Personalized hockey jersey, drawing of children, dog tag, newly planted tree, windchime text

Most Meaningful Gifts after My Child Died

By Ben Gillham, Jackson’s Dad

After losing your child, nearly all importance placed on material possessions goes by the wayside. Nothing matters. Literally nothing. So why would I write a blog about material things? Because even though possessions themselves do not mean anything, the thought and the love behind the gifts certainly do! They keep spreading love and hope at a time when life seems to be void of both. Hopefully these ideas help those arounds parents who have lost a child during one of the worst times they’ll ever have to face.

Drawing of My Children Past and Present
By far, my most cherished gift we received was a drawing of our newborn daughter and our son, given to us on what would have been Jackson’s second birthday from a group of our closest friends. Of the numerous thoughts about what a bereaved parent will miss out on, one of them is that you’ll never have a picture of your children together. Sure, you can take a family photo while holding a picture of your deceased child, but it’s not quite the same. The drawing was created from two separate pictures of our kids. This image means the world to me and gives me chills almost every time I see it thinking that I’d never be able to have a picture of my children together. It sits in our house in a place that we can see it everyday. This gift was truly a gift of love from our friends. They brought to life something that I thought was impossible as a parent who experienced child loss.

Dog Tag with My Son’s Handprint
Before Jackson was cremated, my mother and father-in-law were able have his handprint copied so that they could engrave it, along with his name name and birthday, onto a dog tag. I wear it everyday, recognizing that his hand is always next to my heart. And when I remove it every night, I kiss his little hand. Although it only takes a second to take it on and off each day, these small moments help me to keep perspective in life and continue to honor him.

Wind Chimes
After our son passed away, our house was empty, beyond empty. We had no other children, only dogs, who seemed to know the solemn nature of the moment. The sound that broke this silence was the clinging of these wind chimes, sent to us in the weeks after the funeral from Jackson’s doctor and his family. The center string hanging down reads, “When you hear these sounds, you will hear my laughter from above, sending down love forever.” It was extremely fitting to us, as Jackson had countless smiles and laughs during his short life. So every time we’d hear it chime, we’d know that our smiling son would be looking down on us.

Gift Card to a Tree Nursery
To get our minds off the pain and agony accompanying our grief and continuous thoughts of our child passing away in our arms, we needed something to do. We needed an activity to give our minds a break. The gift card to a tree nursery from my Aunt and Uncle was just the gift. We used it to buy and plant a tree on the first Mother’s Day without Jackson. We also used it to buy flowers that we planted in the garden we built for him.

Personalized Hockey Jersey
My favorite sport to both watch and play is hockey, and I couldn’t wait to teach Jackson all the ins and outs of the game as he grew up while watching our favorite team – the St. Louis Blues! The first kick my wife felt when she was pregnant with Jackson was when we arrived at the Blues arena to take in a game. When Jackson passed away, all of my dreams of future memories disappeared. My sister, a fellow huge hockey fan, knew my forgone dreams had hockey in them too. She knew I was never going to be able to take my son to a hockey game, which is why she gave me a Blues jersey with Jackson’s name and birthdate on it. I’ve worn it to every game since, which I must say must have helped the Blues win their first cup ever!

We received many other very thoughtful gifts from many family and friends. And each one meant so much to us; but above all of these gifts, the presence of family and friends was by far the most crucial and necessary during our most intense grief immediately after losing our child.

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