Today is the 6th birthday of my girl. But she is not here on her special day. She is dead.
Every time I think about her being dead, it somehow seems unreal. My inconceivable reality. It’s as if I lack words to describe it but continuously find myself searching. Searching for words. Searching for her presence.
She’s changed my life.
In her 55 hours of life, she has left an imprint on my soul that by far exceeds the amount of time I’ve spent with her. The echo of the time spent by her side vibrates my whole existence.
The pictures we have of her are hanging prominently in our bedroom. I look at them first thing when I wake up and last thing before I go to sleep. Her small body never grew up. The memory of her tiny hands and feet is an image etched in my mind.
Her memory is tucked neatly in my heart and accompanies me through my daily activities. It no longer is that I think of her every day in a longing way. The imprint she left, however, has greatly shaped what has happened and what I’ve been creating in my life since her death. In the most positive way, I could have never even imagined as a newly bereaved mother.
The ritual of celebrating her
Today, on her birthday I celebrate her. I let my heart lead the way. Every year, my heart needs something different.
The ritual of celebrating her helps to make it real. Most years this involves something that I take out to my friends and family, to help them remember A’Mya with me.
As easy as it is for the world to remember and celebrate a living human’s birthday, it’s challenging when the person is dead. As a society, we lack guidelines beyond the condolence cards at the time of death. With a dead child, people either forget after some years or they are unsure of how to react appropriately and best support the bereaved parents.
On her second birthday, I made this video in honour of her and as a present for her dad (Father’s Day in Australia, where her father is from, happens to be on the first Sunday in September). I watch it often. I watched it today with my daughter’s twin sister.
On her third birthday, I published my first book in her honour.
Today, on her sixth birthday, I was hoping to publish my fourth book. It got delayed because of health reasons. Instead, I decided to donate six copies of my books to an organization called Heartfelt in Australia. They took the pictures of our daughter during the short time she was alive, those that are hanging in our bedroom. They are my most prized possession.
I do it for myself
Whatever I do, I’m fully aware I do it for my own sake. I no longer expect people to mention her, I do it myself. Sharing what she means to me and how I feel is part of you who I am. I ask for what I need because people don’t necessarily anticipate correctly or fear to do the wrong thing.
On her birthday, as well as on the anniversary of her death, I ask people around me to be courageous and mention her name, write her name on my FB wall, light a candle, speak out her name, write it on a piece of paper and the city from where they are writing it … or make a donation to the GPS charity in her memory.
I’m sure that I speak for many other bereaved parents when saying that what you do might be a small gesture for you but it holds a huge amount of meaning for my heart. My heart as A’Mya’s mother.
Thank you for reading, thank you for caring.
In honour of A’Mya Mirica Hope.
In honour of all your children who will never be able to celebrate their birthdays here with you.
Nathalie Himmelrich is the author of a number of resource books for bereaved parents and the producer of the Podcast How to Deal With Grief and Trauma. As a relationship coach, grief recovery expert, and bereaved mother herself she believes that relationships (intimate and with other support people) are the foundation for a healthy grieving experience. She is also the founder of the Grieving Parents Support (GPS) Network and the May We All Heal peer support group.