Angel gowns, burial gowns and wraps are tiny custom-made outfits made for families who experience a miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss shortly after birth. They are typically stitched together from donated wedding dresses and distributed to hospitals and bereavement networks around the country.
The idea behind an angel gown or outfit has a special place in the hearts of volunteers, who see these dresses as more than just a way to remember a child. They are a means of healing and raising awareness about the grief and suffering experienced by parents who have lost babies.
Across the nation, groups have formed to make these burial gowns. Some of these groups exist within hospitals and others are community-based.
A woman in Baltimore County is donating her time to make a difference in the lives of parents who have suffered the loss of a baby. Inside her Kingsville living room, Anita Schatz is sewing burial gowns for the 24,000 stillborn babies who are born every year in the U.S.
She said she started making these gowns as a way to honor her daughter who was born at 26 weeks and died in the womb. The idea stuck with her and she began sewing gowns for other mothers who were dealing with the same situation.
When she heard about Angel Gown Sewers in Pennsauken, she decided to jump on board and start working with local seamstresses to make these gowns. Lee’s group, which has more than 44 volunteer seamstresses who have made 450 gowns so far, delivers them to local hospitals.
In the past few months, volunteers have been sewing these gowns in a variety of styles and sizes for babies who are too small or fragile for gowns. They also make afghans, hats and small cloth diapers that are provided to bereaved families in the hospital.
NICU Helping Hands, The Littlest Angel Gowns and Angel Gowns of Central Ohio are some of the groups that make these gowns. They all have a waiting list and ask for donations to cover the cost of making these gowns.
Another group is Sunshine State Angel Gowns, which provides gowns and other bereavement items to families who have lost a child in the United States. Their mission is to “provide bereavement gowns, blankets, keepsake angels and a sliver of hope to hurting families in their time of need.”
Tom and Deanna Williamson were given an angel gown when they lost their son Eli at 20 weeks. The couple now tries to pay it forward and donates the gowns they receive to Levine Children’s Hospital, where they were given theirs.
The couple says the gown helped them through the difficult time they went through, and it gave them a sense of comfort during their time in the hospital. It is a program that has been made possible by volunteers who are able to give their time and talent in making the gowns and other items needed for bereaved families during their time at the hospital.