The loss of a baby is a devastating blow for a family, and a volunteer project is working to ease the pain. An angel gown is a burial outfit for infants who aren’t able to survive the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
These tiny outfits are made from donated wedding dresses and then sewn together by volunteers, who donate their time to create them. They then distribute them to hospitals nationwide, and the angel gown program is part of a wider charity called NICU Helping Hands that provides comfort to families who lose their children in the NICU.
‘We just want to be a little extra to give the parents that final thing that they need,’ says Lisa Grubbs, who started the angel gown program last year. She collects dresses from around the country and then turns them into these ‘angel gowns’ to adorn babies in for final photos and burial services.
She explains that she gets a lot of donations from people who want to do their part to make sure other mothers don’t have to face the same experience. She hopes to help the program expand as more women across the United States donate their gowns and turn them into Angel Gowns.
“I wanted to do something that would honor their little one, and also provide some peace for the parents who are going through such a devastating time,” she tells KHOU. She believes that a baby’s death should be a special, sacred event.
Some of these dresses are embroidered with phrases like ‘heaven’s angel,’ and the seamstresses often add antique buttons or hats to finish them off. Recently, they’ve been sewing bells into the gowns, inspired by the movie It’s a Wonderful Life.
In the US, 626,000 babies are born through stillbirth and miscarriage each year. Then, another 20,000 die before reaching their first birthdays. And that’s not even counting the number of babies who pass away due to other medical problems before leaving a hospital.
So what’s the solution? Many of the families who have lost their babies in the NICU have cried out for a way to offer comfort and support. That’s when the idea for an angel gown was born.
There are several organizations across the country that make these beautiful funeral outfits from used wedding dresses. Some of them have been around for a while, while others were founded in the last decade.
‘An angel gown is a wonderful way to honor a child,’ says Michelle Matthews of Marysville, Washington. She runs Angel Gowns by Michelle, and has a waiting list of over 60 dresses she needs to turn into angel gowns.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about a local woman who makes angel gowns from donated wedding dresses. RoxAnn Walker of Spokane was looking for someone to work with to make these outfits for hospitals. She got in touch with Mangiaracina, and they’re teaming up to bring the gowns to hospitals across the country.