Making a difference | Amazing grace gowns
Harrisburg, Pa. —
Parents usually prepare for the arrival of a new baby by buying diapers, onesies, bibs.
But for too many moms and dads who lose a baby at birth, they sadly have to instead buy burial gowns.
I know, it's a sad and deep topic, but I found a project that is “Making a Difference” at a time when many families need it the most.
The wedding gown is one of the most important parts of one of the most important days in a woman’s life.
But gowns being donated to Sweet Grace Ministries based in Chambersburg, Franklin County are being used for what will be one of the worst days in a woman's life – and Jill Bray, an active member of the Harrisburg-Hershey group of Sweet Grace, knows this first-hand.
Jill lost her baby Gabriella during pregnancy on January 5, 2016.
“We found out at 20 weeks she was not a healthy baby girl and that we probably would not see her reach full term. And, 4 weeks later, we did lose her," says Jill.
I caught up with Jill at the home of Stacy Archibald of Dauphin County. She and her daughter Ashley McNeely are donating their wedding dresses to Sweet Grace Ministries to be hand-made into burial gowns for babies.
Jill wasn't able to take advantage of the burial gown program, but she knows the incredible impact it's having in the lives of other parents.
These dresses were bound for a yard sale before Stacy and Ashley found out about the wedding dresses being turned into burial gowns for babies and agreed they are more valuable outside of the box.
"It's been sitting in a box for quite a few years not being used. So, I can't think of a better reason or place for this dress to go," says Ashley.
Stacy says, "I didn't even realize how many babies in the NICU were passing on and this nurse informed me how many babies were in need of just something to wear. There was nothing there and nurses were scrambling to try and find something for them to wear."
They are making a difference in the lives of moms like Jill Bray -- in more ways than one.
It provides one less thing to take care of after the death of a baby and it also gets people talking about "loss" - which Jill says is important even if you struggle to find the right words.
“Because they aren't just a lost pregnancy. They aren't something that's a fleeting moment, they are with us the rest of our lives. Part of our heart is missing and so when we get to speak about them, part of that void is filled a little bit," says Jill.
And even though Jill's son, Elijah will not know his big sister Gabriella in this life, the "rainbow child", as babies are called who are born after loss, will eventually know how these gowns are making a difference in his family's life.
Jill says, “He will always know that he has an older sister in heaven. We will talk about her, think of her, know her name. He will know her well and some day will get to meet her, we all will."
Sweet Grace "gown night" is held every 4th Thursday at the ministries’ Chambersburg location, 77 Horst Avenue (main entrance to building is on Edgar Avenue), Chambersburg, PA 17201
No skill is necessary, but all of the burial gowns are hand made from the donated wedding dresses.
If you’d like to volunteer to sew the gowns, or to donate a gown email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are a family who has received a fatal diagnosis and would like to request to have a burial gown available upon delivery, please contact Sweet Grace via email email@example.com or phone, 717-414-7772.
And you can learn more about all the programs Sweet Grace Ministries offers here: https://sweetgraceministries.com/