As we grow older and as our children grow older, our time here on earth is forever marked by the loss of our loved ones. I experienced loss as a fairly young woman, as both my fathers parents passed away before I entered high school and then my father in law passed away about 9 months before we were married. I always dealt it well and while it wasn’t “easy,” I was raised with a steady Christian belief system and had a pretty good handle on it all.
When we began having and adopting kids though, I was made acutely aware that there were things missing from their lives. My kids will only be able to play baseball in the yard or go out fishing with one of their grandfathers. My father in law wouldn’t be showing them how to hunt or shoot a gun or feeding him some of his “interesting” meals.
They are missing out on eating ice cream from the carton and tunafish from the can like I did with my Papa. And Nana would never tell them six hundred times how to dry a dish…only to come back and dry it herself. (Because 10 year old me couldn’t dry dishes right okay?) My parents camp on the lake would always be that to them: Coach’s and Grandma’s camp. They would play with the dolls for hours, never once knowing the ish you could get in if you left one out after clean up time. They didn’t get to watch Papa cut up his fish.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am acutely aware how lucky my kids are to have two full sets of great grandparents and a great great grandmother. We are so thankful every day for the experiences and familial traditions they get to live through. For our family though, it’s very important to us to keep those loved ones who have passed a part of their story.
How do we do that though?
Keep the memories alive through stories.
My husband is the best at this when it comes to telling stories about his father. His entire demeanor changes as he takes on Chuck’s personality and voice while reciting these tales, our children sitting around and laughing at each word. I’ve been with him for five years now and every time there’s a new tale of his dad. I love when we’re together with his mother, brother and sisters and they all begin to tell the kids about the time they slid down the stairs or jumped from the balcony.
Telling stories about our deceased loved ones brings them back to life as we sit around and share what we remember. For my kids, who have no memory of these people, it gives them a real picture of what their voice sounded like, how they moved and who they were.
Keep photos around for them to look at.
I’m a huge photo fan(in case you haven’t been able to tell with this blog) and I believe holding onto photos of our loved ones is a great way to share them with our kids. We have photos of my father in law with my husband and brother in law hanging around the house and the kids can identify who he is through photos. The photographs will provide even more memories to talk about. I love to pull out my old photo albums of my grandparents so they can see what they were like when I was younger.
Celebrate their traditions.
One thing I truly hope to implicate this year is the birthday blessing my great grandmother used to say at our birthdays. A sweet, short prayer, it brings back the memories of her speaking it over us and our families having it memorized. My prayer is we can bring that back into our birthday parties, as a way to honor her and once upon a time, a family tradition.
Think back to what your loved ones ate on holidays or how they celebrated them and bring those into your lives now! Josh’s family always has pierogies on holidays and now our children have them every Christmas celebration with that side of the family. It’s something we hope to keep doing, even once we no longer do it with those people. I might continue to cook the raisin gravy…even though the kids and I won’t eat it. Not Polish enough? Maybe.
Speak their names and stories on special days.
For a long time, I refrained from mentioning my grandparents on their birthdays or holidays because I was afraid bringing them up would create more sadness than joy. It was a naive thought and one that not only didn’t honor my grandparents but also didn’t ease the pain of losing them for my loved ones.
It’s so important to speak their names and stories on days you would if they were still here. We passed by Chuck’s birthday recently and I asked my husband a few time how he was handling his dads birthday as well as told the kids today was the day Grandpa was born. I purposefully try to mention my grandparents on Mother and Father’s day and I attempt to bring them up during the hard celebrations we wish they were here for now. Mentioning them on these days brings them into the picture in gentle ways and makes it more natural to speak of them.
As much as it hurts to celebrate the special days, such as graduations and weddings, without our loved ones present, I love the ways people are bringing them into their weddings again with pictures or candles or the little pictures attached to their flowers.
Seek solace in the fact that this is not the end.
“2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.” -John 14: 2-4
How sweet are those words as believers, who are in mourning? We know the place where Jesus went to prepare the way, the place where He went to prepare a place for us all. We celebrate those words as we mourn. And as we tell our children stories of our deceased loved ones, we are able to find solace, comfort, and joy in the fact that in their deaths, they have left this world and are residing in heaven with our King.
Obviously, none of us know the beliefs in a persons heart, but as my husband said as I talked to him about this, if a person brings their bible to their hospital bed, prays while there, and has spent a good portion of their life talking about Jesus? We can begin to assume that yes, they have accepted Him into their heart.
Losing a loved one can be hard, no matter what point in your life you are at. While it’s important to me and my husband to keep the memory of them alive, it’s completely okay to take a step back if you have to, following a loss that hits you extremely hard. There is absolutely no shame in allowing yourself the proper time to heal and mourn. And if you’re loved one has been gone for a longer period of time, there’s nothing wrong with beginning this process now, at this point, even if you haven’t had it going forever.