkout.
Molly Bears are another option for weighted bears. Molly Bears come in several forms and sizes, and are weighted individually. Molly Bears open order forms at the end of each month, and bears can only be ordered by the bereaved parent. However, friends and family may purchase a fast track certificate to move the bear to the top of the production line.
Some parents choose different options for stuffed animals. Several vendors on Etsy offer options for bears or other animals with embroidered birth statistics. Parents may also choose to keep or purchase a stuffed animal that is meaningful from their child’s life, like Adrian’s Elephant, or even to create a stuffed animal from blankets or sleepers belonging to their child.
Reborn dolls are lifelike baby dolls that resemble or are made in the exact image of your deceased child. Many parents find comfort in these dolls when they need a physical reminder of the weight and feel of their child. Several vendors offers reborn dolls on Etsy.
If you purchase a reborn doll and find you no longer want to keep it in the future, you may be able to donate to a facility that cares for patients with Alzheimer’s Disease or other forms of dementia.
Other Keepsake Items to Honor Your Child
Other keepsake items can include things like printed blankets, water bottles, shadow boxes, or memorial chests. Parents may also choose figurines that feel meaningful. Many parents also choose to hold onto things purchased during their pregnancy, or even to purchase new items after their child is gone. This is all normal. Keep these things as long as you need.
Incorporating your Deceased Child into Family Photos & Traditions
Many families choose to include a photo or a symbol of their child in family photos and traditions. You can use a stuffed animal or a printed photo block, or even add details in with editing after the photo is complete.
You can also incorporate these symbols and/or photos of your child into family traditions, like purchasing an annual ornament for your tree, or setting a place for your child at Thanksgiving or family weddings.
Related: This Halloween there are pumpkins missing in our house
Related: Thinking of those who are missing this Thanksgiving
Related: There are stockings missing this Christmas
Related: Someone should be building a snowman today
Talking to your Living Children about their Deceased Sibling
Parents will have different perspectives on this, but if you feel comfortable, you can talk to your living children about their sibling, and continue to make memories as a family by incorporating symbols of their sibling in sibling photos or events.
There are also a number of books designed to talk to your living children about their deceased siblings. An example is Someone Came Before You.
Related: Special Topics: Parenting After Loss
Celebrate or Observe Mothers & Fathers Day and Bereaved Mothers & Fathers Day
Although it can be painful to be a parent without a living child, you are still and will always be a Mother or Father. And while there are additional holidays specifically for Bereaved Mothers and Fathers, you should never feel limited to observing these holidays only. If you choose to, observe or celebrate on both days. Buy yourself something meaningful or special. Spend the day however feels right to you. And please know that I acknowledge you as a parent, today and always.
Related: This May is my Xth Mothers Day. Thank you for remembering me.
Related: In your arms or in your heart, honoring you this Mothers Day
Related: In your arms or in your heart, honoring you this Fathers Day
Related: Notes for the Support Team: Acknowledge Bereaved Parents on Mothers and Fathers Day
Shadow Box or Memorial Wall/Table/Corner to Honor Your Deceased Child
Many parents create a gallery wall or memorial table or corner in their home to honor their child. Several examples are pictured below.
Plant or Tend to Something Living
There is something about nature that feels comforting when you are grieving, and many choose to plant or tend to a garden, potted plant, or a tree.
Tattoos to Honor Your Deceased Child
Tattoos are a common way to honor the deceased. You can choose an image special to you and your child, and/or you can incorporate their hand or footprints or their image. If you need tattoo ideas, Pinterest or Google Image Search are both good places to start looking.
If your child was cremated, your tattoo artist may be open to incorporating cremation ashes into the ink. Some artists will not do this themselves, but are open to using a commercially prepared product like Engrave Ink. Please note that because cremation ashes are a foreign substance, there is a small amount of risk in this process.
Related: Pinterest Board: Baby Loss Tattoos
Sponsor or Participate in a Physical Memorial Project
Some bereaved parents choose to sponsor the creation of physical monuments in honor of their child. These could include something big like a playground or park, or something smaller like a bench or paving stone.
Name a Star or Another Item in Honor of your Deceased Child
The International Star Registry allows you to name a star in the night sky and documents the naming with a beautiful certificate. You can also name flowers or other items.
Worth noting: there is a small amount of controversy about this practice. Because the International Star Registry doesn’t own the rights to the night sky, stars named through the service may not be considered “official”. It’s still a beautiful gesture.
Star or Moon or Sky Map
As an alternative to naming a star, you can instead buy a print of the night sky as it looked on the night your child was born. Star maps are available from multiple vendors.
Travel to a place you’ve always to see, and take your child’s name or a symbol of your child with you.
Do Something New and Difficult or Scary
If you’ve dreamt of a big accomplishment like running a marathon or writing a novel, consider performing this feat in honor of your child. Some people find physical activity to be a good method for processing grief, and writing can also be therapeutic. Social worker and fellow loss parent Ann-Marie Imrie wrote beautiful a children’s book for her son, Xavier, imagining all the different opportunities he should have had in his life. And I, of course, created this website.
Related: You Could Have Been
Another option is to face one of your fears, or to do something scary or exciting like skydiving. But please always be cognizant of safety rules with these activities.
Charity Donations or Service
Volunteer with or donate to a charity organization that serves bereaved parents, or one that serves another cause close to your heart.
- Adopt a Highway or Public Park
- Become a Child Advocate for foster children
- Fund-raise for your local children’s hospital
- Fund-raise to donate a cuddle cot to your local hospital to allow other bereaved parents to spend more time with their deceased child
Related: Charities Supported in Adrian’s Name
Memory Boxes or Volunteering
Many hospitals offer memory boxes to bereaved families. These boxes contain items such as stuffed animals, journals, Willow Tree figurines, and other items that may be comforting. If your local hospital does not offer memory boxes, you may create some yourself to donate. Some ideas of things to put in memory boxes will be posted in the future.
You can also volunteer to be a peer mentor or bereavement doula to support a fellow bereaved parent. Many organizations offer training in peer mentorship, and Still Birth Day offers discounted training for bereavement doulas.
Outreach and Education
One of the common sentiments in loss groups is that many parents didn’t know how common it is to lose a child, or how to identify the warning signs. If you are comfortable doing so, writing an article for a parenting blog or being active in pregnancy and parenting groups is a good way to spread this information.
If you become pregnant subsequent to your loss, you may also choose to be active in Due Date groups on Facebook or on other websites. These can be good places to share information about things like the dangers of relying on home dopplers and the importance of monitoring fetal movement, as well as other important recommendations.
Whatever Feels Most “Right” to You
While this is a long and comprehensive list, please don’t feel pressured to do everything written here. Whatever you choose to do to honor your child is going to the right decision for you.
All photos in this post are used with permission of the contributing parent and/or artist. If you are interested in contributing additional photos, particularly of any items not currently pictured, please email [email protected] or use our contact form. And a special “thank you” to every parent who has shared thus far; I appreciate your willingness to share these memories with the world.