The year my husband and I got married was also the year we were expecting our first baby. Our son’s due date was set for October, and we envisioned having our first Christmas together as a family of three. That changed when Carrick Michael Goyer was born many weeks too early in June. Our son weighed almost two pounds and was 17 inches long, but his lungs were too weak and immature to support his tiny body. The day after he was born, our sweet baby died. And it was hard to imagine ever really living again.
By September of that year we found out that we were expecting again. While some people thought of this baby as our “replacement baby,” we knew that Carrick would always be our firstborn. He was a part of us and we would never forget his brief life. We decided that we would need to find small ways to honor and remember him.
Each year our family has bought a new Christmas ornament for our tree. The year Carrick was born we bought an ornament for him as well and engraved his name on it. Each Christmas our family has continued this tradition. Every family member gets a new ornament with their name and the year on it. Not only did this tradition allow us to honor Carrick, it helped our other children understand that he is a part of our family even though they never knew him. Showing them the ornaments and sharing his pictures gave us a clear, age-appropriate way to talk to our children about their brother – and to celebrate his memory even when they were very little.
We hope that your family finds ways to remember and honor your children. Here are some suggestions.
- Light a candle.
- Hang a stocking with their name on it.
- Plant a tree or a memorial garden.
- Write their story to share with family and friends. Share your story with Hand to Hold if you’re comfortable.
- Plan time at the cemetery.
- Donate a book to Hand to Hold or to your hospital in their honor.
- Frame their picture or footprints.
- Remember them in your holiday cards.
- Make a special ornament.
- Set a place for your child at the holiday table.
- Write a letter to a bereaved parent letting them know that they are not alone.
- Say your children’s names out loud and speak of them often.
- Dedicate a good act or deed to their memory.
- Make a gift for them that you can share or keep.
- Become a volunteer Peer Mentor to help other bereaved parents through their journey.
Please share your family’s traditions and memorials with other Hand to Hold Families.
Erika Goyer is the mother of three. Her oldest son, Carrick Michael, was born at 27 weeks gestation and weighed 1 pound, 14 ounces. Carrick died soon after his birth due to complications of prematurity. Erika went on to have two more high-risk pregnancies and two healthy children, one of whom has developmental delays.