October: A Month to Remember Angel Babies

For many, October is an exhilarating time of year. When the crisp weather sweeps in, so, too, do pumpkin spice lattes, leaf piles, football season, trick-or-treating, and all things that make this month memorable. For families who have lost babies in-utero, at birth, or early infancy, however, October is a poignant time of remembrance. It may also dredge up feelings of grief as people reflect upon the most precious thing in the world being taken from them.

Their child.

October is observed as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. In this article, we will explore this time of mourning and remembrance for families who have lost an infant, and share guidance on how to support a friend or family member who is enduring this heartbreaking journey. The most imporant thing for them to know is they don't have to go it alone. Here's how you can help. But first, let's learn more about Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.

October: A Month Dedicated to Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness

Roughly one in four pregnancies end in loss, while one in 160 pregnancies end in stillbirth (Stillbirth is when fetal death occurs after 20 weeks of pregnancy).

In 1988, President Ronald Reagan declared October Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month to recognize the unique grief of parents who have lost a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth and infant loss. Doing this was a way to show support for families who have lost infants – often called angel babies - due to miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirths, birth defects and sudden infant death. It’s also an opportunity to raise awareness and educate about pregnancy and infant loss.*

October 15th is observed as National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, started in 2006 by miscarriage awareness activist Robyn Bear who had six miscarriages over a two-year period.

Parents Grieve Infant Loss

Sadly, families face these deeply painful losses every day, but they receive little attention. Many parents feel alone after their loss of their baby. Mothers may feel a sense of guilt, a sense that their body has betrayed them or that they did something wrong that caused the loss.

They must also deal with the reality that the baby who they have excitedly anticipated – who they have bonded with since they learned they were pregnant – will not be coming home with them.

“They’re really grieving what isn’t going to happen,” says Sarah Lawrenz, executive director of Share Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support based in St. Charles, Missouri. “You’re never going to take your child to kindergarten or walk them down the aisle. Whether it’s 20 days ago or 20 years ago, it can still be difficult.”

Making it worse, friends and family often don’t know what to say. They may avoid the topic altogether.

Even medical professionals may be uncomfortable working with grieving parents. Share and other organizations conduct programs to educate them about how best to support families who have suffered a loss. They are encouraged to ask parents if they want to bath and hold their babies, take photos of them, name them and get a lock of their hair and footprints and handprints

Some hospitals now have a special room for families who have who have a stillbirth, away from other families on the maternity ward. The way parents are treated in the hospital can define their grief journey.

The Power of Keepsakes

For many parents, a major part of the healing process involves creating rituals to memorialize their baby. It may mean lighting a candle on a baby’s birthday, or hanging a Christmas stocking with the baby’s name. Some people do annual butterfly or balloon releases or adopt a family and donate presents in honor of their child.

Many people want special mementos to remember their baby, whether it be a special Christmas ornament or jewelry with their child’s footprint on it. They may take the ashes and have it made into a diamond.

At Share, they host a memory-making class, where parents, grandparents and siblings can make keepsakes for their baby. One mother made a bracelet that said “I hold you in my heart” in Morse code.

Susan Mosquera channeled her painful experience into a business to help others memorialize their babies.

Mosquera launched My Forever Child after her son was stillborn two weeks before his due date. Using her experience handcrafting jewelry experience, she created miscarriage and stillbirth jewelry and keepsakes. The company’s offerings include custom charms and keychains with the image of a child’s actual handprints and footprints.

“I knew it was calling to help others that are in various stages of grief and healing, and also to help raise awareness for causes and advocacy for the prevention of future losses,” Mosquera said. “Often times we do not express our true feelings to others, and we keep our sadness and grief deep inside. Wearing or displaying a personalized memorial is a beautiful way to acknowledge, remember, and honor someone who has impacted your life but has passed on way too soon.”

After her daughter Eliza was stillborn, Brooke Taylor Duckworth surrounded herself with mementos. She ordered a print of her name in the sand, taken at sunset on a beach in Australia b and had it printed large and framed. She scanned the footprints that were done at the hospital and had them reproduced by an Etsy artist in a glass ornament that she hung among family photographs along her staircase.

In the days that followed her death, she was given a necklace with her name on it. Over time, her jewelry box filled with mementos that included her name or represented her in some way, from a duck charm to a necklace inscribed with the words, “Be brave, for I am always with you.”

“What I needed were mementos of love – proof of her life and of the love we felt for her even after she was gone,” Taylor Duckworth, wrote in Sharing Magazine, SHARE’s online magazine. “As years have gone by, and my grief nestles in among the joys that have followed and the hustle and bustle of ordinary life, I’m grateful for the permanence of these things in my home. Even if I’ve seen her portrait so many times that I can simply pass it by as I haul another load of laundry upstairs, it’s important to me that it hangs there as proof that she existed.”

Even after the birth of other healthy children, parents say it doesn’t lessen the pain they feel over the baby they lost.

How to Help Parents Coping with Pregnancy and Infant Loss

Simple gestures are often the best and most meaningful.

  • Be present.
  • Say “I’m sorry.”
  • Use the baby’s name.
  • Ask them to tell you about their baby, or ask to see/hold the baby if appropriate.
  • Ask to see pictures of the baby if they were taken.
  • Acknowledge them as parents. This is particularly difficult for families who do not have other living children. They are parents and should be supported accordingly.
  • Remember the father. Mothers often receive the majority of the concern, but fathers grieve too and appreciate their grief being acknowledged. Fathers tend to be strong for the mother and may not feel they have permission to grieve themselves.
  • Support their decisions. There are many new decisions that need to be made regarding medical care, testing, cremation or burial arrangements, memorial services, cultural or religious ceremonies, what do with baby’s things, and more. It may be appropriate to help the parents carry out these decisions, but do not judge what they have chosen.
  • If you don’t know what to say, tell them that. The honesty that this can’t be easily fixed is validating and indicates you respect the family’s emotions.
  • Offer to do specific tasks for the family. When grieving, the family is not often able to identify how they could use help and will not usually have the strength to call someone who has offered to help. For example: “May I bring you dinner tomorrow evening?” Other tasks could include caring for other children, cleaning the house, washing the car, doing laundry, picking up family members at the airport, going to the store, researching funeral homes or support resources, and calling employers or extended family and friends.
  • Offer to help the family with many of these same daily tasks in the weeks or months after the memorial service when most of the help has ended.
  • Attend the memorial services or funeral.
  • Offer a keepsake or memorial item. Flowers, photos, trees, figurines, and jewelry are examples of items that can be a source of comfort, support, and remembrance.
  • Remember them in the months and years to come. Call, send a card, or offer to spend time with them on milestone days. The pain does not end with the delivery or memorial services. As the parents dreamt about this baby, they also dreamt about sharing special moments as a family. Their loss includes the loss of these dreams.
  • Acknowledge the baby and their loss on special dates. For example: The baby’s due date, holidays, mother’s day and father’s day, anniversary of the baby’s birth/death date, and more.
  • Recognize that if/when another pregnancy occurs or baby is born healthy, it will not eliminate the grief over this baby and the new baby will not replace the baby who has passed. Any future pregnancies will bring a new level of anxiety and concern. Also recognize that not all perinatal losses are followed by future pregnancies.
  • Remember their baby by including the baby’s name on a holiday card, making a donation in the baby’s memory, doing a random act of kindness to honor the baby. Use your imagination. They will appreciate the effort made on their child’s behalf.
  • Don’t push them to participate in activities you think may be helpful. Being around babies, attending baby showers, participating in family celebrations, and similar activities may be too much for them for quite some time.
  • Give them time to grieve. Grief is a long, complicated journey that requires significant energy and time. Parents are required to create a “new normal’ for themselves. This process often takes 1-2 years or more. They will learn to find hope and joy in life again, but it will not happen right away.
  • Know that your support will be an essential tool for them as they progress through this complex process.

What Not to Say to Someone Grieving Pregnancy and Infant Loss

Avoid statements that minimize their emotions, tell them how to feel, or rely on religion (unless you are certain it is how the family is feeling).

For example:

  • It’s probably for the best.
  • It was God’s will.
  • It would have been worse if …
  • Now you have an angel.
  • You’re young and can have more.
  • There must have been something wrong with the baby.
  • Your baby is lucky to be in heaven.
  • At least he/she didn’t suffer.
  • You’re lucky you have other children.
  • You’ll be a parent someday.
  • At least you didn’t know him/her.

Source: Star Legacy Foundation (http://www.october15th.com/)


Star Legacy Foundation: The Star Legacy Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing pregnancy loss and neonatal death and improving care for families who experience such tragedies. It is a community of families, health professionals, researchers, policy makers, and individuals dedicated to helping every pregnancy have a happy ending. The Star Legacy Foundation believes:

  • Many of the 26,000 annual stillbirths and additional neonatal deaths in the United States are preventable.
  • Expectant parents should be informed about stillbirth risks and educated on ways to reduce any risks
  • Standard prenatal protocols should include third trimester ultrasounds to identify known stillbirth risk factors and subsequent management when risk factors are identified.
  • Pregnancies with risk factors for stillbirth, especially if multiple risk factors exist, should be managed as high-risk pregnancies
  • Stillborn babies should be recognized with a certificate of birth resulting in stillbirth.
  • Stillbirth families should be afforded a one-time tax credit/deduction equivalent to the dependent child tax credit to help offset unexpected expenses of burial, mental health therapy and costs not covered by insurance companies.

Share Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support: Share is a community for anyone who experiences the tragic death of a baby as well as the professionals who care for grieving families. Share is a national organization with over 86 chapters in 29 states. Services include bed-side companions, phone support, face-to-face support group meetings, resource packets, private online communities, memorial events, training for caregivers, and so much more. Should you need them, we hope you can also benefit from at least one of these many resources. Each year, Share holds four burials in partnership with local funeral home

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep (NILMDS): The Mission of NILMDTS is to provide remembrance photography to parents suffering the loss of a baby with a free gift of professional portraiture. Remembrance photography can be important step in the grieving process, providing a tangible memento for parents to have to memorialize their child.

M.E.N.D. (Mommies Enduring Neonatal Death): M.E.N.D. is a Christian, non-profit organization that reaches out to families who have suffered the loss of a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth, or early infant death. It publishes free bi-monthly magazines, holds commemorative ceremonies, and host a variety of support groups throughout the nation.

Grieve Out Loud: Grieve Out Loud is a comprehensive holistic bereavement care Its mission is to help families of pregnancy loss and infant death to build a strong foundation to ensure the family’s grief journey is healthy, complete and contains little regret Grieve Out Loud was started in January 2010 by a group of parents who understand the pain of losing a baby and are passionate about helping others in their own grieving process.

Baby Steps: Baby Steps, named after the baby steps that form the long and difficult road to recovery from the loss of a child, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising funds for research into childhood illnesses and their treatments. Babystepsgiftshop.com has an exclusive line of gifts for children and adults. Proceeds from these items are donated to the Hospital for sick children.

First Candle: First Candle is a 35-year-old nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing the rates of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and offering bereavement support for grieving families. In 1994, First Hendry partnered with the National Institutes of Health on the Back to Sleep campaign, which led to a reduction in the rate of SIDS by more than 50 percent.

A Memory Grows: A Memory Grows is a nonprofit organization that serves as an outreach to grieving parents, and as a resource to hospitals, clinics, hospice groups, churches and other nonprofit organizations. Retreats presented by A Memory Grows connect parents who have experienced similar losses.

Perinatal Hospice & Palliative Care: PerinatalHospice.org is a clearinghouse of information about perinatal hospice and palliative care, including many resources for parents and caregivers as well as an international list of more than 300 programs. The website was founded in 2006 by and is edited by Amy Kuebelbeck, a former reporter and editor for The Associated Press and other news organizations and lead author of A Gift of Time: Continuing Your Pregnancy When Your Baby's Life Is Expected to Be Brief . She described her experience of continuing a pregnancy with a life-limiting prenatal diagnosis in her memoir, Waiting with Gabriel: A Story of Cherishing a Baby's Brief Life. Both books are used by many hospitals and clinics as resources for patients.

Angel Names Association: The Association is a nonprofit organization that aims to ease the financial burden imposed by stillbirth, provide supportive programs and services for families enduring the trauma of stillbirth and raise money for stillbirth research.

Activities During Pregnancy and Infant Death Awareness Month

Share Walk for Remembrance and Hope: The annual event will be Oct. 19th in St. Charles, Missouri. Participants wear a T-shirt with the name of their baby on the back, and they hold a memorial service where they say the name of the baby who died. Last year, 3,000 people attended that event and 600 babies were honored.

#NeverBeStill campaign: In October, The Star Legacy Foundation honors all babies amongst the stars, including those memorialized on its website as Our Stars. Please help us remember these beloved babies by reading their stories.

Global Wave of Light : On October 15th, people are encouraged to honor the memory of babies lost to pregnancy and infant loss by lighting a candle at 7 pm in their time zone. Keep your candle lit for at least one hour to create a continuous “wave of light” across all time zones covering the entire globe.