Keeping the Memory of Your Loved One Alive for Your Kids

There is a picture of me and my grandpa that I love. I am barely three years old, and I am standing next to my sister in the field behind my grandparents house. My sister is smiling sweetly for the camera, but I am watching my grandpa, as he is squatting down in his denim overalls, bottle-feeding a calf. My head is tilted slightly, and as I stand there in a red gingham dress and little white leather sandals, I can’t take my eyes off what he is doing. It was a calf! Right next to me! I have 100 more memories of my grandparents that are fixed in my mind, just like that day. I have memories of collecting eggs from the chickens, sleeping on hide-a-beds, playing with my cousins down by the creek, cutting out biscuits on the countertop in my grandmother’s tiny kitchen, and opening her refrigerator, knowing there would always be gray Tupperware cups of Jell-O awaiting us. There is barely a childhood memory that doesn’t have a grandparent attached to it. I was blessed to know all four grandparents. But my kids won’t.

My dad died when my son was almost two. My son was old enough for us to have photos and videos of him and his Papa together. My daughter was born almost a year after my dad passed. So, my children’s knowledge of my dad will be formed by the stories we tell and the pictures we show. My dad loved my son fiercely, and although he never knew my daughter, before he passed away, he mentioned to me on more than one occasion that it was “time for a girl.” He hoped and prayed for another granddaughter.

The thought of my children growing up and not really being impacted by his life makes me sad. So, I am a mom on a mission to keep my dad’s memory alive for my children. Here are some ways you can do the same.

Let them see you cry. I am just a few years out from my dad’s passing, and I still have days where something triggers my grief. I assume I will always have those days. But, without fail, when my son sees me crying, he asks me if I am missing Papa. It has opened the door for us to have conversations about loss and about hope. I use these times as an opportunity not only to talk about how much I loved my dad, but also to tell my son how much my dad loved him. We talk about our personal beliefs regarding death and heaven. Being open with my kids about my loss will let them know how valuable their Papa was to me.

Point out the family connection. My dad was a musician and a singer. All of my siblings and I are singers. My son is a singer. There is no question about the origin of my child’s musical abilities. He gets it from his Papa: His squinty eyes; his incredibly loud voice; his quick temper. My daughter has my dad’s middle name. She has his fair Irish skin. These will be things that I remind them of over and over as they grow. As they grow and take on more family characteristics, I will add those to the list. 

Memory Pillow
A memory pillow made for a friend’s twins in memory of their Poppy.

Get a little creative. I have four of my dad’s knit shirts that I saved to make into a blanket for my kids. I have an ongoing photo book project that is going to be a storybook with pictures of my dad. I will tell the simple story of who he was for my kids and their cousins. I have seen so many unique memory projects — blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals for smaller children. A friend had a beautiful ring pillow made for a wedding with fabric from a grandmother’s wedding dress. My niece carried a photo charm with my dad’s picture attached to her wedding bouquet. My brother had my dad’s Air Force dog tags recreated for my nephews. These visual reminders can create special connections for kids.

Pass along the songs and stories. My son was grandkid number twelve for my parents, so by the time he came along, my dad was a professional at being a grandparent. Papa looked forward to visits with his grandkids and sat the little ones on his knees for games, songs, and stories. He played pat-a-cake and sang songs about shortenin’ bread. He bounced and clapped and delighted in making those babies laugh. So, guess what we do at our house? We play pat-a-cake and we sing songs about shortenin’ bread, too. We tell the same silly stories and play the same tickling games. My dad was an Alabama native, and he was a fan of University of Alabama football. So, one of the first songs my son learned all of the words to was “Yea Alabama,” the fight song of the Crimson Tide. We are keeping his memory alive one “Roll Tide!” at a time.

Grandparent hug

Find a replacement. Obviously, no one will ever be able to fully take the place of my dad. But, for my kids, I prayed that God would fill his absence with sweet relationships. And God answered that prayer. Our church is filled with older people that love my kids. On Sundays, my children are a hit with the grandparent crowd. For me, those relationships are a gift. I love that my kids will still have connections with older people that care for them, whether we are family or not. We are so blessed.

Have you lost a parent? How are you helping your kids remember your loved one?

Julie is a Texas-born missionary kid that grew up in New Zealand and finally found her way back to Lone Star state, by way of Missouri and Tennessee. Back in the DFW area, she met her worship pastor husband, Jake, in 2011. In 2013, Julie gave birth to a feisty little boy named Jude. In the summer of 2016, Ella Jene was born and balanced out the family. Julie loves good coffee, thrift stores, and occasionally faking a New Zealand accent. She is also a teacher, a singer, a songwriter, an Alabama fan, a traveler, and a Jesus follower. She considers herself to be an expert in food, music, and mistakes. Julie tells stories about her life and the people in it over at The Potluck Diaries.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here