One of the greatest fears of a bereaved parent is that their passed child will be forgotten. With the holiday season upon us, this feeling is more acute as loved ones gather together.
In the early years of our bereavement, I wanted so badly to buy Shawn, our 3 year old who had passed away from a brain tumour, a gift. Something under the tree so he knew that we hadn’t forgotten about him and that he was still in our hearts and minds every day. Each and every time I stopped myself though. One night, close to Christmas Eve, I decided to write him a letter. I told him how much he was missed, how much we loved him and placed the note in his stocking, hung beside everyone else’s. This felt like the right way to include him in our holiday season and has been my tradition since his passing in 2007.
Here are a few ideas for including your passed child in the holiday season:
- As loved ones gather around the holiday feast, go around the table and share a memory of the child who has passed.
- Set a place at the dinner table for the child who has passed away. You may wish to include a picture at the place setting.
- Place a personal note to the child in their stocking. Keep them private or read them aloud each year to family members. Invite others to write notes as well.
- If sharing memories verbally is difficult, provide a journal for hand written entries then have one person read them aloud.
- Involve the children in the family by providing craft supplies and pictures so they can create a special ornament for the tree.
- Purchase a gift that the child would have loved and then donate it in their name.
- Make a financial donation in the child’s name to a favourite charity.
- Host a movie night and play the holiday movie that was the child’s favourite.
- Create a memory chain with a handwritten memory on each link. Add to this each year.
- Have their image or name etched on to a piece of jewelry to have close with you as you visit with family members.
Whatever you do this holiday season to honour your child who has died, remember that there is no right or wrong, there are no expectations and no-one has a right to tell you otherwise.
What matters is that you are able to do whatever feels right for you, and eventually be able to carry the loving memory of your child with you into future holidays.
Do you have a family tradition you would like to add to the list? Please do so by commenting below.
Sue McKechnie learned her young son, Shawn had a brain tumour in May of 2006. When he passed away 18 months later after the rollercoaster of diagnosis, treatment, hope and terminal illness, she realized that even though he was gone from this world, he continued to send her courage from another. The message was clear – get out there and help other families sharing this journey. Since then Sue has written the book “A Sippy Cup of Chemo; A Family’s Journey Through Childhood Cancer” hoping to spread the message to other bereaved families that they are not alone. “It’s wonderful to talk to other parents who truly understand – the grief, the guilt and all the myriad of emotions you face. We didn’t choose to be part of this group, nor would we wish it upon anyone else but here we are and we need to support each other.” All the proceeds from her book are donated to Meagan’s Walk (http://www.meaganswalk.com/); benefitting brain tumour research at SickKids Hospital, a charitable organization whose committee Sue is a member of. Sue continues to advocate for funding and awareness of childhood cancer through blogging, speaking engagements and her work through Meagan’s Walk.