Gabriel’s Gift: helping parents create memories after stillbirths and neonatal loss
Toronto, October 15, 2018
By Selma Al-Samarrai
Gabriel’s gift contains 15 items: a handwritten letter from Crozier explaining why she started this box, a book titled “Wherever You Are: My Love Will Find You,” a hand-knit blanket knit by Jennifer's mother, Joni Asboth, a tiny baby berevement outfit, a towel and organic toiletries should the parents want to bathe their baby, a keepsake hand-prints or foot-prints kit, a high quality paper and ink set for hand and foot prints, a capsule for hair clippings, a baby book for angel babies, an information guide, a book about parenting through loss named “Loving Your Baby” by Shari Morash, a candle, a soft bunny plush toy, a journal, and a photo album to remind families to take pictures.
Jennifer Crozier was nine months pregnant when she experienced the unimaginable. She noticed a change in her unborn baby’s movement and was told at a follow-up appointment that his umbilical cord had wrapped around his neck and stopped his breathing.
Crozier was admitted to St. Michael’s Hospital knowing that her delivery of Gabriel would be a stillbirth.
“I didn’t believe he was dead. I just kept hoping they were wrong,” explained Crozier of her initial reaction to the news.
“After the birth, you’re just in a state of shock and you’re not thinking very clearly. I had prepared very well for a living baby but I had no idea what to do with my baby now.”
When she left St. Michael’s, Crozier found that her grieving was compounded by the fact that she had very few mementos of Gabriel.
“My home felt so empty and I had nothing to touch. I felt that I needed to hold something of Gabriel’s but I hadn’t collected enough memories of him to be able to do so,” said Crozier.
Through this painful experience, and through hearing similar experiences from other mothers coping with the aftermath of stillbirths or neonatal loss, Crozier came up with the idea of creating a box of items to help mourning parents gather memories of their babies in the short time they get to spend with them.
She named the box Gabriel’s Gift.
“I learned that an important part in many people’s healing is memorializing their child in some way. I didn’t get beautiful pictures or enough of Gabriel’s hair. Gabriel’s Gift was born out of that, as a place for people to touch and hold the memories of their child,” explained Crozier.
Gabriel’s Gift contains 15 items including a handwritten letter from Crozier explaining why she started this box, a book titled “Wherever You Are: My Love Will Find You,” a blanket, baby outfit, organic toiletries should the parents want to bathe their baby, a clay set for hand-prints or foot-prints, and several other items to help parents put together memories of their baby.
Jennifer Crozier with her husband and two sons, five-year-old Nathaniel and two-year-old Joshua Gabriel.
Crozier started Gabriel’s Gift at St. Michael’s in January 2016, only five months after Gabriel was delivered. Dozens of families have since received this box.
Amanda Hignell, a social worker at the maternity unit and neonatal intensive care unit at St. Michael’s, has often witnessed the huge impact that Gabriel’s Gift has on parents dealing with a stillbirth or neonatal loss.
“Everyone reacts so differently in their grief, but one common theme I see over and over again is this paralysis that comes after loss, of really not knowing what you need, and that’s where I see that Gabriel’s Gift has been such a gift for families,” said Hignell.
“As awful as this moment is, the baby is part of the family forever even if they haven’t lived beyond birth and so having an opportunity to create these memories to hold on to and to honour their child In memory is so important. The impact of Gabriel’s Gift that I’ve witnessed is monumental. It reminds families right off the bat that they’re not alone.”
Crozier is now a mother to two sons, five-year-old Nathaniel, who was born before Gabriel, and two-year-old Joshua Gabriel, who was born almost exactly a year after. She creates and delivers a Gabriel’s Gift box to St. Michael’s whenever the supply is low.
“I think that the best that we can all hope for at the end of our lives is to leave behind a legacy of good and love in the world. That’s what I’m trying to do for Gabriel, give him a legacy of compassion and love for other people,” said Crozier.
About St. Michael's Hospital
St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in more than 29 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.
St. Michael’s Hospital with Providence Healthcare and St. Joseph’s Health Centre now operate under one corporate entity as of August 1, 2017. United, the three organizations serve patients, residents and clients across the full spectrum of care, spanning primary care, secondary community care, tertiary and quaternary care services to post-acute through rehabilitation, palliative care and long-term care, while investing in world-class research and education.