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SUDC Insights

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SUDC Insights is the official blog of the SUDC Foundation which shares and discusses issues important to the understanding and the ultimate prevention of SUDC. If you have questions or issues you would like to see addressed in SUDC Insights, please let us know at sudcinsights@sudc.org.

Celebrating the Memory of a Child on Special Days

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When someone experiences a loss, celebrations and special days take on a different feel. Whether you are supporting someone who has lost a child or experiencing the loss yourself, dealing with events like anniversaries and birthdays can be difficult. These special days mean something different for everyone. Sometimes they are painful, sometimes joyous, or they may be something you want to completely avoid. What we can tell you is that these special dates will always bring reminders of the precious child that was lost. 

Birthdays and anniversaries are widely recognized as time spent with loved ones for sharing gratitude, togetherness and love. They are special milestones that families and friends can continue to celebrate even after a loss. But special days are not limited to birthdays and anniversaries, there are many more and some more personal. The day the child would have gone to kindergarten, or graduated, went to the prom or the day their younger sibling becomes older then they reached on this earth. It is important to recognize that grief is unique and every individual will have their own way of choosing to experience their special days. Lighting a candle, sharing a happy story about the deceased child, planting flowers or making a special meal that was the child’s favorite that can be shared with loved ones to honor their memory are just a few examples of the activities that bereaved families choose.

Bereaved people often recognize that the time leading up to the day feels actually worse than the day itself. They may anticipate the way they will feel or may be caught off guard. There is no normal or perfect reaction. It is natural for those grieving to feel differently about birthdays and celebrations. An individual may even find that their thoughts and feelings change over time about celebrating these events. This is completely normal and it is important to recognize individual preferences at that point and time whether you are experiencing it yourself, helping a loved one, or even just observing from the sidelines. 

Throughout these special days, leaning on a support system is vital. A grieving parent, sibling or family member needs to voice their feelings, share their needs, and express their fears and joys.  Recognizing the emotions that come with these events are part of the journey for both the griever and their support system. It’s okay to remember and honor the love and happy times that were experienced with the deceased child.  Just because they are gone, does not mean that their life can not be celebrated. 

 Keep in mind these events can be draining, both physically and emotionally, so getting enough rest through special days and events is extremely important. Bereaved family members- especially parents - need to decide what is comfortable and recognize their limits at this particular time. It is helpful to remind family members and friends who may not agree with one’s choice on how to experience these special days with the recognition that these are your current needs and they will change over time.  
Below are some ideas for the celebration of special events.

  • Light a special candle of remembrance
  • Make a scrapbook and design a page for each birthday or anniversary for the child
  • Make a memory stone; paint child’s name, dates or a picture
  • Have a small family gathering on the child’s birthday with balloons and a cake and share special memories of the child
  • Flying Wish Paper – Write your wishes for the child on this thin piece of paper, roll it up, light, and watch it rise and fly away. 
  • Plant a special tree or flower
  • Hold an annual charity event in memory of the child
  • Create a memorial video
  • Having a bubble release. Gather with friends and family and have everyone blow bubbles into the sky at an organized time. 

Families in grief are encouraged to live in the moment, as sometimes planning for a special day can seem overwhelming. Families may consider two scenarios. “I think I would like to spend this special day by doing X, but on the day of, I may not be up for that and I can always do Y”.  Let others know your tentative plans and that you will make a day of decision. It is important for those in grief to be gentle on themselves.  Discard  preconceived notions or expectations. They need to have permission to do what they feel is best for them at that time. 

As always, the SUDC Foundation is available for support. Family members can register for family support services at: https://sudc.org/family-services/member-services-access/services-for-bereaved-families
 

If you have any questions, or would like additional support for yourself or a friend, 
please contact us at  800-620-SUDC or 973-783-2592 ; Support@SUDC.org 


 

Additional References:

SUDC Grief page

The Dougy Center (National Center for Grieving Children & Families; http://www.dougy.org/

National Association of School Psychologists; Benjamin Fernandez, Victoria A. Comerchero NCSP, Jacqueline A. Brown NCSP, Catherine Woahn, NCSP

You Can Heal Your Heart: Finding Peace After Breakup, Divorce or Death with Louise Hay., David Kessler


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