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.

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Mary Jane Cronin

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 griefgirl57@yahoo.com

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