Keeping Connection With a Deceased Son

When faced with the death of my son, I grieved inwardly and mourned openly to others that my life was forever changed. Wanting to create a legacy of the beautiful child I would never hug again, I began searching for the proper tribute. The magnitude of options was overwhelming and included plaques at the local zoo and starting a scholarship at a local school in his name.

Jeremy and his brothers used to go to a coffeehouse in a nearby town and talk, sing and of course, drink coffee.  My guilt that he was not with me, that I did not protect him, and that ultimately he was murdered, led me to decide to open my own coffeehouse.

Floor plans, ideas for decorations, and wondering what would the young people do when they were there filled my hours and fed my sadness. Returning to college to get a degree that would show investors I was serious resulted in not opening the coffeehouse, but deciding it was the wrong way for me to grieve.  I wanted to show the world how much I missed my son, but should it be at the expense of his brothers? I would now be gone the hours I “thought” were the most vulnerable and be spending all my time away from them to focus on a memory.

Instead, I invested my time at home with the boys creating a memory photo collage. They selected pictures that showed good times they spent with Jeremy and I selected pictures that showed the serious and funny sides of his personality.  Placed over the couch, many conversations were shared with house guests and each time we talked, we healed a little bit more. Friends and strangers who visited got to know my heavenly son through those pictures.

Writing in a journal gave me permission to yell in silence. At first, I was filled with rage that my son was gone. I would write about events he missed and how that felt to me. How we as a family struggled over those first holidays with an empty chair at the table. Over time the rational side of me emerged, and I was able to work towards a sense of acceptance that this was my new normal.

On Jeremy’s birthday the first year after he passed, we had a birthday party with a cake. Sharing our favorite stories produced tears, but also produced a warm feeling that his life was not for nothing. He had left an impression on many of his friends and well as our family.

Planting something living in memory of your loved one can be very healing. After the funeral we had many plants given to us and a few were planted in the yard as a visual remembrance. We also paid the city a fee to “buy” a tree at the local park. A nameplate was positioned at the base of the tree with his date of birth and date of death.  A picnic table nearby provided opportunities to enjoy the day and food with the feeling Jeremy was with us.

Jeremy loved to sing and was in chorus most of his school years. Driving in my car, a song he liked plays on the radio and I smile, turn up the volume, and pretend I am singing a duet with Jeremy. I find those songs bring me comfort and I like to think those songs are sent from my son just for me.

Mary Jane Cronin

Mary Jane Cronin

More Articles Written by Mary Jane

Mary Jane Cronin is a licensed counselor with a private practice in Largo, Florida. She began her writing career following the loss of her 16 year old son. Ten years of working for hospice prepared her for helping others over loss. Mary Jane is the mother of four boys and two grand pups. Mary Jane provides counseling and support groups on loss, grief, and unexpected change. She enjoys professional speaking and has been to several The Compassionate Friends conferences to speak and conduct workshops. Mary Jane’s website is devoted to providing support and resources for individuals experiencing loss. (Ordering information for both books may be found on the website as well.) She can be reached at [email protected]


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  • Nancy Swabb says:

    Our 21 year old son, Phillip, was killed in an automobile accident 4/3/10. The pain of losing him is so intense I physically ache. The tears won’t stop flowing. Our son was the sunshine in our lives. Our lives changed so on that day that it is impossible to imagine living without him or ever being happy as long as we live. He made everyone laugh and loved so many people. He had a girlfriend for almost five years that loved him deeply, whose heart is also broken. No parent should ever have to lose a child. They say time heals all pain, but I can’t imagine that could be true. I fear with aging, his memory may fade. I hope that is not how the saying came to be. I wish everyone could have known this beautiful person, and we could see him and touch him and hear him right now.

    • Hi Nancy, my name is Debbie Collins, and your words are like reading my owns words. I lost my 18 year old daughter kristen on 11/8/08 her boyfriend was drag racing…I would be lying if I said this gets easier,it doesn’t we just seem to get through it somehow with relutance..kristen’s birthday is coming 4/15 tomorrow.. I can say that talking helps but when you lose a child there are so many stages of grief it’s hard for others to understand..If you are interested there is a group called compassionate friends, it has helped me a little.. Losing a child isn’t the natural order of things and it does change you and your family.. it’s hard to adjust ut if you have other children as i do they need you too..A parent should never have to endure this pain. I know your pain and I feel for you.. To help keep kristens memory alive I set up a memorial site for her this has helped as well..The site is called virtual if you google kristen pressel you will see my baby.. I will pray for you and your family, With deep sympathy,Debbie Collins

      • Nancy Swabb says:

        Thank you for your prayers. I had hoped a year of grief would subside some of the pain but you are still in agony. So sorry about your daughter’s accident. I hope justice is done.

    • Corrina Beard says:

      Hello Nancy, My heart breaks for you with every word you wrote! I just lost my brother a couple of weeks ago. My Mom has come to stay with me for a bit because what you wrote is like a mirror of what she is feeling. Oh Nancy, let your tears flow for as long as you feel them coming!!! It is our bodies natural way to process grief! You will be in my prayers every day! I pray that God allows you to forever feel the presence and love of your dear Phillip!!!!! Sincerely and with all my heart, Corrina

      • Nancy Swabb says:

        Thank you for offering your prayers. I know your mother needs you now, as you need her. So sorry for your family’s loss. It is only those who have suffered this enormous loss than can truly understand the depth of agony. God bless!

    • Stephanie Bockman says:


      We lost our 21 year old son in an automobile accident on December 29,2009. I understand and feel your pain. Continue to let the tears flow. Time has made the pain only a tiny bit more bearable, but it is still horrific. My son also had a girlfriend who is struggling. I have connected with another person through The Compassionate Friends organization whose son was the same age and lost his life in an auto accident on 1/1/10. We communicate through e-mail as she lives in another state and it has helped to share stories and grief. If you feel you could manage communication with me, I would listen. If it’s too difficult, I understand. Take care and know that you are loved.

      Stephanie Bockman

      • Nancy Swabb says:


        Thank you for offering to help me cope. I will check into the Compassionate Friends organization to locate how to contact you.

  • Beautiful article Mary
    I do the same thing
    I write and find ways to keep my daughter with me always
    I am looking forward to reading your book.
    With much love to you

  • Nancy Swabb says:

    Those of us who have lost a child have suffered the greatest loss possible. I would give anything to have had the opportunity to take my son’s place in death. I’ve lived a full life, now I have only sorrowful days. Our son, Phillip Swabb, had love and laughter to give the world and needed a future in which to live out his plans and dreams. Why not us instad of them?

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