A Sacred Space to Heal: Why Cemeteries Have Dedicated Children’s Sections

by | Feb 16, 2024

Few losses compare to the heartache of losing a child. These cherished little ones hold a unique place in our hearts, their absence leaving an irreplaceable void. Cemeteries understand the profound grief of parents and loved ones, offering special and meaningful ways to honor and remember these precious souls who have departed.

Cemeteries often designate special sections specifically for children, recognizing the unique needs of grieving families. While children who have passed, including those lost before birth, can be laid to rest anywhere within a cemetery, these dedicated areas provide a sanctuary for remembrance.  Sometimes known as the “Holy Innocents’ section” or “Gardens of Angels,” these sections offer smaller, more affordable burial spaces tailored to the scale of a child’s memory. Here, parents, siblings, and relatives can find solace in a shared space, united by the profound bond of loss and the enduring love for their little ones.

Walking through almost any cemetery, the children’s sections are usually easily identifiable. Often marked by poignant statues, such as angels with outstretched hands, these areas draw visitors in for a closer look. Headstones and markers in these sections, particularly those for infants, commonly feature symbols like angels, butterflies, lambs, shells, and other emblems of purity, fragility, and innocence. Detailed examples of such gravestones can be found in resources like Adventures in Cemetery Hopping, “The Empty Cradle: Children’s Gravestones and Their Symbolism,” a blog by Traci Rylands, as well as The Grave Girl Cemetery Blogger, Children’s Burials – blog by Marni. Even if no statue beckons people to the area, teddy bears, balloons, and toys adorning graves leaves no doubt that this is a sacred space dedicated to honoring the lives of those little ones who departed too soon.

For families who have lost a child, memorialization holds profound significance. Having a permanent site to visit, where their loved one’s name is etched in remembrance, has been integral to the grieving and healing process throughout history. Beyond traditional grave markers, cemeteries offer additional means of memorializing children, such as adding their names to dedicated children’s memorial walls (such as the Children’s Memorial Wall at Resurrection Cemetery in Mendota Heights) or incorporating them into paver stones or benches along pathways in children’s memorial gardens (such as the Children’s Memorial and Prayer Garden at Gethsemane Cemetery in New Hope). These memorials, thoughtfully designed to honor the painful loss of a child, provide a sacred space for families to embark on their healing journey.

These enduring resting sites provide solace for the grieving, offering a sanctuary to visit and mourn the loss of these precious angels while cherishing their time on earth. It’s a place of remembrance, paying tribute to individuals whose impact, no matter how brief, touched the lives of others profoundly. Having a dedicated space to come together, to reflect, mourn, and ultimately heal, is an essential part of the human journey when loving someone who has passed away. In cemeteries, we find the comforting embrace of memory and healing.

“This is one of the reasons I appreciate cemeteries.  There are stones that tell a story of a life, or bring to my mind a name.  They allow someone to live on far past their burial.  It is acres of reminders that these humans had whole personalities, thoughts, loved ones.  They are not gone, for those who are remembered live.”

By Marika McMeans, Musings with Marika, Funeral Home & Cemetery News, July 2023