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P.E.I. woman finds unique way of dealing with sadness, loss

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TYNE VALLEY - Intricately sewn doll-sized dresses, each pieced together with love from gowns of flowing white and destined for a baby who won’t be coming home.

They’re angel dresses, cut from elaborate gowns synonymous with love and commitment, worn by brides on their wedding day.

The project has become Mindy Ashwood’s labour of love, a way of coming to grips with her own daughter’s loss and to help grieving mothers deal with theirs.

“This summer, my daughter suffered a miscarriage. She was about 12 weeks. It was pretty devastating for her,” said Ashwood.

“She’s turning 35 and she has been trying for years to get pregnant.”

That loss sparked a memory for the Tyne Valley woman, who, during that time of mourning for her family, recalled a documentary she watched months earlier.

It told a story of a woman who had sent her wedding dress away and, in return, she received several small dresses, each similar to hers but meant for a premature or full-term baby who had died in hospital.

They’re angel dresses, cut from elaborate gowns synonymous with love and commitment, worn by brides on their wedding day.

The project has become Mindy Ashwood’s labour of love, a way of coming to grips with her own daughter’s loss and to help grieving mothers deal with theirs.

“This summer, my daughter suffered a miscarriage. She was about 12 weeks. It was pretty devastating for her,” said Ashwood.

“She’s turning 35 and she has been trying for years to get pregnant.”

That loss sparked a memory for the Tyne Valley woman, who, during that time of mourning for her family, recalled a documentary she watched months earlier.

It told a story of a woman who had sent her wedding dress away and, in return, she received several small dresses, each similar to hers but meant for a premature or full-term baby who had died in hospital.

This is one of the boxes, with a dress inside to fit a premature baby, that is waiting to be shipped to a grieving mother in need. Each dress comes with a card explaining where the dress came from and how it was made.

“There was nothing I could do. You don’t know why it happens to people, but it does happen. It is a sad part of life,” Ashwood said about miscarriage and the loss of an infant. “I said to my husband, I think I am just going to do this myself.”

In her home, at the end of the Shoreline Road outside Tyne Valley, wedding dresses hang, waiting to be taken apart and turned into her P.E.I. Angel Dresses.

On her kitchen counter sit small silver boxes, each adorned with an angel. Inside wrapped in delicate tissue paper is a dress, some for premature babies and others for those who were full term, all waiting to be matched with a little angel.

They all carry a simple tag and, in each box, a card is placed explaining where the dress came from and expressing condolences for the recipient’s loss.

Ashwood delicately takes apart each wedding dress and takes several photos of its details, which she incorporates into each angel dress born from that white gown.

Mindy Ashwood has been sewing since she was eight years old, taught the craft by her mother who would make their clothing. She has a sewing room in her Tyne Valley area home where she converts donated wedding dresses into angel dresses.

“This one will make actually quite a few because there is so much of it and it has a nice sized train,” she said, pointing to one dress, which still has its tags. “It will probably make at least 10 dresses.”

The dress she is now repurposing came from a woman who recently divorced, its beadwork and delicate lace to be used for 17 tiny dresses.

Ashwood pays for all the materials, including the boxes, printing of cards that go inside each, shipping and thread, which is why she welcomes support in her work.

She is also still figuring out how to get her dresses to those in need, and welcomes advice on how to do so from those in the health-care field on P.E.I. and beyond.

“I want to send them all over Canada,” said the retired 52-year-old mother and grandmother. “I want to send a couple to the hospital where my kids were born… to the hospital where my grandson was born.”

“When I make something, you can turn it inside out and it is neat and it is clean. I take pride in what I am making,” said Ashwood. “I want it to be able to go to somebody and they look at it and say, ‘wow, that woman actually cares’, because I do, I do care.”

“It is my way of giving back. What you give, I feel, you always get back in return.”

About P.E.I. Angel Dresses

—   Operated out of Mindy Ashwood’s Tyne Valley home

—   Non-profit, as the dresses are delivered free of cost to those in need

—   To learn more or to donate, visit P.E.I. Angel Dresses on Facebook, email peiangeldresses@gmail.com, or write P.E.I. Angel Dresses, PO Box 175, Tyne Valley, PE, C0B 2C0

Nancy.macphee@tc.tc

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