Angel gowns, also known as angel outfits, are tiny custom-made baby burial dresses made from donated wedding dresses for families who experience a late miscarriage, a stillbirth, or an infant loss soon after birth. They are distributed to hospitals and to bereaved families by organizations that make them throughout the country, including in New York, Connecticut, Maryland, Maine, Florida, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, California, Alaska, and Indiana.
The organization makes gowns free of charge and gives them away to hospitals, birthing centers, funeral homes, and directly to grieving families for the babies who die before they are born or who die during pregnancy. The gowns provide a sense of comfort and reassurance to families who are struggling with the grief of losing their child.
Many people who volunteer to help make these gowns are mothers themselves and are very familiar with what the family goes through after a miscarriage or stillbirth. Some are also nurses, or other medical professionals who understand the pain of losing a child.
Others are friends and neighbors who have lost a child, or are a friend or relative of someone who has died. For these people, the thought of having to make a burial gown for a child that they haven’t been able to hold or see is painful, and it often makes them feel guilty.
Some of these gowns are even blessed by priests. They go to hospitals and funeral homes, and are given to bereaved parents to keep as a special memento.
In Brevard County, there’s a volunteer who takes bridesmaid dresses that are no longer needed and turns them into infant burial gowns for families in need. The nonprofit Cherishing the Journey, which is run by Jennifer Harden, collects the gowns and packs them into memory boxes to give to bereaved families.
When Deanna Williamson and Tom Williamson lost their son, Eli, at 20 weeks pregnant, they were given an angel gown by Levine Children’s Hospital. The gown was so meaningful to them that they decided to pay it forward and donate the gown to other families who had suffered a miscarriage or stillbirth, like they did.
This project is a labor of love, and it helps grieving parents remember their precious little one, but it’s also an opportunity to raise awareness about a sensitive subject that is still taboo in many circles. Neal says her work has sparked discussions with people from all over the country and sheds light on this difficult topic.
She and her team are hoping to reach more of the community by expanding their efforts to other counties in Florida and beyond. They have a team of volunteers who meet monthly to sew the gowns, but they are always looking for more helpers.
The team also makes a few outfits to be delivered to local hospitals, and they are working on making more of these outfits for boys as well. They’re especially fond of designing boy’s outfits because of their own son, Wyatt, who’s now 4 years old.