Sunday, March 11, 2012

Making Memories Come Alive

What should bereaved parents do if their only child dies and the decision is to have another child? Is your family now three (with the new child) or four (including the one who died)? How do you answer someone you meet who asks in conversation, "How many children do you have?" The following story relates how one friend of mine dealt with this situation.

My friend's twin children died in a car accident about 10 years ago. The mother was driving, but the accident was not her fault. The pain of their deaths, the mother said, was unbearable. She didn't know if she or her husband could go on without them. But thanks to a Compassinate Friends group in her area, they were able to move on with their lives, knowing that their new friends understood what they were going through and would help in any way they could.

As the years passed, the couple spoke many times about either having more children, adopting a child, or living the rest of their lives without children. Their choice was to have another child; they were young enough and felt they had enough love inside for another child. Litttle did they know that God had a much bigger plan for them. Not only did they have another child, but two additional children were born. This couple always emphasized to others that the new children were not there to take the place of the two that had died years before.

And to prove that, they decided to make the memory of the first two children come alive for the other two that now graced their lives by doing a variety of things. First, they always talked about the ones who died. The parents would tell the new children how much they were loved, what they were like, what kinds of foods they enjoyed, what they hated/loved to do, what bothered them, and just how they felt about many things.

The children were always curious and continually asked questions about them and naturally, about the accident. The parents never hesitated to tell them the entire story of what had happened. They were honest about their feelings, and the children seemed to understand and tell others that theirs was a family of six, not four; that two of their sisters had died in a car accident. They embraced the two children who died as part of their lives then and continue to do so.

The second thing the parents did was to take them to the cemetery to see the twins' graves on special occasions such as their birthday, the anniversary of their death dates and especially for holidays such as Christmas and Thanksgiving. They were allowed to decorate the graves on those special occasions and they enjoyed doing it.

Third, the parents always told the children stories about the twins, things that happened in school, awards they won, how they dressed alike and how no one could tell them apart.

By telling stories of loved ones, eventually the past will be recorded and a history of the entire family is born and preserved. Another way to record the past, present and future is to keep precious moments and momentos in a photo/scrapbook of all four children. If videos or DVD's of the children who died are available, it is likely that the new children will want to see them and by doing that, will merge the past, present and future of their family.

If you have a child who died and decide to have other children, it is good advice to incorporate into your life, if at all possible, these and other ways you may think of, for a full past that can be remembered from generation to generation.

Editor's note: if you have other ideas of incorporating this family concept into one's life, please share in the comments section.