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Rituals

Back at home

“On the psychological plane, these periods of mourning are experienced as genuine moments of crisis that sow confusion and anguish. Getting stuck in suffering intensifies the crisis. This is why it is necessary to ritualize it so that the suffering and the disappointment do not become too overpowering.

In many ways, at the core of ritual is the continuity of life. Life must be perpetuated in spite of everything, that is to say, in spite of death, sickness, misery, injustice and impotence. The ritual is practiced so that life continues.”

Denis Jeffrey1

Many parents feel the need to express their emotions through symbolic gestures. According to each person’s beliefs and culture, a ritual can help soothe the suffering of mourning.

A ritual evokes the memory of the baby, and it allows you to share your feelings and your sadness with your loved ones and to symbolically mark their departure with words, gestures or music imbued with love and meaning. 

As much for you as for those around you, it reinforces the reality of the loss of your baby and, in this sense, it will help the grieving process for all members of the family. The ritual therefore has a therapeutic effect.


At the hospital

We encourage you to perform a ritual with symbolic importance that will make sense to you and that will allow you to ease your suffering before you leave the hospital.

Talk to your nurse during your stay so she can help you and listen to your needs. Here are some examples of symbolic gestures and rituals that can help you express and shape your emotions:

  • Give your baby a bath
  • Dress up and/or swaddle your baby with a blanket
  • Have a baptism (baptism of desire) or a spiritual celebration
  • Do a small “goodbye” ceremony with your family as a funeral
  • Read a passage from a book or a letter
  • Listen to meaningful music
  • Place a stuffy, jewelry, flowers or a symbolic object at the bedside of the baby
  • Use the first name or an affectionate nickname you were using before the diagnosis
  • Etc.


The days that follow

“The death of a child at birth reveals the necessity of a ritual. [...] This “imperative” shows that certain stages of life can be experienced or overcome when they are painful only with the support of loved ones and those around them.2

When you return home, you will be able to take the time to think about what will help you express and manage your feelings in a healthy way:

  • Bring flowers to the cemetery
  • Light a candle
  • Create a place to gather, in your home or outside, dedicated to the memory of your baby, with mementos, a photo, a candle, flowers, etc.
  • Put together a nice box containing your memories of the baby
  • Write a letter to your baby (some parents choose to leave it at the baby’s bedside, put it in a memory box or symbolically bury it)
  • Record the story of your baby and how you feel in prose or poems, photos or images
  • Release some balloons or butterflies
  • Float flowers or petals down a stream
  • Organize a funeral (we suggest you ask those close to you to help you with the tasks and preparations for the funeral)
  • Plant a tree
  • Etc.

Some parents organize an event or commemoration at certain times of the year to honor the memory of their baby.

Others have started projects specifically in their baby’s name (participated in associations, published a book, helped other bereaved parents, etc.) to commemorate and give meaning to their short lives.

Note that On October 15 is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day, during which there are several initiatives for bereaved parents.

2 Bonnet, D. et Pourchez, L., dir. (2007). Du soin au rite dans l'enfance. Ramonville-Saint-Agne : coédition ÉRES-IRD.


Remembrance celebration

At CHU Sainte-Justine, a remembrance celebration is organized three times a year for families who have lost their babies in the mother-child units. This ceremony is a special moment to commemorate the passing of your baby.

Along with the soft music, texts and testimonies, this event is a time for meditation. We encourage you to invite your loved ones if you wish.

You will receive an invitation by mail to a remembrance celebration a few months after your delivery.

For more information, contact the Spiritual Care Team at 514-345-4931 ext. 5490.

Video

Subject addressed in this video:

  • Tell us about the memory celebration at CHU Sainte-Justine.


Important dates

It is natural that certain dates can rekindle your pain as they remind you of the absence of your baby, especially during the first few years following their passing:

  • The due date anniversary
  • The date of delivery or the date of your baby’s death
  • Mother’s Day
  • Father’s day
  • Holiday seasons
  • Vacations
  • Any other event or party you had imagined experiencing with your baby

You can make a symbolic gesture (ritual) to help get through these difficult moments, or do something nice for yourself like a small outing or gift.

It is also possible to prepare for these days by not avoiding or suppressing the fear or emotional upheaval they bring up and by actively involving your spouse or your loved ones in making a small, meaningful gesture together.

Video

Question addressed in this video:

  • What date do parents commemorate in the years following the loss?

1 Jeffrey, D. (2003). Éloge des rituels. Québec : Presses de l’Université Laval.

About this page
Updated on 12/10/2019
Created on 12/10/2019
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