When you have a baby, heck – when you find out you are expecting a baby, parental instincts kick in.
Instincts to protect them, to nurture them, to help them grow, and to encourage them to leave their unique mark on this world.
When a baby dies, that biological instinct does not go away. That can be confusing.
You might be thinking, “I can’t parent my dead child, how the heck does that work?”
Yes, you can! And you do.
It might look different, but you can find ways to parent your child after death.
Here are some ways I continue to parent my son after death:
I make sure he is not forgotten
Since my son is no longer here, I can no longer protect his physical body. What I can still protect is the memory of his short life.
I do this in many ways.
Each time I share his story with someone I meet, I am protecting the memory of his life.
Every time I include him in my child count, I’m protecting him from being forgotten.
With every family photo and card, I include him I’m letting the world know he mattered. He existed.
He is and will forever be loved.
If that isn’t parenting, I don’t know what is.
I include him in holidays and special occasions
He doesn’t get to part-take in our holidays and celebrations, so I make sure to include him.
I make sure he feels special, where ever he is.
I nurture his urn’s place in our home instead of nurturing his growing body. Each holiday, I place something festive by his urn.
A candle is always lit in his honor.
I care for a special garden dedicated to him
Each spring, I plant a garden for him and care for it until winter rolls in.
Carefully, watering it, weeding it, wiping the dirt that collects on the engraved stone placed there in his memory. I make sure it’s perfect.
This provides me with an outlet for my need to nurture him.
I grow the love for him within his younger siblings
He was my first child. He was also stillborn, robbing me of the chance to watch him grow.
He has two younger siblings who did not know him. I focus on growing the love they have for their brother.
Through talking about him to his younger brother and sister, I see the love for him blossom as they grow.
My son talks to him and tells me “Parker lives in my heart.”
They play with our Parker Bear, which is the Molly Bear we received after he was stillborn.
He’s included in pictures they draw, and they don’t hesitate to say we have a family of five despite everyone else seeing only seeing four.
As they get older, the love for him continues to grow.
I ensure that although his life was brief, he will leave a mark on this world.
My son existed. I don’t want his short life to be for nothing.
Creating meaning through helping others ensures he will get to leave a mark on this world.
I donate items in his honor. Carefully packing school supplies for kids his age and dropping them off at the school.
We make extra Valentines with his name on them and deliver them to children in the hospital.
Everything I do has a touch of him in it. Through that, he will live on forever.
I write him letters
I have a unique journal just for him. It’s a special place where I can continue to bond with him.
I write to him on his birthday. And on days he is heaving on my mind.
Documenting all the milestones I missed with him and how we’ve not forgotten.
I write letters telling him about his siblings, about his family, about our life on earth without him.
I express my love to him and tell him all the things I want him to know.
You see, my son will always be my son.
And I will always be his mom.
Death will not take that away.
I will continue to parent him my entire life; it just doesn’t look the same.
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
Kelly is owner and therapist at Evolve Counseling, LLC and proud mother to three children, including her son, Parker who was stillborn at 24 weeks gestation. At Evolve Counseling, LLC she provides counseling services to individuals and families healing after infant and pregnancy loss.