ATLANTA, Georgia (WXIA) – In the days and weeks after Lori Beth Blaney’s daughter died, she just wanted to hear her name.
“Her name was music to my ears because I didn’t hear it very often,” Blaney said. “So I loved it when someone said her name because she was constantly on my mind. “
Rachel died when Lori Beth was eight months pregnant. Through their grief, she and her husband had to bury their daughter.
“He had to go to a baby store and buy an outfit to bury her in, he said that was one of the hardest things he ever had to do,” Blaney said.
As she healed, Lori Beth wanted to do something to help other families going through the same thing. But looking for somewhere to volunteer, she couldn’t find anyone.
“There was a hole there, and God had really laid it on my heart that it needed to be filled,” Blaney said.
So she started Rachel’s Gift. With a group of volunteers, she hopes to ease the devastation of losing a child.
“It happens a lot more than people think, and it’s just such a silent grief, people don’t talk about it,” she said.
She takes photographs and footprints of the infants, and gives the mothers something to hold on to and something to bury them in. Last year, they helped 217 families.
“You can see how many gowns we can get out of just one of these,” Blaney said. “They use the sleeves for our teeny tiny babies, our 18- and 19-weekers.”
She’s found that women want to give their gowns to Rachel’s Gift. It gives the love of their beginning to the heartbreak of a family’s ending.
“People don’t want to just give their gown away, or sell it to a stranger, because it’s a special thing,” she said.
Months and years after a mother buries their child, they remember the gown.
“They just can’t believe that someone made that for their baby, and it’s so nice to have something beautiful to swaddle their baby in,” Blaney said.
Some of the women who bring in their gowns or volunteer lost babies of their own 40 or 50 years ago and never had the chance to say goodbye.
“It was swept under the rug and never talked about,” Blaney said. “And they hear about what we do and they come and cry now.”
Decades later, the pain is the same.
“When your child dies, you don’t want to live,” Blaney said. “The depth of grief at that time is just so severe. “
With Rachel’s Gift, she’s able to touch people’s hearts using her daughter’s name.
“I just feel really blessed to be able to make a mark on the world in her name because she’s not able to do that herself,” said Blaney.
If you have a bridal gown that you want to donate, or you know how to sew and want to help make these gowns, you can help.
For more info: http://www.rachelsgift.org/