October is Infant and Baby Loss Awareness month. It is an opportunity for parents, their families, and friends to acknowledge and remember precious babies who have died and also a chance to raise awareness of the emotional impact of pregnancy and infant loss, and the scale of this real tragedy, which affects up to one in five families in the UK alone.
With this month pending – always an emotional one for me, since my twin’s birthday is also in October – I found myself thinking about the many ways family and friends might choose to remember a loved one who has passed away.
When Sam, my newborn twin son died unexpectedly, we were completely unprepared. Afterwards, we realised just how little we had in the way of photographs or keepsake memories of him. Apart from a few pictures hastily taken by my husband on a mobile phone, we were too shocked and devastated to think about proper photography, to request a lock of hair or hand and footprints to treasure.
As time went on, it really bothered me that we had so little to remind us of Sam. I felt in desperate need of something tangible to create a legacy of him for his twin brother, Finn, his sisters, our family and friends. Of course, as followers of my books, you will know that this led to the creation of my book range. But apart from the books, there are many other special ways we as a family choose to remember Sam.
A few weeks after his death, we planted a tree, commonly known as a ‘butterfly tree’ in our garden. I did this as I loved the symbolisation of a ‘tree of life’ and to me, Sam will always be alive, at least in my heart. I chose this particular tree variety as the abundance of butterflies it draws to it in summer is a constant reminder of Sam. Each time I see one fluttering in the breeze, I think of him – it is his way of saying ‘Hi Mom, I’m here’ and it never fails to bring a smile to my face.
As anyone who has lost a loved one knows – anniversaries, birthdays and other special occasions are especially hard. Because Sam is one of a twin, it is a particularly complicated day for me. Just before Finn’s first birthday, I purchased a beautiful crystal butterfly ornament in keeping with my butterfly love. Each year, we place the ornament on Finn’s birthday cake. It is a gentle and subtle reminder to those in the ‘know’ that we celebrate the birth of two babies born that day.
After the dust of Finn’s party has settled, we usually get together as a family and release balloons or lanterns as a special acknowledgement of Sam’s short, yet meaningful life. My children take this moment to pause and remember their brother, even though he touched their own lives so briefly.
Afterwards, when everyone has been put to bed, and I am alone with time to reflect, I always light a candle at sunset and allow it to burn throughout the night and next day, until it naturally extinguishes itself. I love the bright, reassuring glow in my bedroom and I don’t mind, in fact, I regale in the fact that it might keep me awake as I remember Sam.
On the anniversary of Sam’s death, which was the day after the twins were born, my husband and I usually seek solace in nature. I have always been drawn to the outdoors and on this day when my heart feels particularly raw; I find a hike or walk in nature to be extremely comforting. I usually try and find a small memento on our walk, such as a dried flower, which I add to Sam’s memory album each year.
These are just some ideas I thought I’d share with you ahead of this special remembrance month. How do you remember your loved one, whether a baby, child or adult? If you’d like to share your ideas, you might inspire and encourage others missing a loved one. Email us email@example.com and we’ll share these in our next newsletter.
By Kate Polley
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