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  • Writer's picturethesepreciouslittlepeople

Remembering our precious little people this autumn & winter

Updated: Aug 7, 2021

Autumn is a season adored by many: leaves turning stunningly beautiful fiery tones, a chill appearing in the air, evenings suddenly getting darker, warm knits being pulled out of our wardrobes. Halloween creeps up on us before we know it. Bonfire Night just a few days later if you're in the UK; if you're Stateside, Thanksgiving is then just around the corner. And of course the reminders of Christmas approaching seem to come earlier every year, and are utterly inescapable from November onwards.

But if your household is missing a precious little person all of these occasions can suddenly feel really difficult to face. After all so many of them revolve around spending time together as a family. This will no doubt be a challenging year for the vast majority in this respect because of Covid-19, but families affected by baby loss are likely to be more conscious of having their little one(s) absent too. The child you're not able to dress up in a Halloween outfit, the little eyes that won't be gazing up in wonder at fireworks going off, the empty chair at the dinner table when it comes to Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.

The Legacy of Leo's #AdventToRemember project is a positive way to remember any loved one you are missing in the run up to Christmas Day. It's such a life-affirming way to make happier what can at times be a painful period of yearning and dread. I've introduced a Kindness Elves type project to my living children as they have gotten older (my son will be 6 years old soon, and my youngest is now 3, so they have been able to start to understand it and participate in recent years).

In the spirit of these initiatives, I wanted to offer up some more ideas for children, and therefore the whole family, to look forward to doing in memory of their 'missing piece' this Autumn/Winter. If you have a special symbol, animal, flower, etc, that reminds you of your little one(s) there are plenty of ideas below where you can incorporate these.

- An Autumn-themed craft activity (some great ideas here)

The hedgehog my youngest and I made at a Sunshine & Rainbows playgroup a couple of years back

- Raking leaves up in your street - perhaps as a random act of kindness for those you know who would struggle to do it themselves. Remember to save some if you're going to have a go at the next one...

- Pumpkin carving or decorating (doesn't have to be a spooky design)

Our family as pumpkins - I was in the first trimester of my pregnancy with my youngest rainbow baby Ayla at the time so she was the littlest pumpkin!

- Reverse treating - no heading round to neighbours and asking for things at Halloween, and certainly no tricking allowed - purely spreading some love and kindness by handing out goodies. If this doesn't feel appropriate this year, I know of many neighbourhoods that are offering kids a 'pumpkin trail' by sticking pictures of pumpkins up in their windows for passing children to spot; a no-contact way of offering sweets could be to have a pumpkin on your front doorstep with lollipops stuck in for kids to help themselves to.

- Light a candle during special family meals, or 'just cos'

My special 'Esme candles' that I lit on a cold winter's evening, less than six months after she'd died, just because I was missing her something rotten that night

- Reverse advent calendar: during November fill up a box with an item for a local food bank or homeless shelter to hand over at the start of December for any Christmas hampers the volunteers there might be preparing for those in need

- Planting some bulbs in your garden to have to look forward to seeing pop up in the spring

My family planting some bulbs in our front garden as part of Esme's birthday celebrations a few years ago

- Customising jumpers already at home or inexpensive ones from a charity shop with sequins, pom poms, etc, to turn them into Christmas jumpers

- Buy a book to read with your children that has their name in. We have the book called 'A Letter for the Littlest Bear' from Wonderbly that allows you to include several family names so we have been able to include Esme in them as well as our living children.

Books that people have bought for us in memory of Esme for us to read with our living children

- Going for a walk and enjoying nature! The Forestry Commission & National Trust (amongst others) offer ideas for family days out in the great outdoors near you if you're in England.

Taking a walk in local woods with my two living children is a great way to spend an autumn day

- Gratitude Advent - every day write down or talk about something that you are grateful for

- Lights of Love - Sands usually host these at different locations around the country, but there is likely to be a virtual service this year; local hospice charities often organise them during November or December too - again, many will be probably online in 2020.

- Find a way (if you don't have one already) of representing your baby in Christmas cards - write their initial in a star drawn above the rest of the family's names, simply add an extra kiss, or you could choose a stamp to use, much like the ones we have - I had the hedgehog one below made at this shop in York but you can discuss a custom order online or over the phone if you don't live nearby.

The stamps we use to represent Esme

- If you don't feel able to send Christmas cards, then don't! More people than ever are choosing to donate money to charity instead of sending Christmas cards - it's certainly kinder for the environment as well as on our grieving hearts if it's too painful writing out names for 'complete' families without feeling totally comfortable including all of our children's names at the bottom alongside ours. Simply pick a charity or charities to benefit from the money you would have spent on cards and stamps, and let people know what you're doing and why - invite them to do the same in return!

- Donating toys to a local hospital toy drive, charity shop, Rotary shoebox appeal, or women's refuge

- Writing a letter or Christmas card to your baby

- Write your baby's name in the snow (or sand if you can brave visiting the seaside in temperatures that are in single figures!), or using leaves or other natural objects

My mum has spelled out my daughter's name in oak leaves in the past

- Creating memories as a family doing something special - you might have to be more imaginative, adaptable or flexible depending on your personal circumstances, but firework displays, a 'Santa meet and greet' experience, walk-through Christmas light trails, theatre shows, ice skating, carol singing are all things we have enjoyed or plan to do together.

Catching the 'Santa Special' along the Epping Ongar Railway on Christmas Eve 2017 - what made it extra special is that it chuffs along right past Esme's woodland where she is buried so we could wave to her grave from the train

- Hanging a stocking for your baby - you could pop 'presents' inside for your baby in the form of love letters, donations for charity, an item for their memory box (bought or homemade), or you could have detailed a family treat that you have organised over the festive period in their memory

The stocking we had made for Esme, and a gorgeous handmade personalised decoration that the designer popped into the package for us as a surprise. We have collected a few tree decorations in memory of her over the years so it has become a family tradition to find/make one for her each year now

Of course sometimes the expectation of 'doing things' - whether in memory of our little ones or not - proves too much, especially if it adds to financial stress or involves activities that you're just not ready for yet. If you are not willing or able to plan anything, try not to put pressure on yourself. Keep things spontaneous if that's easier, so that you only do things as and when you feel like it, or simply plan to have plenty of 'duvet days' at home as a family and schedule in some time for self-care where possible. It would be great to hear more ideas from you for how to make the next few months more gentle on grieving hearts.

If you would like to order a copy of These Precious Little People, either for your family to read together, or to donate to a hospital or support group in their memory, you can request a handwritten message be included in the front of your copy for free.



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