Angel Gowns For Loss of a Baby

A labor and delivery nurse for more than 37 years, Judi Lee knew the unimaginable grief of parents who lost their baby. And she saw how a simple, beautiful burial gown made from an old wedding dress could provide some comfort during such a heartbreaking time.

Lee was so moved by this that she began collecting bridal dresses and turning them into tiny burial outfits for babies who didn’t make it at birth or after they were pronounced dead. Her work caught the attention of NICU Helping Hands, a nonprofit organization in Fort Worth, Texas that has now collected more than 10,000 dresses. The group’s volunteers lovingly turn the bridal dresses into angel gowns, which are then delivered to hospitals across the country to families who have suffered similar losses.

The dresses can also be sent to funeral homes or hospitals that have a special program for infant loss, so grieving parents have something beautiful to remember their baby by. In addition to the gown, NICU Helping Hands provides a keepsake angel, a memory blanket, a diaper, and a small angel statue. The volunteers are all women, and many have experienced their own loss of a child. Each volunteer takes about four hours to sew a gown, and the entire project depends on the volunteers’ generosity of time and dresses.

Several local people have donated dresses to NICU Helping Hands, and the organization has received requests from other parts of the country as well. Each dress can be turned into about 10 gowns, and the organization has a warehouse full of them. Women who can’t afford to donate a dress can “sponsor” one, donating money for the sewing work to be done on it.

In a back closet at her home, Schatz has more than 30 angel gowns ready to be delivered to hospitals across the state, along with a message card and a tiny keepsake angel. The project is still in its early stages, but Schatz says it is growing quickly. “We’re always in need of more materials, ribbons, thread, gowns, gallon zip-lock bags and a plastic baby model,” she said.

Wedding dresses are often sold for incredibly low prices at garage sales and thrift stores, so look out next time you go shopping and consider taking a bridesmaid dress or other formal gown to a place like NICU Helping Hands. You can also make a monetary donation to the project, and spread the word about it by sharing this article or telling your friends. Every little bit helps.