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Infant Urns: When the Unthinkable Happens

by J. Malec

Illustration by J. Malec

It's a moment none of us ever want to imagine. The loss of an infant child is a devastating occurrence in the life of any parent - one that none should have to endure. But it is unfortunately all too common, and facing life after losing your son or daughter is a real problem that many parents face. Beyond the grief, planning for memorial services and planning for a cremation or burial can be overwhelming. But knowing that there are others who have gone through this process can offer some relief.

When the unthinkable happens, a feeling of despair can be overwhelming. Losing an infant or child to miscarriage, stillbirth or other medical complications is unlike any other loss. It may seem that no memorial can reconcile the smallness of the person with the vastness of the void left behind.

Infant urns alone will be of little comfort to grieving parents. But creating a niche in your home of remembrances can help to keep your baby's memory near. When traveling this difficult road, remember you are not alone. Other parents, too, struggle through this hurt every day.

Nothing could have prepared Laura and Tom for the loss of their second child, James, a mere 36 hours after delivery. Complications during labor had caused irreparable brain damage. All they could do was wait and feel helpless as the tiny life they had just welcomed into the world slipped away in no time at all. Close friends and family came to visit the children's hospital to show support and meet the little angel during an all too brief window. Nothing could take the sting out of the situation.

Infant Keepsake Boxes

Laura and Tom were fortunate in that they were able to spend a very small amount of time with James. They are one of many Minnesota families who had been given an infant keepsake box especially prepared for them by parents who had previously suffered a similar loss. The family took photographs together to keep James's memory alive, keepsakes such as a footprint, hospital bracelet and crib card became important touchstones. Taking time to preserve these mementos is something that has historically been overlooked by hospitals. Recently the memory box initiative began spreading.

A memory or keepsake box is a small container that is designed to hold objects and items of someone who has recently passed away. These items can include a hospital bracelet like they did for Laura and Tom or something else entirely. Some keepsake boxes are designed to hold a small amount of cremation ashes. The point of a keepsake box is to give you a place to hold some of those memories close and keep them alive.

Amy Kuebelbeck is one mother who has taken on the production and distribution of memory boxes to help others heal and be healed. In an article written by Mary Divine and posted on, Kuelbelbeck states, "When the baby dies, having some kind of physical, tangible proof that the baby existed is so precious to parents." Each participating family assembles as many boxes as needed in order to work through some grief. Then the torch is passed to another family to create boxes of love in their own child's name. According to a recent article published in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, six families have made the boxes so far; a seventh mother will take over this summer.

This shared experience can mean everything to grieving parents. Comforting others experiencing the same loss and allowing them to comfort you can provide unexpected support to see you through a difficult time. If you are grieving the loss of a daughter or son, just remember that you don't have to go through all of this pain alone.

Small Comforts

Kuebelbeck has written several books on her experience. Her first, A Gift of Time: Continuing Your Pregnancy When Your Baby's Life is Expected to Be Brief, is promoted on Heaven's Gain. Jim and Donna started Heaven's Gain, a home-based ministry that specializes in producing tiny caskets for preemies and infants. Frustrated by their own experiences of miscarriage and wanting to afford closure to the family through providing a proper burial to three infants, they started the business in order to offer comfort to others.

Should you choose cremation for your child, OneWorld Memorials offers a variety of cremation infant urns. The Teddy Bear Cremation Urn for infants comes in blue and pink and has received warm and positive feedback from customers. The Infant Cremation Photo Urn allows you to add a photograph to the front of the urn so you will always have a memory to reflect on. Many other styles and colors of cremation infant child urns are available, as well.

Knowing how best to memorialize a little one through the fog of pain that follows can be hard. This process can be especially challenging for grieving parents, and if you find it difficult to select an urn or memorial, it may be best to ask for help. It may also be helpful to use an online calculator to determine the volume of cremains before shopping for an urn. An approximate estimate is one pound before cremation will become one cubic inch of ashes afterward.

The void left by the loss of a little one is incomprehensible. Grief camps such as Camp Erin in Milwaukee are of great help, especially to children processing the loss of a sibling. The support of others during this time offers a much-needed container of comfort.

J. Malec is a visual artist and writer whose work often deals with themes related to loss and healing. She lives in Minneapolis, and spends much of her time practicing permaculture in the city.