In my previous post, I shared suggestions for helping children when a loved one dies. I promised to share the remaining ideas from the article, "Forever After. Helping children re-connect with loved ones who die" by Shea Darian (Lilipoh Magazine, Spring 2012). In writing this post, I realize that there must be a Part 3 as well...just too much to share!
3. Front & center. Children and young adults can create symbols or artistic expressions, or make practical contributions to honor a loved one at a funeral, memorial service or remembrance celebration. ... Helping to prepare the loved one's favorite foods for a visitation, funeral, memorial or family gathering can also help a young person to engage purposefully in loving remembrance.
After reading my previous post, I received a sweet email from Leigh Cohn, co-founder of Gürze Books. He shared with me some of the rituals he has created in honor of his sister, Ellen, gone 19 years. He wrote about the emails he exchanges with Ellen's best friend, explaining, "Although we aren't ourselves close friends, we always send each other Happy Birthday emails because Ellen's not here to do it, and we contact each other on Ellen's birthday, as well."
Leigh also talked about the videos he's compiled, "Quite a few years ago, I went through our old home movies and put together a short, highlight reel of clips. Watching it has always been effective for my family." This year, he shared this video with his sister's best friend. I can only imagine the joy in receiving such a gift. He further explained, " I've made videos for years. When my dad turned 80, I gave him a "this is your life" film that ran 55 minutes. He watched it over and over. When he died, I edited it down to about 10 minutes of highlights and showed it at his memorial service. I did something similar for my uncle. The wonderful thing about the newer clips is that they have sound. So, I can hear my sister or parents' voices."
Thank you, Leigh, for allowing me to share these beautiful "Front & Center" rituals.
4. Bridging the beyond. A young person may need help to find new ways to "talk" to an intimate friend or relative who dies. Letter-writing, journaling or drawing pictures to the loved one who died, or speaking with a loved one aloud before bedtime can offer a sense of ongoing connection and bondedness. ...Choosing a favorite photo ...setting it in a prominent place, and expressing love and gratitude to the spirit of the loved one can also be a bonding gesture.
Our grandkids participate in these activities for the anniversary celebrations of their Aunt Andrea's birthday and death day. Most recently, their mom bought a beautiful silver box that she had inscribed on its mirrored lid with, "We love you Aunt Andrea." The kid's photos are on the box and inside is a bracelet they made for her:
They've made bee's wax candles, painted beautiful pictures, written notes ... heartfelt gifts for someone they have never met, but with whom they have developed a strong bond.
5. Seeing the signs. Those of all ages find comfort and inspiration in imagining ways our loved ones who died continue to communicate with us. ...A favorite bird or insect, a song shared, the wind or rain, an aroma, or an oft-used phrase of speech that shows up at just the right moment can be a reminder of a loved one's affection that continues to nurture and encourage us.
Our experiences with dragonflies (explained in our book and in this video clip) have made them the "meaningful symbol" that we most associate with Andrea. Each time we see a dragonfly we say, "Look...an Annie friend!" and feel comforted by their presence...
...and with that I send you...
Blessings until Part 3,