Carrying the Torch
Reforming family life is like a dance in which you all come together, separate and regroup in a new pattern.
Allow one another space and time to take different steps as you rediscover your shared rhythm.
Gradually, you will move in unison again, and carrying the torch of your child’s memory will form part of the new rhythm of daily family life.
How Many Children / Siblings Do I Have?
Many families wrestle with this question, and the strong emotions it whips up. Explaining the loss may be too difficult or inappropriate, but not including the child who died can feel like betrayal.
There is no right or wrong response, only what feels right for you in that moment. What feels comfortable for one family member may not work for all of you, and your response may vary depending on circumstances.
Whatever you or anyone else says, you are still your child’s parent or sibling. If you now have only one living child, it is important she understands she is still the older or younger sibling. Your child who died is irreversibly entwined in the fabric of your family and your individual lives.
Many parents and children fear they will forget the child who died – their mannerisms, the sound of their voice, their laughter. If you have very young children, or children born after your child has died, they will need special help to retell their sibling’s story and keep the memory alive.
Sustain memories by writing them down. Make a memory box. Look at photographs or home video. Listen to music you shared together. Your child’s life is a major part of your shared family history. By telling her story, you keep her alive, and pass her light to the next generation.
Many families honour their child’s memory by raising funds for a childhood cancer charity or an organization that brought joy to the child’s life. Others volunteer or establish their own memorial foundation to help families in need or to support cancer research.
Birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas and other holidays can be very hard, both the anticipation and the event itself. Talk together about how to remember your child, and ensure you involve siblings in making plans.
Acts of remembrance can be very therapeutic. For example, filling a Christmas stocking with memories, releasing balloons, planting flowers, lighting candles or visiting a special place together. Recognize that you may each need space and time to think and remember in private.
In time you will understand your grief more. With the support and love of one another and people around you, you will work through it and find peace. You will form a new normal without your child’s physical presence, and you will survive.
The agony will subside, but pain and sadness will engulf you at times, just as happy memories and present laughter will fill you with joy again. Slowly, you will find yourself smiling more than crying when you think of your lost child. Life will never be the same, but it can be good again.