Nestled within the Spiritual Care Services Office in the Braunwald Tower is a precious collection of memory books dating back to the 1960s. Filled with letters and messages from families who have experienced the loss of their baby, the books are offered to newly grieving families as part of the bereavement support provided by the Connors Center for Women and Newborns.
“The memory books are a long and sacred tradition,” said Mikhala Heil, MDiv, of Spiritual Care Services, who serves as chaplain resident for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. “All of the entries are special, and some include photos and footprints, as well as letters from siblings.”
Books are usually offered to families the day after a baby has died, and the families are welcome to look through the pages and see other families’ experiences or add their own entry, she said.
The books are kept in the hospital and displayed at annual remembrances services, including the most recent service on Oct. 27 in Cabot Atrium. The ceremony brought together more than 100 family members, some of whom experienced this tender loss as recently as September and others whose loss occurred over a decade ago.
The Connors Center Bereavement Committee, a multidisciplinary group including Nursing, Social Work, Spiritual Care Services and physicians, has been holding the service every October for the past 16 years to bring families together for support.
“The service has evolved, and the friendships and relationships among families have grown over time,” said Leslie Morette, BSN, RN, nurse-in-charge for the Center for Labor and Birth and a member of the bereavement committee. “Families are returning for more than 10 services now. The overwhelming theme is that families welcome the opportunity to honor their babies and spend the day reflecting and remembering them.”
Heil added, “It was beautiful to witness the siblings embracing their siblings’ memories, lives that may not have intersected with theirs.”
The ceremony included reflections, poetry, music and an opportunity for families to write their babies’ names on paper stars and place them on a board depicting the night sky.
Families took time to write words of love they can share with others in the memory books and on stones that are kept in the hospital chapel. “New bonds were made and old bonds were renewed,” said Heil. “Beautiful poems and words were shared, and, most importantly, these babies’ lives were honored and remembered by this community.”