Trigger Warning: The following article discusses pregnancy and infant loss.
October adorns the world in its best. Even the trees are clothed brilliantly with the reds, auburns, rusts, and golds of the season. While baby pinks and powder blues may be far from the general mind, for many, these colors are more meaningful at this season than any other.
Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness
In October 1988, President Ronald Reagan declared October, National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month by saying, “When a child loses his parent, they are called an orphan. When a spouse loses her or his partner, they are called a widow or widower. When parents lose their child, there isn’t a word to describe them.”
Each year, over 15% of all pregnancies in the United States end in miscarriage or stillbirths, and 90,000 infants will pass away before their first birthday.1
Three of these angels changed my life. It was for them I began making Angel Hearts and it is for others who share their story that I drafted this pattern.
The emotional spectrum of grief is truly a curious wonder. Polar sensations can immerge in only a moments absence of each other. Yet by broader perspective, their combined presence is so perfectly sensible. Faith amidst despair. Beauty in the sorrow. Strength borne by weakness.
I have known personally three women who, alongside their dear husbands, are forced to walk daily, the bitter trek of bereavement. This past year, watching these mothers love fiercely and struggle deeply with the loss of their babies, has left a lasting imprint upon my heart. In the time that I have followed them, I have been left breathless at their words, wept over albums, and marveled at their strength.
In early February, within a particularly reverent moment, I felt a unique tug. Going beyond my heartstrings, it bound itself around my mind. I realized that with each precious photo, my focus was brought recurringly in to one common space; their arms, wrapped tenderly around their babies. Drawing them towards a heart which was now swollen by love and loss. I ached to think of those empty arms. I wondered, “What will those mother arms hold?”
Following an attempt to reach out to local resources for infant loss, I began drawing up ideas for comfort gifts I could make and donate to bereaved parents. At that time, I came by an article by the Huff Post, featuring the nonprofit A Heart to Hold, which created weighted hearts for grieving parents. The article was old and the organization had been discontinued since its publication, but these hearts were a seamless match to what I had been searching for.
Only hours later, I was sewing for the angels who had first touched me and in the weeks that followed, I was blessed to witness how these hearts had in turn, touched their families.
Several months after drafting up my own pattern for Angel Hearts, I shared my personal project with a visiting friend. As a photographer of the Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Foundation, she had worked personally with bereaving parents, and considered the healing benefits these hearts could offer, an immense gift. Following her return home, she too began sharing weighted hearts and has found they have fulfilled the mission we had both hoped for hurting families.
Throughout my experiences sharing Angel Hearts, I have always wished I could reach more. Recently with the opening of Hazel and Gather, a commonsense solution presented itself to share this extremely meaningful pattern through it. Though this pattern may be simple, it has more of my heart than I may ever put into any other pattern.
What are Angel Hearts
As mentioned earlier, Angel Hearts are fabric hearts, filled to weigh the EXACT amount of the baby at the time of their passing. Weighted memory hearts can provide comfort to parents as they keep fresh the memory of how it felt to hold their little ones. They fill empty arms and help soothe aching hearts by standing as a present reminder of the angels who left us too soon. Angel Hearts are also a way whereby friends, family and strangers can reach out to say, “I will remember your angel with you. As you miss them, so will I. I will be there to hear you say their name, smile at their memory, and walk alongside you in this tragedy. I will love them with you.”
In short, Angel Hearts are a heartfelt effort to connect bereaving parents with the memory of their angels and provide an opportunity for supportive resources to reach out.
Beyond the Heart – Helping the Bereaved
Many people observing tragedy feel insecure in their ability to provide comfort for those mourning. Often, they simply don’t know where or how to begin. Here are five ways in which you can offer relief to bereaving families.
Don’t avoid grieving parents. Even when you don’t know what to say, sometimes a shoulder to cry on or a listening ear is all that is needed.
Listen & Talk About Their Angel
Their babies lived. They are as much a part of a family as any other member. Keeping them a part of daily discussion, helps family members feel close to the memory of their angels and validates the time they were here. If you have experienced loss, share your story. You may be one of the only people that can relate to the battle they are fighting.
If you feel the need to offer a meal, do it. If you want to send a card, send one. Letting those mourning know they are in your thoughts, assures them that they are not alone in this experience. Your instincts may be perfectly timed to their needs.
Consider the Whole Family
It can often be forgotten that such a devastating loss affects everyone in the family, including dad and siblings. Reach out to fathers and other children in the family as well as mom. Offer to take children on outings. Arrange for meals to be delivered or a gift card to a favorite restaurant. Send a gift basket with games, treats, and goodies the whole family can enjoy.
Grief is a process, not an event. The arrival of certain milestones can paint some days darker than others. Send a note on baby’s birthday, due date or the anniversary of their passing. Mark it on your calendars just as you would any other meaningful date because for the family, it always will be.
Bereaving parents do not only experience the tragedy of losing a most precious life presently, but they also endure the loss of the life they had planned. The life of birthdays, first steps, acne, and braces. The life of first jobs and first loves. The life of graduations, arguments, weddings and parenthood. They lose the life that should have been.
This October, learn more about pregnancy and infant loss and how to help bereaving families. Reach out with an Angel Heart or act of service if you know someone who is passing through tragedy. Share your story with others. Breathe in deeply the sweet memory of your angel.
As supporters, do not strive to avoid grief, but rather strengthen others in it by letting them know that they need not bear the burden alone.
There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.
– Washington Irvine
The Angel Heart Pattern is a free download for personal use. Due to their sensitive purpose, sales from this pattern are not permissible. If you are a nonprofit that would like to incorporate the use of the Angel Hearts pattern into your mission, please contact me at [email protected] . It is my sincere hope that the gift of an Angel Heart will bring relief to hurting parents both within our DIY community and those touched by it.