Claire Archer tells us about a very special service of remembrance she and her toddler group organised last year.
The Ark Parent and Toddler Group started 14 years ago at King’s Lynn Baptist Church in Norfolk. I have been helping to run it for the last six years, since I started working for the church and took my youngest to the group. At the time I was still very much recovering from the death of my second baby, who I’d lost at only 2½ days old. I still found it difficult to talk about when I joined, but over time I got to know other mums at the group and realised that some of them had had similar experiences.
As we shared our stories, some mums asked if we could hold a service to commemorate Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day on 15 October 2015. My instant reaction was to say yes, but as I began planning it, it dawned on me that I had never actually been to a service like it before. I wasn’t sure what it would involve and what my own emotions would be.
We did some research and discussed what it was we wanted to achieve with the service. Our priority was to make people feel welcome and at ease in what would be a very emotional service. Two of the mums prepared crafts to do on arrival; people could braid keyrings out of different coloured ribbons or make sand bottles using chalks and coloured salts, to signify their personal journeys. Another mum prepared a Remembrance Board where we could all add photos, poems or other items to connect us with our babies and share them with each other. I chose to share some of my own story as part of the service, and our pastor agreed to tie it all together with a short talk on hope and looking to the future. Overall, we wanted to create a supportive atmosphere where everyone would be able to leave feeling strengthened by our time together.
Word of the service spread around quickly on social media and we were surprised at how many new faces we saw. At the end of the service, we reflected on the new friendships that had been made through this common bond. Many people wept, but everyone seemed to leave feeling that it had been a hopeful, uplifting experience – their babies’ short time on this earth being remembered, marked and valued.
Our ‘home grown’ service reflected where we were at the time and met our particular needs. Most valuable for me was the opportunity it gave me to talk with other parents and be listened to, and to listen in turn to others who might usually feel unable to share such personal memories.
This is a poem written for the service by one of the parents:
We are here to remember all our dear precious angels, here to light the special candles.
When we look up to the sky, some days I know I cry.
When the sun is shining bright, the warmth of the sun light.
Every day is different to bear, wondering if others think or care.
Time just passing us by, always trying think, “Is there a reason why?”
All the time that passes we miss each one of you so dear, as we are often at a loss here.
Memories to share together. Each memory etched in our hearts forever.
– Lisa Calvert