There is nothing that makes you sit up and pay attention to life more than death does.
My life had always revolved around my son Ben. I had deliberately structured it that way so I could be there for him in the morning and at night as well as the general running around you do for a teenage boy.
I was happy to drop him off at his part-time job at 6.45am and collect him afterwards. I made the most of our time in the car taking him to and from his football games and I loved watching him play.
Ben and I were close, and I adored his company and spending time with him. However, I was and am human. On those odd occasions when I was less enthusiastic, I remembered that one day he would be all grown up, and move out, and I would likely do anything to be able to drive him somewhere again. This thought brought me back to the moment and to deep gratitude and I made the most of the time I had.
I never in a million years considered our time would be as short as it was and that those moments would one day become excruciatingly precious. It never occurred to me that I wouldn’t see Ben grow up and move out, but perhaps that is exactly what has made those choices so important today.
I remember sitting in Ben’s hospital room mid-way through our short stay thinking that my focus up until then had revolved around Ben and what was best for him. I knew that this would never change and he would remain the centre of my world, but the focus would shift to what would Ben want. This was the main reason behind opening the area and encouraging all his friends to come in and spend time with him. He would have wanted his network around him.
Soon after I made the heartbreaking walk out of the hospital for the last time, one that so many parents are faced with, I knew my attention had changed again. It would now be on making his life matter, continuing his memory and legacy, and making my time count.
So, as you can imagine, when I was recently asked to write a piece on Loss and Legacy, I jumped at the opportunity.
I can’t speak for everyone but the bereaved parents I have spent time with so far all agree on one thing. Losing a child gives you a different perspective on everything – the whole world and all of life.
I have become strongly driven to make my experience with Ben count and share it with others to make a difference. In the early days I gravitated towards starting a foundation or charity, but what? None of what I came across seemed to ‘fit’ Ben perfectly and I couldn’t put him in a one-niche box
I also discovered there were so many amazing initiatives, foundations and organisations that had been built on the back of the pain of grief and loss. Until I became clear, I decided that it was better to align myself with the one(s) that felt right in the moment instead of inventing a new one.
When you lose a child, it is common to begin new traditions or ways in which you honour them. It might be setting a place for them at the table on special occasions or taking photos on trips with their favourite teddy or just something that reminds you of them.
At the centre of loss and legacy are timeless spiritual truths, a deep sense of love and the devastating but necessary acceptance that loss is a natural part of life.
We create a legacy to pass on our values, make our mark on the world and make a positive impact on future generations.
As parents wanting to continue or create the legacy of our passed children, we just need to know that we are making a difference and honouring them in what we do. We want them to be proud of us and above all, we want them to be remembered.
Every charity has a story. Precious Wings was built on the founder’s own experience of losing her baby boy Toby. Together with one of her Directors who also mourns the loss of George and Catherine they provide memory boxes and miscarriage bags in addition to other support to bereaved families. Their mission is to ensure wherever possible that every family who faces the loss of a child receives a precious memory box and is supported in their grief.
At the root of every legacy is a desire to keep a memory alive and to deeply honour a loved one. As a bereaved mum, mine is also to honour my son Ben. Today I do exactly that and in everything I do – all without the need to start a charity of my own.
Here are 15 ideas of how you might honour your child or loved one passed
- Create a candle-lighting ritual with beautiful or scented candles – light them with intention
- Build a garden and care for it mindfully with rich nutrients
- Set up a regular donation to a charity or cause
- Volunteer your time in service to others
- Write a book dedicated to your child
- Plant a tree, perhaps in a prominent place – attach a plaque
- Share your story/experience to help and encourage others
- Raise funds for a charity in honour of your child
- Do something special on their birthday, due dates, or anniversary of their death
- Create a memory box full of keepsakes
- Set up a scholarship or sponsorship in their name
- Perform random acts of kindness in their name
- Create a dedicated and decorated space at home in honour of your child
- Say their name, or speak about them often
- Make your time count
There is no right or wrong way to create a legacy just as there is no right or wrong way to grieve. It is simply whatever feels right for you and how you choose to honour your child.
Grief is an individual journey and whilst we all have our own story, we all travel the path together.
Dalya xx 💙