Remembering your Child

This page is intended to provide information and support for the death of a child.  For information about the death of an adult, visit Grief Support Following the Death of a Loved One on UofMHealth.org or for information about a pregnancy loss visit Loss of a Desired Pregnancy on the Von Voigtlander women's site

Memorials

The only “right” way to remember your child is what feels right to you and your family. Some families chose a more public way such as starting a foundation in their child’s name, holding an event to raise awareness about a particular diagnosis, or purchasing a bench for a local park. Other families chose to honor their child in a more private way by lighting a candle or planting a tree.

There is no timeline for when a memorial has to be completed. While many families like to have an event arranged close to the time of the loss, others may wait a few months to a year after the loss when they have had time to discover what feels like the best way for them to honor and remember their child.

Please do not put additional pressure on yourself to have the “perfect” memorial planned. If after you have had a memorial you later think of something that would have felt even more “right”, you can have another memorial. Memorials do not have to be limited to one time. 

Memorial Ideas Shared by Families 

The following are some ideas families have shared to celebrate the life of their child and mourn their loss. These ideas may feel like the right way for you to remember your child or may help you think of something unique and special. 

Books and Writing

  • Write a book to tell the life story of the child 
  • Donate the child’s favorite books to a library with a certificate on the inside sharing this book is donated in memory of the child
  • Create a memory book
  • Have a journal at family events and encourage family members to write messages in about the child (favorite memories, things they miss about the child, wishes they had)

Crafts

  • Make a quilt or other handmade comfort item 
  • Make a stuffed animal out of the child’s favorite clothes 
  • Make wind chimes with ceramic photographs of the child so you can hear them in the breeze

Nature

  • Have family and friends place a special stone at the gravesite to use as a border for a small flower garden 
  • Plant a tree in a special place
  • Hold a butterfly release
  • Create paper boats with the child’s name and place in a river, stream or other body of water for them to float away while people are sharing memories 

Other Ideas

  • Meditate in a peaceful place 
  • Volunteer to work for meaningful organizations 
  • Have a gathering on the child’s birthday 
  • Create a scholarship in honor of the child 
  • Participate in one of the child’s favorite activities
  • Start a foundation in the child’s name to help support programs that were helpful to the child and family

Michigan Medicine Memorial Events

Michigan Medicine welcomes you and your family to attend one of our special memorial events to remember and honor your child. 

Celebrating the Children of Mott:

Non-denominational memorial service to honor and remember children who received care at Mott from birth to young adulthood. This memorial service is held each spring and families are invited to attend. For additional information, contact the Office of Decedent Affairs  at 734-232-4919 or the Spiritual Care Department at 734-936-4041.

A Walk to Remember and Tree-Planting Memorial:

A Walk to Remember and Tree-Planting Memorial: Non-denominational memorial service used as a time for families and friends to join with others who share a similar journey; a time to come together to honor hopes, dreams and memories held each October during National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.  For more information, visit the Walk to Remember informational page.  You may also contact the Office of Decedent Affairs at 734-232-4919 or Brandon NICU 734-232-7887.

Donations in Memory of your Child

Friends, families, and others in the community may wish to make a charitable donation in honor of your child’s memory. This may be something to decide on early so it can be published in the obituary or mentioned at the funeral service. Many families’ direct donations to non-profit organizations that represent the values or interests of their child and family. 

You can also direct donations to a specific department or program of your choosing at Michigan Medicine. The staff at the Office of Medical Development (734-998-6893) would be honored to help you choose an appropriate memorial fund. Donations can be made to provide services to other families struggling with illness or loss, support nursing units, social work, spiritual care, medical research or a general fund. 

Getting Through Special Days and Holidays

Holiday and birthday celebrations are traditionally known for joy and laughter; however, for those who are grieving, they may be particularly painful and they may even feel inappropriate. The demands of grief require extra physical and emotional energy which may leave you unable to deal with excessive demands these times can bring. When these days come, think about ways you can care for yourself: 

Be honest about what you can expect to be able to do.

Realize that as a grieving person you have limits. You may not be able to or even want to do the things you used to do. Decide what is really meaningful for you and your family and do just that.

Find new traditions.

It may be helpful to find a tradition that honors your child.

Talk and share memories of your child.

Others may avoid starting these conversations, but may feel relieved that you are letting them know it is good, helpful and supportive to talk.

Make changes as it feels appropriate.

Change the time or place of certain traditions. Change responsibility for various tasks. Remember that what you choose to do this year may be different than what you choose to do next year.

If you have other children, remember that the holidays are likely very important for them.

Your other children have lost their sibling, but they may not react to holidays in the same way as you do. They may still express excitement and joy during this time. Think of how you may be able to be comfortably present with them in their excitement.

Talk about your fears and share your feelings about the upcoming holiday with your friends and family

This helps prepare them as well as helping you find the support you need.

Contact Us

The Office of Decedent Affairs (ODA) is part of the Michigan Medicine Department of Social Work. The ODA is the centralized point of contact at Michigan Medicine for ongoing questions and concerns before, during, and after the death of a loved one. To contact the Office of Decedent Affairs, call 734-232-4919 between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. You may also email the ODA office at SocWk-ODA@med.umich.edu.