Content warning: This post contains mentions of stillbirth some readers may find triggering.
And on top of feeling this overwhelming and insurmountable grief, there is something truly tragic that parents are expected to do.
That is to find clothes for their children to be buried in.
They need to find a gown. Or pick through bins of donated clothing to try and find something appropriate.
LISTEN: Is there anything you can do with a decade-old wedding dress? The Mamamia Out Loud team discuss (post continues after audio…)
This is what parents have to be thinking about – such a minor yet cutting detail – while grieving for their lost child.
There is, however, a group working to make this easier for parents – doing what they can to ease the pain during those blurry, stomach-churning, heart-breaking moments.
The Angel Gowns organisation in Australia transforms donated wedding dresses into gown for babies who didn’t make it. Either they were still-born or they tragically passed away at a young age.
Fiona Kirk, the founder of Angel Gowns said she started the organisation when she heard of a similar group operating in the US and wanted to help women in Australia with the same service – handcrafting old wedding dresses into a new symbol of beauty.
She said it helps families because “this gives them the strength to leave the hospital because it is the most traumatic feeling to leave the baby behind in the hospital.”
“Our gowns are sewn with love and then given to families.”
Working fulltime as an Executive Assistant to an Assistant Commissioner at the ATO and then doing fulltime hours on Angel Gowns Australia is so worth it. My husband and family are so understanding that this was a life time dream for me to run my own Charity. The hours are long and hard, the cause often so heartbreaking but the letters from bereaved families who have recieved a gown purely heart warming. @ausoftheyear @jtkaok
One woman’s testimonial on the Angel Gowns website speaks volumes:
I would like to thank Fiona at Angel Gowns Australia, from the bottom of my heart, for the amazing work and effort she put into making “Jack’s” special Angel Gown.
I am a close friend of Jack’s mother whose son passed away tragically at only six months of age. The comfort we felt knowing Jack was wearing his special Angel Gown in his little coffin, it was just so special.
Lisa Grubbs, the founder of the American organisation NICU Helping Hands, had similar motivations for starting her organisation. She says that when she saw parents rifling through charity bins, looking for garments their lost babies could wear, it struck her as “incredibly wrong that that was what they were having to do at one of the darkest hours of their lives”.
She told Today that it was special because “these babies are not getting a hand-me-down or something donated… It’s a unique, one-of-a-kind piece of clothing.”
“We’re talking about the last time that they hold their baby and what they’re giving their baby. It’s those last personal acts as a parent, those last things you do for your child.”
To make a donation or learn more about Angels Gowns, visit the Angel Gowns Australia website.
If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health or loss of a child, please seek professional help and contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or SANDS on 1300 072 637. If you are in immediate danger, call 000.
LISTEN: You can listen to the full episode of Mamamia Out Loud below…