Yesterday was our first child’s 7th birthday. But there were no balloons, no cake, no party, no presents to open. His birthday’s are a little different because our first child was born in heaven. Each year we choose to honor and celebrate him however we see fit that particular year.
When honoring the life of a child living in heaven I am convinced of one thing: there is no such thing as too much or too little. Follow what your heart is longing to do to remember your sweet one. Some years we’ve not shared his birthday with anyone but each other and quietly remembered on our own. Other years we’ve written poems, or left each other notes, or talked about it off and on all day. This year I felt it more than other years. Some years I only shed a few years and carry on through the day. This year I started crying almost as soon as I woke up. So this year it felt right to do more and share more. Go with what feels right to you. It’s your child – there’s no wrong way to remember and honor him/her.
Here are some ways we have honored our child (and also our second child we lost 10 months later). Remember, this is what has felt right to us, if it doesn’t feel right to you that’s okay!
Naming our children.
Many parents who lose a child at any stage (early miscarriage – still birth) choose to name the child they lost. For us, it has been a way to make our children feel closer to us and bring some closure to losing a little one we never got to hold in our arms. We named both of our children on the days we lost them, but there’s no time limit. If it’s been years, you can still name your little one!
We had actually chosen the name for our first child when I was still pregnant, before we lost him. Asher Stephen. We loved the name Asher and the meaning behind it: happy. When we found out we were expected there was no end to our joy! We chose to keep his name to ourselves for the first few years, but gradually started sharing it with others once we felt right about it. The same with our second child. We named him the day we lost him… Cyrus John… but kept him to ourselves for a bit too.
Each year I start out the morning by reading back through the verse that has carried me through so many storms in the last seven years. The night we lost Asher I was so lost. I was having trouble accepting that I was no longer carrying our child and wouldn’t be bringing him home from the hospital and snuggling his soft body. The weight of burden was so heavy. I just couldn’t wrap my mind around the lifetime we had suddenly lost. I got in bed with my Bible feeling confused and unsure of what to do or how to even pray. So that’s what I gave to God. I simply told him I was lost and confused and hurting… then I asked for a special gift, something to help me through the days ahead. When I opened the Bible the pages just naturally fell to Isaiah 54 and my eyes landed first on verse ten. And that promise came straight from the heart of God to me that night. It has carried me through so many hurts and made my faith steady. I’ve carried a few different Bibles over the years, as my “old faithfuls” fall apart (I literally lost all of 1 Peter this spring when my Bible just fell to pieces) I purchase new ones and get to underline and mark that verse with each new Bible. It’s so special to me. We also have a special scripture for Cyrus, but I’ll share that at a later time.
Lighting a Candle (and) letting others honor your baby too.
This year I really wanted to share Asher with others. So I posted a photo on instagram and invited anyone who wanted to join in to light a candle in his honor and post the picture using the hashtag #happybirthdayasherstephen. It was so special to see my instagram and facebook feeds fill up with pictures of candles in his honor. I even had a sweet friend text me a picture of a little card she wrote saying “Happy Birthday Asher” because her apartment doesn’t allow candles! The sweetest!
You don’t have to share with others though, you can simply light a candle in your home and keep it burning all day as a little personal reminder. This year I had the thought that I’d like to go to a little pottery store sometime and paint two candle votives for each of my children to use each year only on their birthdays.
Acts of remembrance. (balloon release, lantern release, writing their names in the sand, tossing flowers,ect…)
This year, because we wanted to do more than usual, we chose to toss seven blue flowers into the ocean. Seven for the number of years we’ve lived without him, and blue because that color always reminds me of Asher. Flowers are very special to me. When we first lost him people sent and brought over loads of flowers. They were all over our home and I loved it. My mom came to take care of me after surgery and I commented to her one morning how much I loved all the flowers. She had to run to the grocery store that afternoon and she came home with a big bouquet of white roses… just because she knew I loved them.
Yesterday we drove out to the ocean. We chose the exact location that we celebrated our wedding at 8 years earlier. Thankfully the beach was empty and we had it all to ourselves, minus one lady with her sweet dog (but she kept her distance.) We just looked out at the water and talked for a bit. Then we walked in about knee deep and tossed the flowers out one by one. It was very special.
Once we were finished we walked back to the shore and watched the waves bring them back up to shore, and then carry some back out to sea again. It was peaceful and nice. Eventually I leaned over to write “Asher Stephen” in the sand and we stayed to watch the tide eventually wash it away.
Then we turned to walk back over the dunes, and as we did it started to rain. It felt very fitting.
We may not do all of these things every year – we may just do one or two little things. We may not choose to share the day with anyone else sometimes, and other years we may want the support. There’s no wrong way to remember the child you’ve lost.
Remember that even if other people don’t understand it, that’s okay! They don’t have to understand for you to have a meaningful celebration of the life of your child. If others have chosen to do things differently, that’s okay!
I know some people who have gotten tattoos as a special reminder, and others who have planted gardens or trees. Some have actual grave sites they can visit and some just have a small box of little treasures.
For me, no matter how we choose to celebrate, the main thing is what I remember and move forward with at the end of the day: God is good, God loves us, God has plans we don’t always understand, and God is holding my children.
If you’ve lost a child, how have you chosen to remember him or her? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below!