Gift of Permission to Remember| Angel Child

The Gift of Permission to Remember an Angel Child

“Just give them permission to remember…” was the prompting I got while I prayed about how to make the Hamblin’s Good Grief photo shoot special and different than an ordinary family portrait session as they remembered their angel child on her 20th birthday. We celebrated Marli’s  birthday above the Bountiful temple overlooking the Salt Lake Valley at the bench created in her memory.

“Give them permission to remember.” These words echoed in my head as I analyzed why I would need to give them permission to remember their angel child.

The idea of putting a smile on your face for family portraits when you feel like everything is shattering inside of you feels like a daunting task to be reckoned with. It feels like the impossible and at very best it feels completely fake.

I wanted to create something more for them. I wanted to document their journey and their love for their angel child Marli. Witnessing in the images that even if you can’t see her, the connection remains.

I would be bold enough to say that my connection to James, my angel child, has grown equally in comparison to my living children. I may be doubly bold to say everyone is capable of creating that growing connection to those they love once they have passed on.

What do I attribute the ability to cultivate this growth and connection to a child I can’t even see? It is about living in a place embracing the feelings, honoring them and staying connected to them. It is through the pain we feel that demonstrates the love that exists. When we shut off our feelings we shut off our connection. Those feelings fine tune our sensitivity to our loved ones. When we begin to live to leave the legacy of the loved one we’ve lost, we cultivate our connection to heaven.
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I remember all the years of family and friend get togethers where I felt hushed to silence because the topic of grief and death was too uncomfortable to acknowledge. I stayed close lipped with a locked jaw and on occasion would do my best to crack a smile to hide the intensity of the complete wreckage that was happening within my soul.
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“We don’t want to bring it up because we don’t want to make you cry.” Said well meaning family and friends. What everyone on planet earth needs to understand is that you bringing up our loved ones who have departed is not what makes us cry.
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The fact that our loved ones are gone is what makes us cry-there is nothing you can do about that. What you can do is
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GIVE US PERMISSION TO REMEMBER.
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When we are silenced because our emotions, experience and grief cause discomfort, it makes us cry harder-only then we cry alone.
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Society gives us a time limit on grief. It is acceptable to speak of those you love for a year. If you are lucky you get seven days off of work. After that people look at you googly eyed, with their arms across their chest almost blowing out of their nostrils the words, “is she still not over this yet?” And then they throw out some empty comfort line to get you to hush up because they are uncomfortable.
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As Lisa’s husband said, ‘you don’t get over it, you learn to carry on.’
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Among the hundreds of bereaved parents I have spoken to, the main fear is that their child will be forgotten. The permission to speak of their angel is what keeps them alive. It is a gift when we are granted opportunity to remember full heartedly.
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We may cry, we may laugh, we may sob, we may giggle, we may shake our head and our fist and we may end up as a puddle on the floor crying and laughing simultaneously. Ultimately, it is through remembering that keeps the doorway to heaven open.
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We have permission to speak of our living children, whenever we want. We can brag, love, give updates and speak of them at any given time and no one would bat an eye thinking, ‘gosh she talks about her kids too much.’ The response when a parent speaks of their angel child is a different experience. Yet it is our angel children we feel the most compelled to speak of because they are not here to be seen.
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We laughed, joked, cried, reminisced and loved Marli whole heartedly on her twentieth birthday. We spoke of her; all of her. The good, bad, ugly, funny, sad, silly. Unashamed, as if she was here, because honestly, through us, she is.
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We loved her entirely. We felt the feelings fully. Heartbreak and joy collided and together we experienced moments of connection between heaven and earth as we opened the doors to Heaven and connected to her beautiful soul.
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The greatest gift you can give to someone grieving is the gift of permission to remember, withholding judgement, advice or words of wisdom…and to let them simply and fully remember whole heartedly.
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Sure do love you Hamblin Family, and that Marli girl too. Thank you for letting me get to know her.
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xo
Michelle Ellsworth
ps. Thank you from the bottom of my heart Stefanie Bowen for making this Good Grief Shoot possible for the Hamblin family by sponsoring them and uniting us together. Your heart is just gorgeous.

 

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For more examples of our Good Grief Project, visit Tui’s Heaven Room and Glittering Elsie’s grave. To find out where our Good Grief Project was founded, check out my story.

Check out my Good Grief Project page for details to sponsor a family as recipients of the Good Grief Gift.

xo

Michelle Ellsworth

For a more in depth view on how you can serve those grieving, check out my article on Medium. 

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