Surviving special days


It is common for things or events to trigger painful memories. Anniversaries, birthdays, family celebrations, a photo, a song, a baby or child of the same age are some of them. It is important to know that these are normal reactions and that other grieving parents share this sensitivity.

“Four weeks later it was her third birthday. This day loomed on the horizon with equal, but opposite, intensity as the day of the birthday party we had been planning just a few weeks earlier did. We decided to complete the chook house and fill it with four Faverolle hens as a gift to her. I also cut up her dresses and sewed them into prayer flags which are now threaded through the gum trees around the chook house. We had birthday cake, cards and tears.”

“Fortunately, birthdays, anniversaries and other holidays do get easier with time.”

Grieving parents have explained that the anticipation of pain on a holiday or special day is often worse than it actually turns out to be. Be warned, however, that many also report that they ‘crashed’ the day after. Not realising how much they had psyched themselves up, and in some cases forced themselves to participate in things they really didn’t want to be part of, they temporarily reverted back to the confusion and depression of those first few months after the death. With time, this pain in most cases will lessen.

“I have learned, with time, to find peace and comfort in celebrating the memory of our daughter. On her birthday I prepare myself for a long ride filled with a lot of happy and sad tears … because now the joy of having had her is greater than the sadness of losing her.”

The following is what helped one mother to grieve and to commemorate her son:

* “I kept a diary, though after one and a half years I didn’t write as much.”

* “Since Easter came right after his death, I went to his grave site with a toy.”

* “On Mother’s Day, I bought a locket to put one of his pictures in. Now I don’t leave home without it!”

* “I had two pairs of his shoes bronzed: his first, and the pair we bought just two weeks before he passed away.”

* “I went through his baby book and I framed a few of my favourite pictures.”

* “At Christmas it was very hard for me because he was with us the Christmas before. I took one of the pictures of him with all of his toys and placed it inside one of the Red Nose Grief and Loss Christmas cards and mailed them to family and friends.”

* “On his birthday I bought a card and put it in his baby book. I plan to do this every year. I went to his grave and placed a toy there. I also bought cupcakes and a gift for one of his day-care playmates. I burned a red candle in his memory all day.”

* “I find it very important to keep talking about my son to people and to make them realise how important it is for them to talk about him to me. It’s all part of the healing process.”

* “I keep a picture of him on my desk at work, which sparks conversation about SIDS and creates more awareness.”

* “I have been very involved in Red Nose-related activities. This helps me to feel a sense of belonging. My attitude is that I should do as much as I can for Red Nose Grief and Loss because that’s the only thing I can still do for him.”

This article was prepared using extracts from Your Child has Died: Some Answers To Your Questions.1 The full text is available online or contact Red Nose Grief and Loss Services on 1300 308 307 for a printed version.

Last reviewed: 1/8/21