We don’t visit our daughter’s grave. While this is a shocking statement for some, others understand our feelings. Whether or not to visit a gravesite is a personal decision, based on religious and spiritual beliefs, relationship with the deceased, the grief work that has been done, current feelings, and plans for the future. The comfort derived from a visit is another factor.

On the first anniversary of our daughter’s death my husband and I, family members, and a few of her friends, gathered at her gravesite. I passed out a list of my daughter’s values—practices that she lived by and wanted her children to live by. Our twin grandchildren, one boy and one girl, were 15 years old when their mother died. We wanted to increase their awareness of her values, and how they might help in the years to come.

After this small ceremony we gathered for lunch at a local restaurant. Grief was still fresh for those sitting at the table, and we told “Helen stories.” Tears were shed, with more tears to come. This was the last time we visited our daughter’s grave. A friend asked why we don’t go there on Helen’s birthday, Christmas, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, or other holidays.

“It doesn’t do anything for us,” I answered honestly. Maybe my answer was too honest, but it was the truth.

Six months after our daughter died from injuries she received in a car crash, the twin’s father died from the injuries he received in another crash. We were almost paralyzed with shock, and his death brought back painful memories. A month later, the court appointed us as the twin’s guardians. They were already living in our house and lived there for seven years. Fortunately, the layout was perfect for them. Each of the twins had their own bedroom and they shared a bathroom. It was almost as if the kids had their own apartment.

We helped the twins get through high school, helped with the college search, and stood by them all through college. Both of them graduated from college with highest honors, were Phi Beta Kappa, found satisfying jobs, and planned for the future. Our grandson will be attending the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and our granddaughter and her husband, a divinity student, hope to start an inner-city ministry someday.

To remember our daughter we don’t have to visit her gravesite. Raising her children and staying involved in their lives is our memorial. We don’t believe our daughter’s soul is buried in the ground with her. Rather, we believe her spirit is always with us and honor her spirit by giving to others. Helen’s former husband asked us to buy a plot, casket, and gravestone so the twins would have a place to visit. But things didn’t work out that way.

The twins visited their mother’s grave once and never went again.  They’re too busy living her values, pursuing their dreams, and savoring every moment of life.


Harriet Hodgson

Harriet Hodgson has been a freelancer for 38 years, is the author of 36 books, and thousands of print/Internet articles. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Minnesota Coalition for Grief Education and Support, and Grief Coalition of Southeastern Minnesota. In 2007 four of her family members died—her daughter (mother of her twin grandchildren), father-in-law, brother (and only sibling), and the twins’ father. Multiple losses shifted the focus of Hodgson’s work from general health to grief resolution and recovery, and she is the author of eight grief resources. Hodgson has appeared on more than 185 radio talk shows, including CBS Radio, dozens of blog talk radio programs, and dozens of television stations, including CNN. In addition to writing for Open to Hope, Hodgson is a contributing writer for The Grief Toolbox website, and The Caregiver Space website. A popular speaker, she has given presentations at public health, Alzheimer’s, hospice, grief, and caregiving conferences. Hodgson’s work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors, and other directories. For more information about this busy wife, grandmother, author and family caregiver, please visit www.harriethodgson.com.

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