Commemorating Our Loved Ones
Every person who grieves will find solace in different things and different ways. In my grief journey following the sudden passing of my son, I am most comforted by actions or objects which draw him close. I have always been someone who connects strongly to objects, scents, tastes, and places of memory. In selecting the mementos I want to decorate my life with, in my son’s absence, I let those proclivities guide me.
Just for You
You may find people around you are not able to understand or appreciate the things you do, or the objects you cherish. I want to encourage you not to allow a negative response from someone else tarnish the practice or object you treasure. As you journey through life with your grief, you will encounter people who mistakenly believe they can judge your path by comparing it to their own. When you come across such an experience, wrap yourself in the positive feelings your memento provides and say, “it brings me joy. Thanks for your concern.”
Going On Does Not Always Mean Leaving Behind
There are many experiences of grief and many people who grieve that may be well served by ‘leaving the past in the past’. For those people, in those situations, that may be what is right and healthy. These people don’t forget their loved ones who have passed. Fond memories color their lives but there isn’t a yearning in their soul that calls out for the daily experience of the person who has moved on.
That yearning, nor the honoring of it indicate the griever is ‘stuck’ or wallowing in grief. Those are unkind judgements, made by caring individuals who simply don’t understand. I have experienced grief several times in my life that eventually settled into the frequent fond memory phase. My experience with the passing of my son is completely dissimilar to my previous experiences. The fact that it is different – more active and on-going doesn’t mean that it is unhealthy.
A Promise to Yourself
In 2019 my son, Errol decided to attend Edwards Business College at the University of Saskatchewan. When he was getting ready to head off to school, he decided that his current hair style of a thick, long topknot was not the image he wanted to portray. I have cut my family’s hair all along, as a former hairdresser. Errol and I worked at getting his hair into the topknot for some time and we were both very pleased with it. So, when he asked for it to be cut off, I agreed to cut his hair short in a more business-like fashion. When I did, I made a commitment to him that I would begin growing my hair into a topknot and would keep it until he took it back. When Errol passed in January of 2020 – just heading into his second semester of Business College, I determined that my commitment would stand.
He Doesn’t Care!
That is the response I get from many people when I share that story. They are totally right. Errol doesn’t care if I keep my undercut or shave my head! He only wants me to be happy. Keeping my commitment provides me with continuous fond memories which are shaken loose every time I care for my hair. On occasion I will get to share the reason for my style choice with a hairdresser and that lets me share my special bond with my son into the world.
My Other Commemorations
The most permanent and outwardly visible statement of commemoration that I have made is the tattoo portrayed in the photo accompanying this post. It says, “Until we are together again”. It features a brilliant butterfly – Errol, flying free above the heads of 3 caterpillars – representing my son Dylan, my husband, and myself.
I am all about symbolism! Everything about the tattoo carries meaning. The caterpillars and the butterfly represent the emergence of Errol’s soul into the freedom of the next realm. The cherry blossoms symbolize eternity. I chose my right had so that I would see it frequently and because the pain of getting it reminded me of the sweet agony of giving birth.
When Errol’s ashes were returned to us, I chose to have some sent away to a wonderful couple who weave the ashes into blown-glass treasures. I had mine crafted into a bead I wear as an earring.
In our family, every night our sons were home, even after they became big boys, we continued to go into their room and bid them good night. Now Errol’s ashes sit on the mantle. Every night I stop by to place a kiss on his urn which is adorned by the cap he received for Christmas, the year he left us.
Family traditions such as BBQ ribs, mashed potatoes and corn for Errol’s birthday continue. Each year his Christmas stocking is filled with a variety of Oreos which we share, and every Christmas tree resides over gifts which includes one for Errol.
We do these things because it is important to us that we continue to be Errol’s Mom, Dad, and Brother. We live our lives continuing to embrace those roles because our souls beg us for those connections. We haven’t stopped living. We don’t give less of ourselves to all the precious people in our lives, but the special connection we have with the powerful force that is Errol will endure until we are together again.
Is it Weird?
I used to put a lot of energy into wondering if other people thought my mementos and commemorative practices were ‘weird’. That question no longer troubles me. I know that my practices are healthy for me because they have a positive impact on my life. As you choose your own mementoes or form commemorative practices, don’t look outward for approval. Look inward to see the impact they have on your life and the lives of those who remain here with you. If the product of your practice is truly peace, joy, and comfort which enhances your life, then I believe it is right for you.