Remembering your child on special days
“As Holly is my eldest grandchild she is still very much in my thoughts as I see my other grandchildren achieve milestones in their lives. Going to kinder, starting school, playing with other children it makes we wonder how Holly would have handled those situations. It gives me a moment of sadness that she didn’t but I also know that she is at peace & that gives me great joy. I am very heartened by the way my other grandchildren refer to Holly when speaking about her birthday, Christmas & anniversary.
“The thing that we as grandfathers must not lose sight of is that we did have our beautiful grandchild no matter the length of time and that we have those memories for the rest of our lives. We are also allowed to dream of how we would have spoiled them; grandfathers are allowed to do that.”1
Anniversaries, birthdays, Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, family celebrations, and other special holidays may be especially difficult. This is quite normal and is shared by other families that have experienced the death of a child. You may find that the lead-up to these days can be worse than the day itself.
There are no rules about how (or even whether) to mark anniversaries, birthdays and special days. Some families visit the grave with balloons, some write a poem, add a special plant to the garden, light a candle, make a special Christmas decoration, or get together with family members and browse through a photo album. Whatever you decide, do not expect too much of yourself, but do whatever is helpful and meaningful for you.
“We all feel Sam is close when we place his special decorations on the tree.“1
“On birthdays, I tend now to confide in someone I know at work who has had a child die. There is a special bond between us. We talk for hours about our losses.“1
“A letter turns up every year from a cousin’s wife, and a card saying: ‘We’re thinking of you and the girls.’ It’s just nice - she hasn’t forgotten.“1
“He died on the day before our wedding anniversary so this has completely ruined that day for the rest of our lives. Before we had him, we’d go away for the weekend and even when he arrived we’d go away for a couple of days. Now it is not really like a celebration but a time to get away and reflect a bit.“1
“On the anniversary date we went away. We would have just been sitting around the house being sad and I was adamant there would be no party, no gathering, nothing. It’s not a day of celebration. We’ll celebrate his birthday, we’ll have a gathering then but not on that day.”1
“We go to the cemetery and then out to dinner.“1
“I suppose we haven’t come up with a ritual that works. We did have a candle with the intention of lighting it and we did it once but it was too upsetting so we really didn’t do that again.“1
“Don’t think you have to do something because parents or friends expect it. Just do what you want to do.“1
“What worked for us was to take time out from the normality of life. You don’t really have to go away, like this year; we went to the Hot Springs. You are not in your hustle and bustle, you take stock, and are taking time out.“1
“From our experience, it’s not the big days that get you, because you can prepare for them as you can see them coming. It’s the ambush attacks that hurt. At the supermarket we ran into one of the parents and their boy who was born on the same day as our son. Just seeing him again and how much bigger he was – when our son died he was just a toddler and this kid now was not in nappies anymore – was a huge body blow.“1
Last reviewed: 25/9/21
1. Quote from participants of a series of workshops and interviews with bereaved fathers held in 2015 at Red Nose Grief and Loss, Malvern, Victoria, and Red Nose Grief and Loss offices, Australia.