When a loved one dies, certain days are harder than others, even years or decades later. Anniversaries seem to be the hardest for many. The anniversary of the day your loved one died being the most significant.
What many people don't realize is that there are many other days that may be just as significant or perhaps, even more so, especially to a parent who has lost a child.
Many people cope with these difficult days through a ritual of remembrance. It may only take a few minutes, or it may be something they devote hours or even an entire day to. It's a way to mark the day as significant. A day to honor your feelings, then and now. A way to honor your loved one and the love you shared.
Today is the 10th anniversary of the day I buried my daughter. Yesterday was the anniversary of her wake. It was on the winter solstice. The solstice will forever be the day we held her calling hours. Three days before Christmas will always be the day I buried my little girl.
Not unlike a birth story, death stories need to be told. The ritualistic remembrance is not morbid or bad or a sign of not coping well. Quite the contrary. Grief keeping is healthy. It's a way of saying, "Hey, remember this person? They were significant in my life. Remember this day? This day was also very significant in my life. I want you to remember them and the significance of this day, too."
You'll see a lot of grief keeping at the holidays. People posting messages to or about loved ones who have passed on, saying they miss them and love them. People posting photos of their loved one who has died. Remembrances of wonderful times they had together. Even remembrances of the times that were not so wonderful. I think this is a beautiful and healthy way to cope with your grief.
Below is a keepsake I've had for ten years. Every year, one this day, I watch it. The photos were taken by a friend at my request during Meghan's services. I never even noticed her presence. Others thought I was nuts to ask her or that she was nuts for doing it.
So many people want to help the newly bereaved. So many offer "If there is anything I can do..." This was one of the very few things I ever asked directly for. I'm so, so glad I had the courage and presence of mind to ask her to do it. It was a last minute decision. I don't regret anything about it.
She put together the slide show/video of her photos to the song Visitor from Heaven by Twila Paris. The same song was played at Meggie's funeral. It was written about the death of a child as I understand. Little did I realize at the time how grateful I would be for these photos and this keepsake. Especially all these years later. It is beautiful and powerful. I've included it below. I encourage you to watch it and listen to the words of the song. It is absolutely beautiful and so perfect for a child's memorial.
For what I notice now is not only the pain and sadness on our faces, but more remarkably, the love. I can almost feel it. Still. After a decade. Through the photos. The energy was powerful then. It is powerful today. Love...
I have an accompanying scrapbook I made of these photos, plus ones I took at the funeral home, which I go through every year on this day as well. I initially took the photos for Meghan's twin, who was only 3 at the time she died, and her brother, who was 6. I wasn't sure if they'd remember and I wanted them to have the photos to look at someday if they asked or wanted to. I wanted them to see the people who came. To see their own expressions. To see the love that was shown to us. I had no idea at the time how much it would help me then and all these years later.
The act of scrapbooking the photos was also incredibly healing for me. It was not easy, but I was surrounded by good friends while I worked on it. It helped me process. It helped me heal.
I realize photos or videos like this one may not be for everyone. Making a scrapbook or video slide show of your loved one in any way could be a beautiful, loving, and moving tribute to their life and your love for them. It also makes a wonderful gift for anyone who is bereaved.
May you feel the light and love of your loved ones who have passed on to the next place at the holidays and always. Share your memories, a photo, their name. Share it on social media. Share it with friends and family. Open your heart. Let the love shine!