One thing I have learned through participating in a palliative care program is the importance of making memories. There are, of course, thousands of ways to do this, ranging from taking trips with your child, fulfilling a bucket list, or simply being with your child.
Many families also want to make memories that they can keep long after their child has passed away. While simple art projects will suffice, there are also hundreds of other ways to keep a piece of your child with you forever.
Photos and Videos
Photos and videos are obvious choices for keeping memories. But sometimes it can be hard to take them, especially if you are watching your child decline, and the photos or videos are not necessarily how you imagined they might be. If this is the case, it can be really helpful to come up with a photo or video plan that you will stick to no matter what. Commit to taking one photo or video each day or every Saturday (pick which day works best for you). Take it no matter what your child’s condition that day.
After your child passes—or yearly if your child keeps on fighting—you can compile them online into a slideshow, photo book, or compilation video. Free online software is easy to use to make online slideshows. Photo books are simple to create on sites like Shutterfly, and can be purchased in quantities to share with relatives. Videos can be compiled and edited with the free software that comes with your computer. I personally love the photo books, as you can literally hold the memories in your hands.
Many hospitals and palliative care organizations can also arrange for professional photography before, during, or after your child’s death. Often this service is provided for free for families.
Another related option is a handmade scrapbook that can include photographs, mementos, and other remembrances of your child. There are bereavement scrapbook kits readily available on the internet, or you can create your own scrapbook using supplies from a craft store.
If your child can speak or vocalize, don’t forget to record her voice. Using an inexpensive USB microphone or digital recorder can allow you to record your child in digital form that can be edited using any basic sound engineering software. You can make and distribute personalized CDs or MP3s of your child’s voice.
Molds and Prints
One thing our palliative care team does for all its families is create hand molds in plaster. It can be a hand mold of your child’s hands, your child’s hands in your hands, or your child’s hands with those of his/her siblings. You can also make foot molds, which work really well for babies. While plaster mold kits are readily available in craft stores and on the internet, the websites Casting Keepsakes or Casting Gifts have a wide variety available that will meet most families’ needs.
You can also make clay handprints, footprints, or fingerprints. There are many kits available that include a place for a photograph and one or two clay surfaces for handprints, fingerprints, or footprints.
Your child’s fingerprint, hair, or picture can also be made into jewelry you can wear. Thumbies from Meadow Hill offers a wide range of fingerprint pendants in all price ranges that can be attached to necklaces, bracelets, rings, earrings, keychains, cuff links, and similar items. Their products can be ordered directly and are carried by many other merchants. Cremation Solutions and Forever Touch
Cremation jewelry is another option for some families. You can purchase a small pendant that allows you to place some ashes inside. The pendant can be worn as a necklace, ring, keychain, or bracelet.
Cremation Solutions is another option for purchasing this type of pendant.
You can also purchase a pendant to hold a lock of hair. These are widely available, as many families use them for a baby’s first lock of hair.
Finally, don’t forget lockets, which can include one or more photos of your child in a pendant that can be attached to a necklace or bracelet.
For a general selection of different types of items, see also My Forever Child.
A keepsake box is a beautiful option for families who wish to collect specific items related to their child. The box can be filled with anything you want to remember your child, including pictures, artwork, footprints, mementos, or anything special to your child. While you can purchase memorial keepsake boxes on the internet, it is also possible to make your own with a simple wood, plastic, or metal box you can decorate. Hospice or child life workers will often do this project with siblings, both creating and filling a keepsake box at the time of their sibling’s death.
Other Creative Options
There are many more options available, so be creative! One family created personalized Christmas ornaments with their child’s picture engraved into glass, and purchased one for all the important people in their lives. Another created personal greeting cards with their child’s portrait on them. And yet another had an artist sketch a beautiful artwork based on their child’s photograph. Think creatively about what will help you to remember your child the most, now and forever.