National Center for Effective Mental Halth Consultation First Candle National Center for Cultural Competence Georgetown Center for Child and Human Development

Module 4What congregations can do

The pain can last a lifetime

Families reported that they really appreciated it when their congregations understood that their loss was something they experienced over time. Special milestones such as the baby’s birthday and holidays could reawaken their sense of loss.

Remember that Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day can be particularly difficult and bereaved parents may not attend Sunday morning worship service as a result of their pain. Families noted that, for example, when the Pastor asked all the mothers to come forward for a special blessing or to receive flowers, women who had lost a pregnancy or baby and didn’t have other children felt distressed and not sure what to do.

What congregations can do:

Listen to the following presentation, which includes suggestions for what a congregation should do to provide support to a grieving family. (Click on the button below to launch the audio clip in another tab. Close the tab to return to the curriculum when the clip is over.)

Pastor with Grieving Family

  • Discuss with Pastor/Clergy ways to include a special prayer on Mothers’ and Fathers’ Days or other holidays to acknowledge bereaved mothers/fathers and families who have experienced these types of losses. Also, if possible, include a poem or reflection in the bulletin to further acknowledge them.
  • Acknowledge the loss by sending cards to the families. You can send cards with a special message written by you. You can make cards. You can choose to do one or more of these options that work the best for you. Appropriate occasions for sending a card include:
    • on the occasion of the loss
    • on the scheduled birthday
    • on the anniversary of the death
    • on Mother’s Day/Father’s Day
  • Create special remembrance days
  • Hold a special “Celebration of Life” service and invite the bereaved families as well as the community. Below are some ideas or suggestions for activities to include:
    • Host the celebration showing the DVD or video, “Footprints on Our Hearts” and have a discussion afterward. (Available online or through the Centering Corporation)
    • Encourage parents to bring personal items to put on a remembrance table to be shared if they would like.
    • Host a panel discussion with parents who have experienced these types of losses.
    • Provide printed bereavement material packets and/or footprint or bereavement pins.
    • For families that experienced pregnancy losses, have the parents make birth certificates if none was received from the hospital. Encourage parents to give the child a name as this will help them to see the baby as being real. (Even if they did not know if the baby was a boy or girl, they can use a name that can be used for either.)
    • Butterflies can be released in memory of the baby. This is a way to release the pain but hold on to the love.
    • Light candles in remembrance of the baby with special reflections/poems being said in the process.
    • Suggest parent to write letters to the baby.
    • Provide materials to create memory boxes/books.
    • Plant small bushes or trees on the church grounds or at home in memory of the baby.
    • Create a banner with the names of loved ones who have died. Each year during the "Celebration of Life" program display the banner so that there are years of loved ones listed.
    • Consider developing a special "Footprints on Our Hearts" memorial banner that will have small footprints that families can write the names of their infants on them. Display that banner during this special program each year. o Provide a musical tribute or singing healing service
  • Create ongoing opportunities to recognize the loss and memorialize the baby:
    • Flowers can be purchased for the pulpit for Sunday morning worship service with an announcement made in the bulletin as to who the flowers are in memory of.
    • Books can be donated to the church's library in memory of the baby with the baby's name imprinted inside of the cover. This book can be one specific to these types of perinatal loss.
    • A memorial fund can be established for these types of losses to purchase books, to help begin the church ministry, to donate to research, etc., and it can an ongoing opportunity for other parents to give in the name of their child.

page footer

  Accessibility  •  Copyright © Georgetown University  •  Phone: (202) 687-5387 or (800) 788-2066
3300 Whitehaven St., NW, Suite 3300  •  Washington, DC 20007  •