Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Finding our way through a year of "firsts"

Today is Zack's 4th birthday.

The entire week leading up to this day has been so difficult and emotionally draining. You see, Zack is a twin, and while we are overwhelmed with the fact that Zack won't be there to turn 4, his brother still deserves a fun birthday celebration! I've been overwhelmed with memories of the day that the boys were born. Looking at my sweet little ones and being so worried for Zack's future. My life changed four years ago today. This day means so much more to me than just cake and lootbags.

It's really unbelievable to me, that he is gone. I think I go through the motions of the day sometimes and while I miss him, the reality doesn't hit me each and every day. As would be expected, the loss has a much greater impact on a special day. I've already had a birthday, Easter and Mother's Day without Zack and those days felt so different than before. The hardest thing for me, was that these days were about celebrating. After the death of a child or even any death in a family, it's hard to ever imaging celebrating anything again. I was the type of mom who loved to decorate for all occasions. I haven't done that since Zack died. I think I've come to realize that those things just aren't as important as they once were. Balloons and banners don't make a holiday special, it is having the ones you love around you, that make the memories of those days.

Today on Zack's birthday, it hits me again....hard. He's gone. Today should have been a day to sing "Happy Birthday" to both of our boys, snuggle in bed and have a special breakfast. We should have planned a party with their friends, eaten too much cake and taking a thousand photos to post on Facebook.

Today, I've been looking though the last 3 birthday photos and looking at how happy our little boy was, and all that he accomplished between those years.

Today, I've cried a lot, lit a candle and stayed in comfy clothes. I'm finding comfort in being home.

Today, I've visited Zack's grave, alone. With my blanket and kleenex, I lay down to be with my son, as I did the day I said goodbye. I sang him "Happy Birthday" from his mommy. This was OUR time.

Today will be a day to remember Zack and to celebrate Jayden. I know that I have found some ways to allow Jayden to feel special and have fun, while also honouring Zack's memory.

Here are some of the ways we will acknowledge Zack's Birthday. Whether it's a birthday, mother's day, religious holiday or anniversary of their death, there are ways in which we can all find comfort in remembering the ones we miss. I hope that you find comfort in some of these ideas to honour the ones that you have lost in your lives. My goal for today is to find the small ways in which I can remember what Zack meant to us. I'm hoping to find a way to smile, through my tears, to make it through this "first".



  • Do something special that the person you lost, would have loved to do. Did they play the piano, sing or love to dance? Did they love a certain colour? We will be playing Zack's favourite Elmo movie tonight before bed and blowing bubbles.


  • Buy balloons, write a letter on it and send it through the clouds. It is a powerful image to watch and a reminder of something beyond what we can see.


  • Ask friends and family to write a note or card about the person who has died. On Jayden's birthday weekend at Great Wolf Lodge, we received several notes to Zack to read when we are ready.


  • Light a candle all day, to keep their spirit shining brightly around you.



  • Tell stories about the person you have lost. We will each tell a story at dinner tonight- one story about Zack and one about Jayden on their special day.


  • Look through video and photos of events in the past...this can be hard to do, but also a beautiful reminder of special memories.


  • Write a card, journal, letter or blog post about them. Not necessary to share it.


  • Have a cake in their honour- remember the "sweetness" of having that person in your life. We will be having a birthday cake picnic at Zack's grave tonight- lighting two candles for our boys.


  • Leave an empty chair at the table. Physically leaving a reminder that they are still very much with you in everything that you do.


  • Propose a toast, have a moment of silence or play a special song for your loved one, just before you start that holiday meal.




  • How do YOU honour those who have died, in your family?

    5 comments:

    BLOOM - Parenting Kids With Disabilities said...

    Thank you for such important reminders about what is important in life!

    I loved the tips you shared, and the thought of Zack looking down on that Elmo movie and bubbles.

    I am grateful that you share your journey with us so that we can all learn.

    You asked about how we keep memories of our loved ones alive. I look for the beauty around me as signs that my Dad is speaking to me. And I remember how when he died I kept telling people: "All that mattered was the love. NOTHING ELSE mattered."

    But then over time sometimes you forget those lessons.

    So thank you for the reminder and I send you big warm hugs. I am proud of you! xo

    Erica G said...

    Very moving, Heather, as are all your posts. What a lovely way to celebrate the birthday of your beautiful boys and to remember what makes them both special. A big hug to each of you.

    Bubbie Bonnie said...

    I visit Jon at the cemetery, like you do Zack, whenever I feel the need. I went today because Rosh Hoshana is coming. I think you're doing fabulously Heather - writing about losing Zack is obviously a comfort to you. It took me 20 yrs to celebrate Halloween again (because we lost Jon on Halloween). Hugs and kisses to you and your family and happy birthday to Jayden and Zack.

    Alexandria said...

    I cannot imagine the emptiness you feel in your heart, with Zack being gone. Always thinking of you, Heather. Always.

    LindsayDianne said...

    I heard your story over my time at She's Connected. I had sort of heard a bit before, but reading this after hearing you... well it breaks my heart. I can't imagine what you've been through and I want to thank you immensely for being willing to share your experiences with so many who may need to hear them.
    I don't believe there is any better way to celebrate a birthday than the things you listed here. When someone close passes, especially a child, it's important that we allow ourselves to take those moments and make those gestures.
    It's part of healing.