If you are a newly bereaved parent or grandparent, this post may be a trigger for your grief. Please be gentle with yourself.
Katie is the woman behind Sleeping Angels Bereavement Gowns. She transforms wedding gowns into gowns and wraps for infants. Grab tissues. These are beautiful.
Like most people who dedicate a part of their lives to grief and bereavement, Katie has personal experience. This work means something to her, and she deeply understands the turmoil of dressing your baby for the first and last time. She makes these gowns so parents have something beautiful for their children when they say the last goodbye in person.
So I'm already tearing up, here.
Not so long ago, Katie volunteered with a national nonprofit organization that provided infant bereavement gowns. In approximately 18 months she sewed 937 pieces - gowns, wraps, and bonnets. That's an average of 52 pieces each month. She was also in college full-time and she made the difficult choice to step back from the organization and concentrate on school.
When a friend of hers from the organization passed away, she returned to sewing. "It's like therapy," she told me. She said that when she sews, she has no aches or pains. She is completely in the moment.
Katie graduated from college with two degrees (business and accounting) and is once again making beautiful pieces that parents will remember forever. She delivers to Mary Bridge Children's Hospital in Tacoma, WA, and is willing to ship gowns anywhere for people who are able to pay for shipping.
This work is now a freelance labor of love. Katie collects wedding gowns, deconstructs them, and finds the most elegant ways to fit them for babies from under one pound in size to several months of age. Her daughter often helps with deconstruction and packaging.
When I met Katie, she had a delivery of 20 gowns for the NICU at Mary Bridge. I had the honor of helping to pack these pieces.
In addition to the time it takes to make each piece (her most elaborate gown was 15 hours of work), she pays for the boxes and the tissue paper. She relies on donations of wedding dresses. It's difficult to pull all of this together because Katie does not have nonprofit status for her work and intends to keep it that way for the foreseeable future.
Here's what you can do.
If you are a sewer, Katie will share her patterns with you and you can create your own gowns. If you want to learn, she'll teach you.
If you can use scissors, Katie will thank you for your help in cutting the wedding dresses into pieces.
If you can't sew or use scissors and do have a few dollars to spare, Katie will thank you for a donation of boxes or tissue paper.
If you have a wedding dress that would like to have the ultimate honor of being the forever clothing many babies will wear, Katie will thank you. It doesn't matter how old it is or whether it is in good repair. She'll even send you pictures of the gowns she makes from your dress so you can have a sob fest (like I would).
If you have white sheets you can give, Katie will thank you. She uses these to line the dresses.
You can follow Katie and contact her through her Facebook page.
Every piece she makes brings peace.
I see a lot of incredible moments of the human experience while being with families in love and grief. From each family I learn, and those lessons and points to ponder are what I wish to share with you here.