I’m Marie, a Grief Coach and End-of-life Doula who walks the path of healing with women who have suffered a profound loss. I specialize in creating safe spaces for women to be seen, heard and witnessed in the fullness of their experience of loss. I am the founder of Empowered Through Grief, a coaching practice and community that provides a brave space for healing and post-traumatic growth for women grieving all types of loss. I never thought that life would lead me here, but my partner’s terminal cancer diagnosis four years ago has opened up an entire new path for me and radically changed my perspective on life and death.
When cancer became a part of our lives, I didn’t attempt to shield or protect my little boy from the realities of what we were living through. Although I wasn’t very educated about grief as we were facing a profound loss together, my intuition guided me to include him in ways that were appropriate for his age at the time. And so, we faced cancer together, all three of us. And then my son and I faced grief together.
It can be tempting to hide illness and death from children and to prevent them from attending funerals out of fear that it might be too much, too painful, too dark or too grown up for them. Of course, we all have to make the decisions that are right for our own family and for our little ones. But knowing that there can be something very healing about giving children a sense of power and agency at a time when much can feel out of their control is a helpful piece of information that can help guide us through this painful time.
Engaging my son during A’s, my husband’s, illness has been important but doing so after his passing has been truly so meaningful to me. As part of the grieving process, I’ve found it supportive and helpful for us to DO things together to remember, to honour and to help us feel connected to A.
In my personal life and as a part of my work, I will often talk about and help create legacy projects. These are creative projects that we can do with children both to cultivate a sense of agency for them inside of their experience of grief AND, to preserve some of their most precious memories.
A legacy project is a simple way to enter our children’s creative worlds and minds and give them an outlet to memorialize their person on the other side. Anything can become a legacy project, writing a book of memories together, creating a scrapbook of their favourite pictures or representing their memories and their love for their person through drawing and painting.
One of the most difficult parts of my grief has been accepting the fact that some memories will fade with time. The memories made in the earlier years of my son’s life are beginning to fade for him. Some of the moments he would recall and bring up on his own in the first two years of his grief, he no longer remembers. Over this last year, it has been more important than ever for me to help keep memories alive, for both of us.
We’ve been reminiscing and remembering together but what works best with little ones is to DO something. A big theme for us at the moment has been to remember that our family is made up of both the people who are here physically AND those we love that have died. Together, we have been making art, blending our names with those of our loved ones who have passed, honouring the sacred place they will always hold as part of our family.
If you’re looking for inspiration on how to keep your own memories alive after the passing of a loved one, you can head over to Remembering A Life’s website for a list of meaningful ideas. There are countless ways to memorialize a loved one so use that list as a launching pad to create your own memories. Here are some of my favourites:
- Create a quilt that incorporates your loved one’s clothing (can be really comforting for little ones)
- Sing or play their favourite songs (after A passed, we would exclusively listen to his Greek music in the car)
- Journal memories of time spent together, or about experiences you are having now that you wish you could share with them
You can find more wonderful ideas that can help you carry your person’s legacy forward at Remembering A Life.
P.S. If you’re wondering if your child should attend the funeral of a loved one, Remembering A Life has great resources in the Youth and Funerals section of their website.