Thursday, January 21, 2010

Celebrating the memory

~ Written By Joanne Cacciatore, PhD, MSW, FT, Founder of the, in Peoria, AZ, after the loss of her child, Migi

To let go of the pain does not mean we have forgotten the child who has gone ahead of us. There are many ways to keep our children alive in our hearts and in the hearts of other people as well. There are rituals we can perform or little things we can do to keep the relationship with the one who has gone ahead of us.

Migi had always been fascinated with dinosaurs, and in the first year after his death, I found myself buying every little dinosaur book that I could find in the bookstore. Perhaps this was my way of coping and remembering him. I've since ceased to shop for the books, but the collection remains in a chest filled with his favorite toys.

This experience reminds me of a sad story I heard about a lady whose only daughter died at birth. For many years until she had a child again, she would buy a doll during her daughter's birthday and bring that to her grave. Her family and neighbors could not understand the gesture, and thought she was going out of her mind.

It was only many years later, when she told the story to her counselor, and the counselor said, "What a lovely gesture" that she broke down and cried. All those years she had been hurting from the comments of neighbors and friends, and it was only when this one person appreciated and understood what she had been doing, was she able to work through her grief.

There are countless ways to celebrate the memory of a beloved child. On a birthday, for example, you can release balloons or plant a tree in your garden in his or her honor.

You can also do something nice for the young patients at the hospital where your child died (if the child passed away in a hospital), or celebrate his memory by spending the day with less fortunate children and doing your bit to help them. You can also begin a crusade or an awareness campaign if the death was a violent one or a tragic one.

I have found that it is in reaching out to others, in stepping out of the shadow of one's sadness that one is also able to heal. Investing oneself in activities that give meaning to the loss helps alleviate the pain and aids in building a new life that would keep the memory alive and well in our hearts and, I am certain, make our children proud.

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