Blankets for Healing


When Ronda Knuth learns of a grieving parent who has lost a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth or early infant death, she gives them an unexpected gift—a baby blanket. Not just any blanket, but a soft crib blanket, one that should have snuggled a baby but instead comforts a mother with empty arms or absorbs the tears of a grieving father.

At first the idea seems surprising, perhaps even insensitive. Why give a blanket that will never be used for the baby? Won't it remind parents of their loss? Ronda's response is that such a loss is never forgotten and should not be ignored. She has found that the gift of a blanket validates the loss and acknowledges the brief life of a child.

"Mothers and fathers sometimes fear that once the crisis is over, the baby will be forgotten," she says. "The blanket serves as a tangible memento of the baby's life. Where a baby should be nestled there is instead nothing. The blanket is soft, cuddly and fills the arms,”not with baby, but with something comforting."

william andrew

Ronda speaks from experience. On August 7, 1987, her third son, William Andrew, was stillborn at 19 weeks after the umbilical cord became wrapped around his leg. Although she had not felt any movement for more than a week before his birth, her doctor advised her to wait for labor to begin spontaneously. Ronda and her husband waited in agony, vacillating between the despair of the doctor's news and the hope for a miracle that never came.

"I didn't cry when I stood beside his casket," she says. "I was numb with grief for months." With three healthy children, at times Ronda even questioned her right to grieve. Eventually, not knowing what to do with the pain, she stuffed it deep inside.

Eleven years later, Ronda received a phone call from a friend. "Ronda," she said, "Ihave a friend whose baby has been stillborn. I want to get her a gift. Do you have a suggestion?" Although the unexpected query recalled painful memories, Ronda replied without hesitation. "Get her a soft, warm blanket. One that will belong to the baby she has lost. One she can cuddle with and cry her tears into. One she can hold, even sleep with if need be, until she has worked through her pain. If I had a blanket like that, I know it would have been easier for me to grieve William's death."

A week later a package arrived in the mail. Inside was a note that read, "A blanket for William, for Momma. Trusting it's never too late." Beneath, wrapped in crinkly white tissue paper, lay a soft, pastel baby blanket. Ronda remembers, "The tears came then, and so did the healing."

The Billy Blanket Project

The blanket that Ronda received was the seed that eventually grew into "The Billy Blanket Project," an outreach in honor of her stillborn son to those who have experienced pregnancy or early infant loss. Understanding firsthand the impact of a baby blanket, Ronda began to think about giving blankets to other parents. Those thoughts turned into action after the sensitive request of a close friend to receive the first blanket in memory of two aborted babies. Ronda presented it to her in January of 2000.

"It was time to put feet to my dream," Ronda recalls. Limited finances were a challenge, but she prayed for provision. She found the second blanket at a local mall along with the tissue paper and gift bag's all on sale. The blanket went to the daughter of an area minister who had mentioned his daughter's miscarriage on the radio. "I didn't know him, but I felt I should take a blanket by the church to give them for their daughter." Ronda says the pastor's wife was at first a little skeptical but was deeply moved by the gift, as were her daughter and husband. In the same month, a third blanket went to a missionary in Poland who had experienced two miscarriages.

Ronda's idea to soothe grieving hearts with comforting blankets quickly grew far beyond anything she had expected. "Originally, my plan was that as moms came across my path, I would give them blankets. I didn't think it would get bigger than that." As people began to hear about what Ronda was doing, however, she began to get calls requesting blankets for others. The concept expanded through word of mouth, e-mail correspondence, phone calls and speaking engagements at local women's groups. The result was a ripple effect that Ronda describes as, "One giving one, giving one, giving one."

"I've given over 100 blankets myself, but countless others have been given by those who have themselves been given blankets," says Ronda. "Others who have heard of the blankets have given them to friends who have experienced pregnancy loss. Some become involved by donating blankets or funds to purchase them."

packages of comfort

When Ronda receives a referral, she usually establishes contact with the mother or parents through a card or phone call. Within a few days, she sends what she calls a "comfort basket" that contains a personal letter explaining the significance of the blanket, the blanket itself and audiotapes, books or brochures on pregnancy loss.

"Someone sending a blanket on their own could custom design their own package," says Ronda, "but they should be certain to include an explanation about the blanket, otherwise it can be construed as an insensitive act to give a baby blanket after the death." She suggests a simple letter like the one below.

Dear Friend, I am so very sorry about the loss of your baby and know that this time must be very difficult for you. Please accept this blanket as a gift in memory of your child. I know that nothing will fill your empty arms like baby would have. However, a blanket can be held, cuddled and cried into. Perhaps you will find it comforting as you walk through this time of grief. Please know that I am available any time that you may want to talk and need a listening ear. With love,

The blankets themselves, whether store-bought or handmade, should pass what Ronda calls the "cheek test." They must be soft and cozy.  "It has to be a blanket that would feel good against my face when I cry. After all, tears are part of the healing process, and they need to come," explains Ronda. She recommends avoiding bold colors or patterns and usually chooses crib-size blankets in either a pastel, white or cream color. If she knows the sex of the baby, she selects a soft blue or pink.

small gift, big impact

Although the gift of a blanket may seem simple, it has profound emotional impact. Many recipients weep tears of grief when they hold the blanket close. Some find comfort in sleeping with the blanket. Most find that it brings intense comfort. "The gift of a blanket recognizes the brief life of their child with dignity and compassion," says Ronda. "With my simple gift, I say to these hurting moms and dads, 'I care. Your loss is valid. You need to grieve. It's okay."

One blanket went to Julie, whose baby boy died soon after birth. Although Julie held her son wrapped in a blue blanket, she didn't get to keep it. When Ronda sent her a handmade blue blanket, Julie responded with this note, "I found your package at the post office yesterday and cried as I read your letter and held on to this special blanket. It meant so much to be one of those who still needed a blanket. I was sure that I could tell my story and not cry anymore, but no matter how you go on and heal, the deep pain is always there."

Julie in turn told Ronda about Melanie, a friend who had miscarried several years ago. After Ronda mailed her a blanket, Melanie responded via e-mail, "Your gift was a wonderful surprise and so moving! I cried and cried. It really brought me back to my child that I lost.  It is so beautiful and soft. I will treasure it forever."

grief is a family affair

Melanie later shared that for a period of time she slept with her blanket. One morning she awoke to find the blanket on her husband's side of the bed. "Fathers grieve, too, but their grief often gets lost," explains Ronda. "After a pregnancy loss, the focus is often on how the mother is doing, and a father tends to bury his grief because he thinks he needs to be strong for his wife."

Presenting a blanket to a mother, father, and even other children, acknowledges that grief is shared by the entire family. Ronda knows of one family who is currently taking turns with the blanket depending upon who needs it most, whether Mom, Dad or one of the children.

Ronda also tells the story of another mother who, while getting ready for bed, picked up the blanket so she could turn down the sheets. Overcome by a sense of her lost baby's presence, she held it to her chest, imagining that God was letting her hold her child. As she wept, her husband entered the room, and she turned away in embarrassment. Sensitive to the moment, her husband took her in his arms and said, "Can we lay in bed and hold her together?"

helping a hurting friend

For those who want to reach out to a friend who has experienced a pregnancy or early infant loss, Ronda's advice is to acknowledge, listen and respond. Acknowledging the loss can be as simple as saying, "I'm so sorry for your loss. If you'd like to talk about it, I'd like to listen."

Ronda emphasizes that the key to being a good listener is to let the person share their story and their emotions without judgment or pat answers such as ,"You can have another child." or "It was God's will." Although these words may be intended to comfort, they trivialize the loss. "What hurts the most is to have your loss ignored," says Ronda. "Sometimes mothers don't feel they have the freedom to grieve and tend to stuff their pain. The need to share their story is intense, and in sharing they are sometimes re-wounded by insensitive or unknowledgeable listeners. Rather than risking additional pain, they will grieve alone."

Last, Ronda suggests, "Respond in a tangible way. Send a card. Purchase something in memory of the baby. Take a grieving friend out to lunch. If appropriate, contact support organizations to find out what resources are available in the area."

Although grief doesn't follow a set schedule, over time, grief eventually subsides when it is identified and dealt with. "Life will never be the same again, but you'll come to a place where you have a new normal," says Ronda. Despite the emotional pain, the loss of William as well as other personal losses have taught Ronda that good can come from bad. "I would not willingly go back through the losses I have experienced, but they have made me who I am today. The losses in my life have matured me, given me a new sensitivity to the hurts of others around me, and given me some focus in life."

"Now, when I hear of a grieving mom and dad whose baby has been taken from them prematurely, I have an overwhelming need to put a blanket in their hands," says Ronda. "I probably won't change the world significantly, but that is not my goal. It is my prayer to touch hurting moms and dads who cross my path and help them find God's healing love, tucked inside a soft warm blanket."

To contact Ronda, write to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Mother Shares Family Experience
4th Grade


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