Today, our precious little boy Josiah would have turned six years old. For most families, their child’s birthday is among the most celebrated times of the year. But for those of us whose child has died, it can be a day filled with many mixed emotions - the memories of the blessed life our child lived and the heartbreaking reminder of all that our child's life could have should have been. As a family we mourn the loss of Josiah's unlived life - the new beginning, new life and new joy that a birthday celebration often represents.
This year, in honour of sixth Josiah’s birthday, we let our daughter’s decide how they would like to spend the day. Our youngest will be sending her handmade card, with a photo of her and brother, released in a bottle addresed to heaven from the sands of a nearby beach. Josiah's big sister wants to honour the day by doing something her brother could not - a trip to Canada's Wonderland followed by dinner at a family favourite restaurant. Together the girls have decorated a beautiful "Angel" cake to share at the cemetary, with our traditional release of a balloon. My hearts is warmed as I see their endearing love for their only brother, yet I am acutely aware, too, of their own losses as I watch their unique grief paths unfold.
In honour of Josiah’s sixth birthday this month I am designing a line of cards appropriate to be sent on the anniversary of a child’s birthday. When our local hospital bereavement program asked for my help writing such a message, I saw the need for cards and a letter written from the heart of a bereaved parent. I will share the cards with you too, in the coming month, on my website, www.lovingyourbaby.ca. With each card, I will be including a message of hope written to families which I have included below.
This month our family is also proud to share the 6th Annual Josiah’s Journey Global Weekend to Walk for SickKids Hospital, Toronto. Supporting education in palliative care and bereavement with the Paediatric Advanced Care Team (PACT) is a way that we choose to honour and remember Josiah throughout the year. Our "little walk that could" has now radiated to include families around the world, raising more than $170,000 in support of critically-ill children, just like our Josiah.
As a parent, this is not the way I ever intended to celebrate my child’s birthday but it does fill me with hope that I can make the world a little brighter by honouring our child’s legacy and giving to others. I have learned to hold onto all the beautiful memories of my son, Josiah, and all that he continues to inspire me with.
It wouldn’t be the amount of time, in Josiah’s lifetime, that would determine his worth…but his existence in our lives that brings us such great joy. Today I carry Josiah in my heart, just as I do his beautiful two sisters.
Our lives will never be the same. We will have good days and bad. And through it all, we know our love for Josiah is eternal; a love that transcends this time and space.
Happy 6th birthday sweet Josiah.
I Love You For Eternity, Mommy xoxoxo
Honouring and Remembering Your Child’s Birthday
Anniversaries of your child’s birthday can be a time of anxiety and sadness for those who have lost a child. The emotions and images of birthday celebrations may leave you feeling alone and isolated. While the world around you seems to rejoice, how can you manage the pain and navigate this incredibly difficult time?
Try to acknowledge that your child’s birthday may be a very difficult time for you. Together, as a family, create new birthday traditions in honour of your child who has passed away. If you have other children, ask them what they would like to do. Then, as a family, decide the best way to spend this day. It is important to talk to your children about their feelings surrounding this time of year. Children need to express their emotions as they adapt to life without their precious brother or sister. Allow your children to celebrate their sibling's birthday in a way that has special meaning to them. Look for creative ways to include the memory of your loved one throughout the year.
Here is a selection of ideas which you may find helpful -
• make a card or purchase a special gift appropriate for the age your child should have been and donate to someone in need (such as a children’s charity or the Children’s Aid)
• spread kindness and perform a random act of kindness in honour and memory of your loved one. Leaving behind a little card lets others know that your child's life and death continues to matter. This beautiful movement has helped thousands of families to heal
• write a poem to your child
• make a donation to a charity that is meaningful to you and your child such as Josiah’s Journey in support of the Paediatric Advanced Care Team at SickKids Hospital
• giving something of yourself to others can be healing during this difficult time. Volunteering your time to help others can be a beautiful way to honour your child’s memory
• plant a tree, special plant or consider donating a bench at your favourite park or school
Look for ways to honour your child throughout the year. Many families visit their child’s final resting place on special occasions such as the anniversary of the child’s birth and death and special holidays. Parents find a sense of peace knowing that their child is always with them in spirit. Give yourself permission to feel your heartache. Your memories of your child will help you cope.
Please share your ideas on how you honour the memory of your loved one with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.