Naming a child who has passed

First, I want to say that if you don’t want to name your deceased child, you don’t need to. You might feel uncomfortable naming a child whom you never met, whose presence on this earth was so short. Or you might leave the naming to your partner, your future self, or God. All of those are valid approaches, and each makes sense.

If you do want to name your child, you may be struggling to come up with a name or even to go about coming up with a name. Some questions you might consider include the following.

  • Where do you want to look for names? I want to caution you against looking for names the typical places baby names can be found; these tend to assume that your child is healthy and well, and such assumptions can make the naming process infinitely harder. Hopefully the following questions can give you some inspiration or resources specifically for naming a child who has passed.
  • Do you know the sex of the baby? If not, you might consider gender-neutral names (such as these). Or you might choose a name based on the sense you have about the baby’s sex. You might also choose a name that is meaningful and give it to your child regardless of sex.
  • Have you considered names already, for this child or for another? You can use those names. Some parents find using an already-loved name to be too painful given all the plans that they have made for the future that they will not be able to share with this child. 
    • Similarly, you might want to find a name that fits in with your name or the names of any other children you may have. If so, you might find the nameberry.com “Similar Names” function useful; you can look up a particular name (say, your own) and the website will give you a list of names that are like yours. In this way, you can find new or unexpected names that linguistically reflect that baby’s membership in your family. 
  • Are there any names that will reflect the time you spent with the child? Maybe one of the following sources for names might give you some inspiration.
    • the month or season you learned they existed (Valentine, May, Autumn)
    • a name linked to positive emotions you experienced in relation to your child, perhaps upon discovering they existed (Joy/Jubal, Grateful, Felix – “Happy”)
    • the name of an ancestor or loved one who has recently passed
  • Are there any names that will reflect your grieving process after losing the child? Perhaps:
    • a name drawn from a book or show that helped you get through the days after the loss
    • a name that invokes a historical figure or role model who inspired you in their own loss
    • the name that has the most helpful or honest meaning for you in your grieving process (perhaps Dolores or Brennan – “Sorrow”, Aldora – “Winged gift from God,” or Diggory – “Lost one”)
  • Have you used a nickname for your child? Something such as Peanut, or Little One? Consider keeping that name.
  • Is there a word or concept that has given you comfort? Something as mundane as “family,” as untranslatable as “saudade,” or as abstract as “cloud” can provide inspiration for a name – or even the name itself – for your child.

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Take your time with this decision. If you would like to talk with someone about naming your child, please contact me using the form at the Contact Me link above.

Photo by Morgan McDonald on Unsplash

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This post is the second part of a six-part series on naming. Check out the other articles as they are published on the website every Sunday.

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