Memorializing Miscarriage and Infant Loss


In July 2011, I experienced a missed miscarriage. The pregnancy was found to be “no longer viable” during an ultrasound around 10 weeks and I was immediately sent to the hospital to prepare for a D&C the following day. I woke up from surgery very upset and asked what would happen to the remains, the nurse who seemed uncomfortable by my question, answered, “they’ll be disposed of.”

To say I was heartbroken by the entire ordeal is an understatement. I’ve also dealt with infertility in the 6 years following the miscarriage, which, for me, has become emotionally compounded with the loss of my first pregnancy. It took me years to find acceptance and to recognize that grief is different for each person. Journaling, therapy, and guided meditation exercises helped me process the loss. 

Like many families in similar situations, I struggled to find tools and traditions to both cope with pregnancy loss and infertility, and to honor the family member who might have been. In recognition of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, I have complied a list of ideas for memorializing miscarriage and commemorating pregnancy loss. 

In the Garden:  

  • Plant a Tree, Bulbs, Roses, or Butterfly Bush 
  • Hang a Wind-chime 
  • Install a Birdbath 

Acts of Creation:

  • Create a Drawing, Painting or Sculpture 
  • Painted Rock Garden – Paint a rock each year on the day of the loss. Place them together in a painted rock garden. 
  • Write a Letter or write in a journal  
  • Make a Luminary (Homemade Lantern) – Search on Pinterest for “Luminary DIY” and “Memorial Luminary” for ideas. 

Acts of Ritual:

  • Listen to a Song or Read a Poem – Have you found a song or a poem that speaks to you about the loss? For me if was Jenny Lewis’s Trying My Best to Love You.  
  • Float Flowers or Leaves in a River or Stream – I read about this idea online as a more environmentally friendly alternative to Balloon Releases and Sky Lanterns (see below). I haven’t had a chance to try it, but I love the idea of watching flowers float away as an act of remembrance and letting go.  
  • Light a Candle – Join others across the world on October 15th at 7 p.m. in all time zones respectively, for the International Wave of Light which “invites baby loss families, friends and loved ones from around the world to join in honor and remembrance of our loved and longed for babies. Lighting begins in the first time zone and remain lit a period of one hour, with the next time zone lighting respectively. The result is a continuous chain of light encompassing and spanning across the world and around the globe for a 24 hour period illuminating the night in love and light in honor and remembrance of our children.”
  • Libation – Pouring a libation, or liquid offering, be it water, wine, milk, or even rice, is a human act of honoring a loss loved one that has been practiced by numerous cultures for thousands of years. 
  • Take a Retreat or A Day Off – A few months after the miscarriage I drove out of town, got a hotel by myself and spent most of the weekend writing in my journal and taking walks. Getting away from my day to day routine helped me focus on processing the loss and taking care of myself in a focused way. If getting away for an entire weekend is too difficult even taking one day off – and doing something creative or caring for yourself – can be beneficial.  
  • As a reminder, please avoid Balloon Releases and Sky Lanterns. Both are harmful to the environment. Wildlife can be killed when they eat Balloons or become tangled in the string and Sky Lanterns have been responsible for the death of livestock and caused fires.

A 8 inch tall ceramic sculpture of a man wearing a red hat and red sweater is surrounded by plants. My husband and I talked about creating our own tradition and ritual to commemorate our loss. Last summer, we followed through.

Earlier this year I read The York Times Article, The Japanese Art of Grieving a Miscarriage. The author, Angela Elson, also discovered her missed miscarriage during a 10 week ultrasound. I was inspired to sculpt a figure similar to those discussed in the article. To be clear, I was not trying to recreate another’s culture or tradition, rather inspired to find my own sense of healing from someone else’s wisdom. This year, on the anniversary of the miscarriage, I placed my little sculpture in a huge pot of irises outside my backdoor, my husband and I had a drink, and poured out a libation in remembrance.

Have you, or someone you know, created a meaningful way to process grief and/or commemorate pregnancy and infant loss? Share in the comments below. 

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Heather is a museum educator and art teacher in Oklahoma City. She designs and leads gallery experiences for visitors of all ages at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art and teaches art for toddlers and preschoolers at a local day school and at the Belle Isle Library. She has one son, Roger (3) and an aging dog, Amica (15). Her husband Jared is completing a pediatric anesthesiology fellowship at OUHSC. When not balancing the demands of three part time gigs, writing, parenting, and housekeeping, Heather spends what little free time is left maxing out her library card, trying new recipes, gardening, art-making, traveling, listening to NPR, watching movies, and making the long drive back to Texas to see friends and family.


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