Written by Clara Hinton
The death of a young child is one of the most difficult pains to bear. Young children bring so much joy and wonderment into a home. They help a home to burst at the seams with enthusiasm and joy. When a young child dies, the entire family atmosphere is altered and never quite feels the same again.
Getting through the many “firsts” following the death of a young child is something that is not to be taken lightly. The first time going back to church. The first trip to visit the grandparents. The first family vacation. All of these moments are significant, and will bear heavy on the heart and soul of the grieving parent.
The most difficult day of all following the death of a young child is the first anniversary of the date the child died. Every detail of that day will come to mind, and most parents live in dread of this day for months. They grow more and more stressed and burdened as the anniversary date draws closer. There is an anticipation of heightened grief and pain as each day draws nearer.
With some careful thought and planning, the first anniversary of the death of a child can become a day that aids healing. The parents of the deceased child should sit down together and talk about what might bring the most help and encouragement into their lives on the anniversary day.
Some parents find it very healing to include a private memorial type of ceremony for close family members only. This can be used as a time for reading a favorite Scripture or poem, for sharing a special story about the child, or for reading a letter you have written to your child. Some even find it healing to share journal entries that have been written during the year.
Many parents have found it quite healing to visit the cemetery on the anniversary date and place special flowers and personal mementos at the gravesite. Some have also used this day to have a balloon or butterfly release. Butterflies can now be purchased online for such an occasion as remembering the first anniversary of the death of a child. The symbol of hope is most healing.
Some parents like music, and will spend endless hours choosing just the right words to fit the feelings of losing a child. Others have found it very healing to plant a tree, a living symbol of the love that continues on for their child. It will be very healing in years to come to watch the tree grow stronger and taller with each passing anniversary.
Many families have chosen this anniversary as a day to come together and work on a combined effort scrapbook of memories of the child who has died. Pictures, sayings, songs, favorite foods, and funny stories are all made as entries into the scrapbook, and this is an activity that can be continued on each anniversary date thereafter.
Whatever you choose to do, select something that will have personal meaning for you. Don’t be afraid to be unique. Use this anniversary day as a time of letting go of some of the raw pain of grief. It has been a most difficult first year, and this day should be a time of remembering, but also of looking forward to some hope for the days ahead.
Most of all, use this anniversary day as a time to honor your child’s life. When you have taken care to plan ahead, this day will be one of healing rather than of dread; peace rather than pain.