Angel Gowns for Newborn Loss

angel gowns

In the grand tapestry of life, there are moments of immense joy and heartbreaking sorrow. For parents who lose a newborn, angel gowns provide a little bit of comfort in this unimaginable time. These garments, made out of wedding dresses, are hand sewn by volunteer seamstresses across the country and sent to NICUs to give families a final goodbye to their tiny baby.

For many of the seamstresses behind these gowns, their work is deeply personal. They’ve experienced the loss of a child themselves or have friends who have, and they feel that making these gowns gives them an opportunity to do something meaningful in their loved one’s memory. They also have a special connection to the hospitals they send their creations to, like the NICU at University of Arkansas Medical Center in Little Rock.

The gowns are made from wedding and special occasion dresses that would otherwise be thrown away or forgotten in closets around the country. A group of women in Western New York, for example, use these donated dresses to make angel gowns that are sent to NICUs in the area and across the nation. “My purpose is to bring a sliver of hope to these families,” says volunteer Angel Ray, who founded the nonprofit Angel Gowns of WNY.

She remembers the emptiness of losing her own son, who was stillborn at 18 weeks gestation. She also remembers the gift of a simple angel gown she received from an Iowa hospital to wrap her tiny Andrew in after his death. “I felt it was a beautiful way to honor him and his brief life,” she recalls. “It was just so beautiful and something I will carry with me forever.”

A few months after her own son’s passing, Ray saw a post on Facebook about an organization in Texas that makes angel gowns for babies who die before they can go home from the hospital. She knew right away that was what she had to do. “No family should have to look through the lost and found tub for clothing for their little one,” she says. “And this provides them with a dress they can keep.”

Angel Gowns of WNY is always looking for additional seamstresses to help make these gowns, and monetary donations are welcome as well. A $100 donation allows donors to follow their dresses’ journey to a developing country (Guatemala is currently the destination), virtually meet their seamstress and learn more about their story.

In the end, what’s most important is that these women and others like them are able to turn their own grief into something good for others. “It is profoundly moving to witness these precious family members experience tears of joy as they select a gown for their baby,” says Dignity Health – St. Marys Medical Center Long Beach NICU pediatrician Dawne Goncalves, who works closely with the Sunshine State Angel Gowns group in Florida. “This gift of a bereavement gown is an incredible gift of healing and love.” (Source: University of Arkansas Medical Center)