12 Ways to Honor Your Child and Your Grief in the New Year
For some of us, the new year feels like more distance placed between us and our babies. For others of us, it’s a welcome shift away from a painful year. Wherever we may fall in that spectrum, the new year signifies change and often brings with them resolutions, promises that we make to ourselves. As part of these resolutions, I invite you to do one thing each month that will honor your children and/or your grief.
January: Write your child’s name/nickname
Use a pen or a pencil or crayons or markers or paint on a canvas. Write in the sand, on paper, on a sidewalk with chalk. Type it in big font. Write it over and over and over, if you need. Or write it big and huge, if you need.
And if you didn’t give your child a name or nickname, you can write “Baby” or “Baby [your last name].” Or, you can take this time to choose a name.
February: Reach out
It’s so important to find people who get it, who will let you mourn, who will support your grief without being judgmental. Whether it’s joining an online community (Still Standing Magazine has a Facebook group, BabyCenter Community has several grief and loss groups, for example), attending an in-person support group, speaking to a good friend or to your partner, scheduling an appointment with a therapist, posting on Facebook asking people to say your child’s name, reach out, reach for that connection.
March: Find a cause
I know quite a few amazing mommas who started projects and nonprofit foundations in memory of their children. Their work has helped create the shift towards normalizing grief and making pregnancy and infant loss and infertility more mainstream. This magazine is one of those projects. One wonderful momma sends birthday/anniversary cards to families. Others find existing causes to support, such as becoming Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep photographers, participating in fundraising runs/walks (my family participates in the March for Babies), or helping organize their hospital’s memorial event.
Related: Going Beyond Hurt Feelings
April: Acknowledge your feelings
How are you feeling? There is no right or wrong way to grieve; please remember that. There are good days, and those are okay—no, more than okay, those are wonderful because we deserve to smile, to laugh, to feel joy without guilt that we are betraying our children or that we have somehow forgotten them by not being in constant pain. We will never forget (you know this already). There are awful, heavy, unbearable days; and those are bound to happen, to recur, for grief to hit in a big wave. That’s normal, too. Whichever way you’re feeling today, accept and acknowledge these emotions and be gentle with yourself.
May: Get a remembrance keepsake
Mother’s Day became one of the hardest days of the year after losing my babies. It can be particularly painful if you have no living children (my first was two months after my first son was stillborn) and no one acknowledges you. This month, find a keepsake that reminds of your children, that helps you remember that you are parents.
Here are some ideas: jewelry with your children’s name, initials, and/or birthday; silicone or friendship bracelets in colors that remind you of them; a tattoo (think on this a bit longer because it’s permanent!); a photo that you can put in a keychain or in your wallet; a stuffed animal or quilt made from their clothing and blankies; the name you wrote in January displayed on a wall. One of my favorites “keepsakes” is a collection of photos I have after asking friends and family to send me pictures whenever they encountered my baby’s name.
June: Start a playlist
When I’m really missing my babies, I’ve found comfort in listening to a YouTube playlist that I put together for them. It includes songs that my husband or I sang to them while I was pregnant and songs that expressed my feelings of grief and missing. If you have a Spotify, iTunes, or other accounts, you could also use those to start your playlists.
July: Write a letter to your child
This was first suggested to me in a support group for bereaved parents. My husband and I decided on a special journal to write our letters. On the days when I especially missed my son, I wrote to him and talked to him about what I wished for him and for our family, about the things I missed and wanted to remember, and how much I loved him and wanted him.
August: Be kind to someone
Whether it is for yourselves, for a loved one, or for a stranger, take the love you have for your child and channel it into an act of kindness.
September: Practice stillness
Whether it’s through prayer, meditation, a bath, or simply sitting or laying down, take a moment to be still, to breath fully, to ask the tension in your body to soften and release.
Related: Your Legacy, Your Light
October: Light a candle
It wasn’t until I lost my first child that I learned October 15 is Pregnancy and Infant Loss (PAIL) Remembrance Day. It is a nationally recognized day of remembrance for those of us who’ve lost a baby. Take part in the Wave of Light by lighting a candle in memory of your children at 7 p.m. You can use also use the following hashtags to join and share your candles: #PAIL #October15 #WaveOfLight
If you’re up for taking a photo each day, try Carly Marie’s Capture Your Grief project.
November: Send a thank you note or card
Think of someone who has shown you love, compassion, or tenderness; someone who has been especially helpful or empathetic or thoughtful; someone who helped you feel less alone; someone who made you feel like you didn’t have to hide your grief. Maybe it’s the nurse who found a camera so you could take the only photos of you and your baby that you will ever have. Maybe it’s the friend who dropped everything to be with you at an ultrasound after you started bleeding. Maybe it’s the coworker who sat and cried with you and shared her own loss. Send this person a note or card to thank them and let them know how much they mean to you.
This isn’t only for them, it’s also a reminder for you of the good that does exist in the world, especially during the holiday season, which can be a very difficult time.
December: Buy a gift to donate in memory of your child
Several families I know have made this an annual tradition. They go to the store and pick out gifts they would have loved to give their children and donate them to organizations that support underserved communities. Some families also participate in sponsor-a-child programs for children who are the same age as theirs. Other options, if physically going out to purchase a gift or sponsoring a child is too painful (and that is okay and understandable), are purchasing from an organization’s online wishlist (some create them on Amazon) so it’s sent directly to them or making a donation in your children’s’ name.
To share your experience and so we can find each other on social media, please post it on the last Monday of each month with the hashtag #LastMondayMourning, or feel free to come back here and comment. If you want to post sooner or end up having to post later, that’s okay. And if a prompt doesn’t resonate with you, that’s okay, too — feel free to skip that month or do something else that feels right for you, for your grief, for your child.