The first anniversary of your child’s death is very difficult as is many other “firsts.” Above everything else, parents don’t want their child to be forgotten. Many make the effort to make sure this doesn’t happen, particularly on the first birthday or anniversary after the death and after.
One idea from a bereaved mother, who felt a great need to do something special on her son Scott’s birthday eight months after he died, shows one way she celebrated his life. She had a birthday party for him recording the entire event so she would have something to look back on and always remember. She invited both Scott’s close friends and a few of her own who had known Scott his whole life. She asked each person to bring a remembrance story about Scott. It could be a serious or funny story or combination of both.
In the weeks proceeding the party, she went through pictures she had, picked about 50 of them and prepared a music/slide presentation to show guests. She also laid out many scrapbooks she had and displayed items from Scott’s life in the main room: his awards, his football jersey, his prom picture, etc. Friends appreciated seeing items that remind them of times spent together.
This mom also picked out one special picture and used it to make t-shirts for all the guests. When they arrived, she handed them out and asked the guest to put the shirt on for the celebration.
She cooked Scott’s favorite meal: hamburgers and onion rings and made a black forest birthday cake, another favorite, with ice-cream. When everyone was done eating, remembrance stories were told, and then they were handed a small piece of paper to write a short message to Scott and attach it to a helium balloon. In the back yard, a poem the mom wrote was read and a balloon release sent all the messages high in the sky.
She ended the party with a short speech about how she appreciated everyone coming and that she hoped this would be the start of something nice each one of them could do every year on Scott’s birthday to help others and remember, with love, their dear friend. Everyone was encouraged to visit a children’s hospital with little gifts of stuffed animals, making a donation to an organization in Scott’s name, start a scholarship at the school he went to, donate blood to help others, simply light a candle on that special day or any other idea of their choice.
This was her way of celebrating Scott’s life and encouraging his friends to find some good in this horrible tragedy. She could only hope her words found a place in each of their hearts.
As for myself, I always go to the cemetery on that day, bring flowers and talk to my daughter, telling her how much she is missed by both myself, her husband and her friends. One mother I know holds and annual golf tournament since her child was into that sport. Another is involved in MADD and speaks to high school students about drinking and driving, and still another started a memorial page online where others can go and leave messages and remembrances. Friends may want to get together and plant a tree in his or her name and perhaps even place a plaque in the area. There are many things one can do.
Keep everything sent or given to you after your child died, so you can look back with loving thoughts. Best of all, reach out to others who are bereaved, and you will find it will also help you in your grief journey.