Every person who grieves will find solace in different things and different ways. Following the sudden passing of my son, I received comfort from actions or objects which draw him close. I have always been someone who connects strongly to objects, scents, tastes, and places of memory. In selecting mementos to decorate my life with, in my son’s absence, I let those proclivities guide me.
Just for You
You may find people around you are not able to understand or appreciate the things you do. I encourage you; don’t allow a negative response from someone to tarnish the practice or object you treasure. As you journey through life with your grief, you will encounter people who believe they can judge your path by comparing it to their own. At these times, wrap yourself in the positive feelings your memento provides and say, “it brings me joy. Thanks for your concern.”
Going On Does Not Mean Leaving Behind
There are many grief experiences that may be well served by ‘leaving the past in the past’. For those people, in those situations, that may be what is right and healthy. These people don’t forget their loved ones who have passed. Fond memories color their lives but there isn’t a yearning in their soul that calls out for the daily experience of the person who has moved on.
Honoring that yearning does not indicate the griever is ‘stuck’ or wallowing in grief. Those are unkind judgements, made by caring individuals who simply don’t understand. I have experienced grief several times in my life that eventually settled into the frequent fond memory phase. My experience with the passing of my son is completely dissimilar to my previous experiences. The fact that it is different – more active and on-going doesn’t mean that it is unhealthy.
A Promise to Yourself
In 2019 my son, Errol decided to attend Edwards Business College at the University of Saskatchewan. When he was preparing to head off to school, he decided that his topknot hairstyle didn’t provide the image he wanted to portray. I have always cut my family’s hair, as a former hairdresser. Errol and I worked together at getting his hair into the topknot for some time. We were both very pleased with the result.
So, when he asked for it to be cut, I agreed to provide a more business-like style. When I did, I committed to take up the style until he took it back. When Errol passed in January of 2020 – just heading into his second semester of Business College, I determined that my commitment would stand.
He Doesn’t Care!
That is the response I get from many people when I share that story. They are totally right. Errol doesn’t care if I keep my undercut or shave my head! He only wants me to be happy. My commitment provides me with fond memories every time I brush my hair. On occasion I will get to share the reason for my style choice with a hairdresser and that lets me share my special bond with my son into the world.
My Other Commemorations
The most permanent and outwardly visible statement of commemoration that I have made is the tattoo portrayed in the photo accompanying this post. It says, “Until we are together again”. It features a brilliant butterfly – Errol, flying free above the heads of 3 caterpillars – representing my son Dylan, my husband, and myself.
I am all about symbolism! Everything about the tattoo carries meaning. The caterpillars and the butterfly represent the emergence of Errol’s soul into the freedom of the next realm. The cherry blossoms symbolize eternity. The left hand placement is for 3 reasons. The left hand signifies commitment. I am able to see it constantly. The pain of getting a hand tattoo reminded me of the sweet agony of giving birth.
Upon receiving Errol’s cremains, I chose to have some of Errol’s ashes sent away to a wonderful couple who weave the ashes into blown-glass treasures. I wear my glass artifact as an earring.
In our family, every night our sons were home, even after they became big boys, we continued to go into their room and bid them good night. Now Errol’s ashes sit on the mantle. Every night I place a kiss on his urn, adorned by the cap he received for Christmas, the year he left us.
Family traditions such as BBQ ribs, mashed potatoes and corn for Errol’s birthday continue. Each year we fill his Christmas stocking with a variety of Oreos which we share, and every Christmas tree resides over gifts which includes one for Errol.
We do these things because it is important to us that we continue to be Errol’s Mom, Dad, and Brother. Our souls beg us for those connections so we actively maintain those roles. We haven’t stopped living. We don’t give less of ourselves to all the precious people in our lives, but the special connection we have with the powerful force that is Errol will endure until we are together again.
Is it Weird?
I used to put a lot of energy into wondering if other people thought my mementos and commemorative practices were ‘weird’. That question no longer troubles me. I know that my practices are healthy for me because they have a positive impact on my life. As you choose your own mementoes or form commemorative practices, don’t look outward for approval. Look inward to see the impact they have on your life and the lives of those who remain here with you. If the product of your practice is truly peace, joy, and comfort which enhances your life, then I believe it is right for you.
Read Colleen’s blog: http://www.blazingtrail.net
Read more from Colleen on Open to Hope: The Grief of Returning – Open to Hope