Eighteen years ago from the day I'm writing this, my dad died. December 8th, 1996. I've heard from others that they don't worry about the date some they love died, and think about them on their birthday instead…and for some that might work. In fact, I don't remember the date my grandparents died, but with my dad it's different. This date made a huge impact on my life, and I can't help but think of him on this date.
That being the case, I've decided I would like to be intentional about this day – since I think of him anyway on the anniversary of his death, I'd like to build traditions that honor his life.
A Sharing Tradition
My children never got to know their grandfather, so the simplest, and most meaningful tradition for me is to talk about my dad on this day.
I haven't been great about sharing these details with my kids thus far. A few stories I've told, yes, but not many. I think I didn't know where to start. When you love someone so much you want your kids to know that person, ALL of them, the way that you knew them; and only telling stories seems to be not nearly enough. But I guess I'm coming to the realization that this all-or-nothing attitude will certainly not bring my dad into my kids life, so I would like to give what I can of him.
I think it's high time I start sharing with my kids.
What bits of him can I share? They'll never know how wonderful his laugh was, the way he could make the most mundane thing funny, or how it felt to hold his hand; but perhaps I can give them little glimpses of this person who shares a middle name with my second born.
Today I start a tradition of sharing and telling whatever stories I love most about my dad to my kids. They need to know how much his love still brings to my life and I need the reminder that even though it's starting to feel like a long time ago, I did have a dad and he loved me so much.
I would really like to hear if you have other ideas for passing along a memory of a loved one to your kids. Will you let me know?
Update 2019 – This year I used the service Southtree to convert a tape my dad recorded of himself playing guitar into digital files. I've listened to it myself and I'm going to play a couple of my favorite songs for my kids. This isn't a paid endorsement, I just found the service easy to use in case you're looking for a way to preserve family memories, or access memories on vhs, film or tape.
More Resources for Processing Grief with Children: