Keeping their memory alive – raising awareness of child loss

Today is National Bereaved Parents Day which aims to raise awareness of all parents who have lost a child of any age, and from any circumstance. The theme this year is ‘Keeping Their Memory Alive’. As a bereaved parent, one of the most important things to me is to be able to talk about Jessica, and to hear others talk about her and remember her. To know that others remember that my daughter existed; to be reminded that others still see us as having three children even though only two are earth-side with us.

 

Jessica sitting next to a pond looking at a doll she is holding - "Keeping their memory alive – raising awareness of child loss"

 

Jessica was a joy-carrier. A little girl who was born with half a working heart, but that heart simply overflowed with love. She was our little miracle. For those who are newer to my blog, this is a quick summary of Jessica’s story:

 

Jessica’s story

Jessica was born with a congenital heart defect called ‘hypoplastic left heart syndrome’ which basically meant she had half a working heart. We were told during my pregnancy with her that she was unlikely to be suitable for surgery and perhaps wouldn’t survive to birth, but were given a glimmer of hope thanks to pioneering in-utero surgery at 28 weeks’ gestation. Jessica had her first open-heart surgery at just a few hours old, followed by another surgery a week later. She had two more major surgeries during her first year – one at 14 weeks’ old and the next at 7 months’ old.

 

For the next few years we enjoyed a fairly normal life. Jessica had regular cardiac check-ups and a few hospital stays throughout this time but on the whole she was fairly healthy; a wonderfully smiley little girl, with a huge zest for life. Her heart-healthy little sister Sophie was born when Jessica was two.

 

The girls had such a beautiful bond and adored each other. We knew that the future was uncertain though. Jessica’s next planned surgery started to loom on the horizon as she got older.

 

Jessica and Sophie sitting on a ride-on bike together

 

At Christmas 2017, we told the girls that we were expecting another baby. They were so excited. A couple of days later, Jessica had her final planned surgery. She recovered well from this and we were hopeful that we could look forward to a few more years of normality without the prospect of surgery hanging over us. Sadly it was not to be.

 

A couple of months after the surgery, Jessica became unwell with a cough and cold virus. For the next few weeks, we were back and forth to the doctors as she struggled to shake it off. She had moments of perking up and seeming to improve but would then become unwell again. One night, she woke up coughing, came into our bed for a snuggle and then suddenly collapsed and died. She was six and a half years old.

 

Jessica sitting in her buggy and smiling

 

She never got to meet the little brother she longed for. Thomas was born three months later. He recognises his biggest sister in videos and photos, but sadly he’ll never know her although we do our best to keep Jessica’s memory alive as much as we can.

 

 

Keeping their memory alive

Although Jessica is no longer physically with us, she is still very much a part of our family life. We talk about her often; we look at photos and videos of her and have little chats with her while sitting at her forever bed. Thanks to the magic of Photoshop, we have photos on our walls of all three of our children together. They’re moments that were never possible in life, but it gives us a glimmer of what life might have looked like if Jessica was still here with us. We also still include her in our monthly family and siblings photos.

 

A photo of Jessica and Sophie with Thomas photoshopped in front of them

 

 

At her funeral, we invited people to write down their memories of Jessica on little paper hearts. One of the loveliest things about this was reading about little moments that weren’t part of our own memories, or that we had forgotten about. Every now and then, we look at those paper hearts again and read those memories and it gives us such comfort.

 

One of the hardest things about living life without Jessica is the absence of new memories. Knowing that all we have are those past moments; not being able to make new memories with her. Every so often though, someone will share a photo that we’ve never seen before, or a memory of something that is new to us. Those little moments are such precious gifts.

 

It’s important for us to be able to talk freely about Jessica. It hurts me that people can be hesitant to mention her name, or do so with awkwardness. I love it when people talk to me about Jessica; when they talk about her as freely and easily as they did when she was alive. I think some people worry that by mentioning Jessica, they’ll remind us of our grief. What they don’t realise is that they can’t remind us of something we never forget. Grief is a part of our everyday life, part of who we are now. We have had to learn to live alongside grief.

 

Being a bereaved parent can be a very lonely experience at times. Child loss and grief can feel like such a taboo subject. That innocent question “how many children do you have?” heard when encountering another parent at the park or out and about, is one that can be a minefield for a bereaved parent. I’m faced with two choices: to not mention my eldest daughter and feel like I’ve denied her existence, or to talk about her and face the inevitable awkwardness. I generally choose the latter. Jessica did exist, she matters and I want to be able to talk about her, to share her story and to let others know that child loss is something that can be openly talked about. To keep her memory alive. Because the memories of her time with us are amongst the most beautiful ones I have and will ever have.

 

PoCoLo

 

loopyloulaura

26 thoughts on “Keeping their memory alive – raising awareness of child loss

    1. Thank you Kim, it always means a lot to know that Jessica is still remembered and that her memory brings joy.

  1. Jessica will always be remembered, through her mummy and daddy, through her siblings and through everyone who was lucky enough to have had their lives touched by your little joy carrier.
    I love the photo you have created with all three of your beautiful children, it is very special.
    Sending you all the love. xx

    1. Thank you Jayne, it’s so important to me that Jessica will be remembered. She really was such a little joy-carrier. I love that photo – the original one with Sophie and Jessica looks strange to me now without Thomas in it.

  2. I loved reading about Jessica. It sounds like she was a very special little girl and you sound like you were and are amazing parents! My mum died quite young. I also like to know that others remember her.

    1. Thank you Lisa. Jessica was such a little sweetheart. I’m sorry that your mum died young. I hope that you have others around you who remember her and share those memories with you too.

  3. Jessica will always be a joy carrier, I can’t help but smile when I see a photo of her and you are doing such a good job at keeping her memory alive. I never met Jessica, but I will never forget her. I loved all the photo’s you’d take of Jessica and Sophie in their gorgeous matching dresses. xx

    1. Thank you Anne. I’m glad her photo makes you smile. I used to love dressing my girls in matching dresses – it’s one of the many things I miss (although I’m sure they’d be less keen on it now!)

  4. That is a difficult post to read but an important one. It shouldn’t be a topic that makes people uncomfortable. It should be seen as an opportunity to provide comfort, even if that just means listening. My BIL became closer to my MIL when his wife died, because her mother wanted to talk about her daughter and he liked talking about his wife. He said ‘It seems to make everyone else uncomfortable’. I think in all our sophistication we’ve forgotten a few basics. So keep her around by sharing her out loud. I am so sorry for your family’s heart breaking loss. #FortheloveofBLOG

    1. Thank you. Sadly it is something that makes a lot of people uncomfortable but I think the only way to combat that is to keep talking. I’m sorry that your BIL lost his wife (and your MIL her daughter) but glad that it gives them both comfort to be able to talk to each other.

  5. Jessica was such a shining star. You have been doing a beautiful job of keeping her memory alive Louise. Sending love to you all and thanks for linking up to #ForTheLoveofBlog with this x

  6. I didn’t know you when Jessica was ill, only since, but I feel i know her and her siblings Sophie and Thomas well and I always think of you as a family of 5
    Thank you for linking up with #pocolo

    1. Thank you Suzanne. It means a lot to know that you think of us as a family of 5 – it’s hard knowing often people see us as 4 because Jessica isn’t physically with us anymore.

  7. Your story makes me feel all sorts of things each time I read it. I’ve known your blog since Jessica was still alive and I must say, I stopped reading your blog for a bit after she died because I just had no idea what to say to you as a newly-bereaved mother. I’m so glad I’m back to reading your posts now, as they make me aware, painful as it may be, of the harder parts of life, that includes death. Of course, child death isn’t something that should ever have to happen, but sadly it does. I’m so happy your blog allows you to keep Jessica’s memory alive not only to yourself and your immediate family but also to the world at large. Thank you! #MischiefandMemories

    1. Thank you Astrid. I can understand not knowing what to say – they’re not easy posts to read, but I do find it helps to write about what living with grief is like and it helps others have a better idea of how they can help those who are grieving too.

  8. Jessica was such a beautiful happy girl – she clearly brought you so much joy 🙂 I think it’s amazing that you talk about her so openly and share your insights on loss too. You are definitely doing a fabulous job of keeping her memory alive xxxx #fortheloveofblog

    1. Thank you Hannah. She was so full of joy and it always brings me joy too to be able to talk about her and share the beautiful memories that I have.

  9. I vividly remember Jessica from your posts Louise. And whenever I see your blog name pop up, I always picture her. Such a beautiful sunshine girl. Sending lots of love to such a wonderful mummy and family #mischiefandmemories xxxx

    1. Thank you Annette. I’m so glad you remember her and still picture her when you see my blog name pop up. A sunshine girl is such a good description of her x

  10. Jessica will always be part of your lives and family as well as your blog. Her smile and love always radiate from the pictures you share of her. Thanks for linking up with MischiefAndMemories.

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