Remembering at Christmas
On our first Christmas after Henry died my hand hovered while signing Christmas cards, it felt odd writing his name when he wasn’t here but it felt downright wrong not to and so I added his name after ours. I’ve continued to write his name or stamp his handprint into cards since, it feels too wrong not to acknowledge one of my children.
I also prefer when Henry is acknowledged in cards sent by others. In the weeks leading up to Christmas I steel myself each time I open a card wondering whether he has been included, this year it is even more apparent when he is missed and just Merryn’s name is written where both their names should be. I know many people probably do think about him even if they don’t write his name and that people might be unsure whether to or how include him, perhaps find it uncomfortable addressing a card to someone who has died or worry that by mentioning him they will remind us or upset us but we never forget; I think about Henry just as much as I think about Merryn and it is far more upsetting to see his name missing from cards than to see it included.
My advice to anyone writing cards to bereaved parents is to follow their lead, if they mention their child in cards do the same. I appreciate messages like ‘remembering Henry’ or ‘thinking of Henry at Christmas’ or a simple doodle like a heart or star with a ‘H’ in. Other bereaved parents will appreciate this too, it means a lot to know your child isn’t forgotten. Also consider the language you use in cards; bereaved parents, no matter how long ago they were bereaved but especially if newly bereaved, will probably find Christmas difficult on some level, so maybe wish them a peaceful or gentle Christmas instead of a happy or merry Christmas. You could choose to not send a card at all, I would prefer not to receive a card than receive one that doesn’t include Henry, in lieu of a card you could make a small donation to a charity that’s important to the family, small acts done in memory of a child can mean a great deal.
If you are a bereaved parent do whatever is right for you. If you want to write your child’s name, write it; it might feel odd or awkward and you may worry what others will think but it is nobody else’s place to judge how you remember your child. If you would prefer not to write your child’s name but still want to include them you could write their initial instead; or include a doodle like a star or a heart; you might have a special sticker or a stamp you add to cards instead of their name; you could choose a card that reminds you of your child, foxes and giraffes remind us of Henry; or you could just add an extra kiss as an acknowledgement of your child, even if nobody else knows what it’s for, you will. If you don’t want to send cards don’t feel you have to, we send fewer than we used to.
Writing a name in a card might seem like quite a small thing but it really is quite important to us, Henry is our child and he should be here. Sometimes it feels like there is so little opportunity to mention him or talk about him, so to have him included in cards and to know he is remembered by others, especially at this time of year when there is so much focus on family and togetherness, really does mean a lot.
G, M, H & M
X X X X