One of the things that makes the 3rd, 4th, 5th years and beyond after loss a little easier to bear, is that you have had time to start building some of these grief rituals. Funeral rituals we are taught by our culture, and we can be guided through those motions with some pre-existing mental framework on what to expect. But then the funeral is over, and life begins without your child in your arms, your home, or even on your planet. How do you express the love that continues when your loved one isn’t here to receive it? At first, it’s completely foreign. These are ideas that you’ve never thought to consider, and all at once you are searching helplessly for some way to remember and honor your baby in their absence. At Christmas, we remember and honor a living child by buying gifts, sharing time with them and making special meals…those things don’t work anymore. So now what?
I feel like holidays, birthdays, and anniversary days are so much easier to bear when you know what to expect from those big days without them here. These rituals that develop over time bring a calmness to my heart, a framework to build the day around, and the satisfaction of an outlet to express the undying love that continues for them. For Lach’s birthday, we will usually try to find something fun to do together as a family, celebrate with cake, and send a bouquet of birthday balloons to heaven. For his angelversary (the term often adopted to refer to the anniversary of death), again, time spent together is important, and when the weather cooperates, we’ll try to plant something in his garden, combatting death with new life. One Halloween, our family went as Avengers and the Captain America costume held Lach’s place. On Christmas, we buy an Angel Tree gift for a boy Lach’s age, and his stocking is filled on Christmas morning with little things a 10 month old would enjoy that can then be donated to a child in need.
These are small and simple rituals, but they honor his place in our family and offer some structure to help us through those days that are especially hard not to have him here. While small in outward appearance, those little rituals transcend the physical act itself to communicate a love that never dies.