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losing a parent as a child - being left memoirs

noelwr

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Mar 21, 2008
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hi, I just need some advice from those who have lost a parent while they were young. I really hope that isn't too many of you.

I'm not looking for sympathy or well-wishes, but an honest opinion. if you know me from the Mommy to Newborns thread, then you know I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 7 months pregnant, had some surgeries, had my healthy baby girl and am now busy with chemo. I hope to live a VERY long time and there isn't a reason right now to think I won't. however, I do know that the cancer could recur and it is possible that I might not be there for my daughter after she turns 10 or 15, etc.

I am thinking of writing a book of memoirs about what I'm going through to maybe give to her on her 16th birthday (hopefully I'll be living a normal and healthy life then to give it to her, myself). do you think that would be a good idea and would you have liked to be left something like that by your parent? I don't want it to be a horrible book about sadness and pain. I also want to write about all my hopes and dreams for her, and tell her about my childhood and how her father and I met, etc. just all the stuff you'd want your kids to know and get to tell them when you're there while they grow up.

I don't want the book to make her unreasonably sad or her to wish that I never wrote it. I didn't lose a parent as a child so have no idea what emotions one goes through. anyway, if it's a bad idea, maybe I'll just make the diary for myself to help me get all my thoughts together and work through my emotions.
 

megumic

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Mar 8, 2009
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I think this is a lovely idea. Although I have not lost a parent in the traditional sense, this is something that would be a great memory and a beautiful family heirloom of sorts.
 

Hudson_Hawk

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I think it's a lovely idea and something she'll treasure. What about doing a birthday letter to her every year where you reminisce about the year past? I'm actually doing that for Aidan. I'm writing him a letter every year on his birthday and I'll give them to him when he's an adult. Maybe when he and his future wife (or husband) announce they're having a baby.
 

Puppmom

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Noel, I think it's a beautiful idea! DD is 16 and is ALWAYS asking me what things were like when she was a baby etc. Now that N is here - she'll ask when she got her first tooth or when she crawled or what other names we considered for her. It is SO hard to just remember sometimes.

I think it's Pandora who types emails to an account she has for Daisy as she thinks of things. I think that's a great idea - then you can gather the information periodically and put it into a memoir of sorts.

It's amazing how many things I've already forgotten about N and he's only 9 months. Friends with little babies will say "When did N do such and such?" and I'll have to look at his book.

This sounds like a lot of fun! I think it'll really help you appreciate the little things too and to really enjoy Skye's early years. Maybe DH and grandparents can write some nice things for Skye too.
 

decodelighted

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First of all .. I hope your treatment is 100% successful! Re: the memoirs .... my first thought was to sort of separate things.

1. Your past, stories she could learn from, who YOU are, what your life has been like etc

2. A traditional style Baby Book -- about HER birth, how she develops etc

3. (if you wish) The story of your treatment & recovery.

I know that this is real life and all these things kind of run into each other -- just a thought! Will keep you & your family in my thoughts!
 

MichelleCarmen

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First, Noelwr - sorry you're your going through chemo... :( and all that you're experiencing right now.

My dad died when I was 16. In fact he died on my birthday. For some reason nobody seems to comprehend the way death of a parent feels on a teenager who is already going through so many emotional changes, so the adults express themselves from the way they see things at their age not the age of the child who has lost a parent.

I think a memoirs book would be great and then a seperate more light/fun scrap book would be an idea. This provides your daughter with the option of looking at one or the other depending upon her mood and have someone provide easy access to both books but let her decide when/if to look at them. I'm not saying she won't, what I am saying is there is no way to determine when she'll be ready and giving her the option, allows her to think about what/when she's ready to deal with. Seems like people (or at least in my family) have their own ideas of when/where it's appropriate to bring up conversation and your daughter may just want to quietly contemplate especially at holidays.

Actually even a third book may be great. One talking of the past, one expressing dreams of her future, and then a light-hearted photo album/scrap book. None of it has to be fancy!

Let me know if you have any more questions.

Hope all goes well for you and and your family. Hugs.
 

Trekkie

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Hey Noelwr

I'm not sure if this is what you would want to hear or not. I'm 27, so I didn't lose my mother as a child. However, my mother died two days ago after a short illness, a month before my brother turns 17.

I think the ideas you have received thus far are great. I also think lots and lots of photos would be appreciated. While going through my mother's things we found it a great help that her photos were dated and had the names of the people in the photos and where they were taken. IMHO, the physical prints seemed more "real" than digital. I also loved seeing her handwriting on everything.

If I recall correctly you're a South African now living in Europe? Perhaps you could also write about your decision to move there. I know that I often wonder why my dad chose to move from the UK to South Africa but I've never asked him. Thank you for reminding me that I should, before it is too late.

If you like, I can ask my brother for his opinion too.

Best of luck for the treatment and I hope all goes well.
 

Trekkie

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Apr 21, 2010
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MC|1304094112|2908010 said:
My dad died when I was 16. In fact he died on my birthday. For some reason nobody seems to comprehend the way death of a parent feels on a teenager who is already going through so many emotional changes, so the adults express themselves from the way they see things at their age not the age of the child who has lost a parent.
Thank you for this, MC. I will try to remember it in the coming months.
 

kama_s

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Noelwr, I am so sorry to hear about breast cancer diagnosis.

I think the memoire would be a beautiful keepsake. When I was young, I found my mother's journals. I spent an entire summer going through 4+ journals she had filled up. By that point, I knew I had pretty much lost my mother to mental illness/religion/whatever, so the journals helped me understand her when she was happier. She wrote about little things - a meal out with college girlfriends, the cost of a card, her childhood. Progressively, her journals got darker and she wrote about all her pain and suffering - some external and some internal. It truly helped me understand her more. I think if I hadn't read those journals, I would probably have not tried as hard as I did to have a relationship with her.

On a more positive note, my husband began writing me a journal. He writes about his favourite memories. It could be from a trip, a favourite meal, an incident, exciting times in our lives such as our wedding or the time we bought our first house as well as little things he loves about me, like the way I sleep. He has been filling entries for a year now and he always fills a new entry before he leaves on a business trip and leaves the journal on my bedside. Even though he usually is away for only a few days, I love reading his notes and it just fills me with a lot of warm and fuzzy feelings.

It will definitely be something she treasures for the rest of her life.
 

iota15

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Mar 19, 2010
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I think this is a beautiful idea. I would have loved for my mother to do this for me and yes, she's still with us.

I wish you well, of course, and a speedy recovery.

If you're concerned about making her too sad (should you pass), I wouldn't worry about that. I'm sure your DD would be grateful to get to know you in this intimate way and grateful to read your life stories, and how you felt about her. I'm sure it will be bittersweet but it seems so much better than the alternative, which is to not get to know one of your parents intimately.

My grandmother wrote in personal journals that we didn't know about. When my grandmother passed, my mother had a very hard time coming to terms with her death. I know she read every journal from start to finish. She got to know her mother a little bit better through these journals, and again, although bittersweet - I know it helped her through her grieving, and gave another facet to my already complex and wonderful grandmother to her.
 

TooPatient

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Noel,

I know it isn't the same thing, but I lost my grandmother when I was 19 (7 years ago). She cared for me every day until I was in school, summers, weekends, and more. She was more like a mother to me than my own mother was at the time.

Your idea is absolutely wonderful. I would have loved to have something like that from my grandma. There is so much I didn't get to talk to her about (and so much I was too young to realize I'd like to ask about) and so many little details that I just can't remember.


I like the suggestion of having distinct sections or even a couple of different books for her. Maybe one less formal more scrapbook like (full of pictures, fabric scraps, tea bags, etc) and another that you compile and then have printed/bound (make sure to share with your DH so he can do if you are unable to) into a beautiful book she can cherish and show her children.

What I wish I had from Grandma:

Where did she grow up?
Little things that she did while growing up.
What was it like going to school where she did?
How did she and Grandpa meet?
What were their dates like?
What did she learn from her experiences?
Would she do anything differently? Why?
Pictures of HER trips to Hawaii.
Pictures of her growing up (especially with notes about who people are!).
Her favorite perfumes and lotions? (I remember her scent and remember loving to use her lotion, but can't remember what they were)
Her memories of me (and my brother!) growing up, what I did/said, where we went, how she felt, etc.
 

somethingshiny

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Jul 22, 2007
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Noel~ I think it's a great idea. After my DH's grandma died we found an old book that she wrote for her kids "just in case." They had never seen it until after her death. It was beautiful. She started with a diary-ish book. It had pre-written questions to answer. It seemed that once she'd answer a question, it would jog her memory and she'd share more details of childhood, hopes, jokes, etc. Even though she lived a long life, her children didn't know some of the things written. I think it's a great idea for anyone to do regardless of their medical situations. I started a book when I was preggo with JT. I started with "Love letters to my baby" then progressed to all sorts of stories, anecdotes, etc of my childhood and his. Now I've got a little book started for Lily as well.

And, as always, Noel, prayers for you, Skye, and your husband. <3
 

Munchkin

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Nov 3, 2004
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I think you've received some fantastic suggestions. I would also suggest writing down memories of important days in your life. IE write about your first date, your HS graduation, your wedding day, the day you found out you were pregnant, etc. That way, she can read your stories as she experiences her own important days and feel closer to you.

I'm so sorry you are going through this.
 

noelwr

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Mar 21, 2008
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wow, thanks for all the great replies and suggestions! and thanks MC to make sure it's there for her to read when she's ready and not forced upon her.

and I'm happy to hear that so many mommies are already putting similar things together for their LOs. regardless if you're there or not, I think any child is interested in hearing about their parents when they were young or about their own life when they were small, ie the happy memories.
 

Dandi

Ideal_Rock
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Jan 9, 2006
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Trekkie I am so terribly, terribly sorry to hear your sad news. My thoughts are with you and your family sweetie.
 

Dandi

Ideal_Rock
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noel - I think it's a lovely, lovely idea. Wishing you all the best with your treatment too xx
 

beesha77

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Nov 16, 2010
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I think it's a great idea! My boys are 7 and 4 1/2 (the 4 year olds are twins) and they lost their dad over 2 years ago. I WISH i had videos of him. I really have very little of him on video, really it's just he may be sort of in the picture. I see those Hallmark books now and wish i had one of him reading the story. I love the memoir idea. My sons ask if their dad liked certain things all the time. I would love it if i had letters from him to the boys about what he wanted/wished/prayed for for them. I think these are all great ideas. I hope you live a very long life and am so sorry you are dealing with this.
 

Trekkie

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DandiAndi|1304169119|2908541 said:
Trekkie I am so terribly, terribly sorry to hear your sad news. My thoughts are with you and your family sweetie.
Thank you very much. It hasn't really sunk in yet. I think we are still in shock. I'm very worried about my baby brother and I have to keep reminding myself that he isn't a baby anymore, he's nearly 17. I just hope the whole situation will become easier with time.
 

diamondseeker2006

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Noel, I think this is a nice idea for any parent to do. My kids are grown or almost grown and I wish I had taken the time to do this. I would just emphasize that it would be best to keep things as positive as possible while staying honest. I hope your children are grown and very old when the time comes that you are no longer with them. But I think it would be too crushing for a child or teenager to read much about the suffering of a beloved parent on top of the grief they would be sure to feel. I don't mean to leave it out completely, but perhaps just use it as a chance to say how much you appreciate the little things in life and take nothing for granted, etc.

I am just replying because I have a friend who had breast cancer during her pregnancy with her last child, and she is more than 5 years cancer free now! The outcomes are good these days, and I pray you'll be one of those in the good statistics!
 

dragonfly411

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Noel - I'm sorry about your diagnosis, I didn't even know.

I think your idea is wonderful and I agree to include lots of pictures. I know it's something that my SO would have appreciated from his dad.
 

Italiahaircolor

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When I was about 13, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. At the time of her diagnosis, she was stage 3 and the chances of her recovery weren't great. Please remember that this was back almost in prehistoric times.

My mom decided, that she wanted to prepare us girls the best she could, in whatever way she could with the time that she had. My mom decided to create tapes for us. They weren't memories of her life per-say, but they were messages which would be relevant to our lives. She made individual tapes which were to be given to each of us, if she didn't make it, that were from her and the were meant to be listened to during important passages in our lives--times when she wouldn't be with, but when we'd need our Mom. The tapes included what she would say to us on our wedding day, upon the birth of our first child, when we graduated high school and again college, when we had our first broken heart, or had to break a heart. She called them her milestone tapes and there were a lot of them.

When I asked her years later about the tapes, she said that for her the they were therapy. She said that it killed her to think about having to do that, sum it up in that sort of way and she never believed she wouldn't beat the cancer, but if she was wrong, she couldn't just leave us. She decided to tape her messages instead of writing them so that we'd have her voice. Oh man, am I crying as I write this, because just thinking about not having her kills me in a million ways.

My mom survived. She beat the odds and has never had a relapse, and I will pray that you have that blessing too. Modern medicine is a miracle, and this was back a long time ago. I think what you're doing is a thoughtful, loving, compassionate act of a mother...and I say do it. I am so sorry you're sick and wish you well soon.
 

redfaerythinker

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Italiahaircolor|1304364893|2910269 said:
When I was about 13, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. At the time of her diagnosis, she was stage 3 and the chances of her recovery weren't great. Please remember that this was back almost in prehistoric times.

My mom decided, that she wanted to prepare us girls the best she could, in whatever way she could with the time that she had. My mom decided to create tapes for us. They weren't memories of her life per-say, but they were messages which would be relevant to our lives. She made individual tapes which were to be given to each of us, if she didn't make it, that were from her and the were meant to be listened to during important passages in our lives--times when she wouldn't be with, but when we'd need our Mom. The tapes included what she would say to us on our wedding day, upon the birth of our first child, when we graduated high school and again college, when we had our first broken heart, or had to break a heart. She called them her milestone tapes and there were a lot of them.

When I asked her years later about the tapes, she said that for her the they were therapy. She said that it killed her to think about having to do that, sum it up in that sort of way and she never believed she wouldn't beat the cancer, but if she was wrong, she couldn't just leave us. She decided to tape her messages instead of writing them so that we'd have her voice. Oh man, am I crying as I write this, because just thinking about not having her kills me in a million ways.

My mom survived. She beat the odds and has never had a relapse, and I will pray that you have that blessing too. Modern medicine is a miracle, and this was back a long time ago. I think what you're doing is a thoughtful, loving, compassionate act of a mother...and I say do it. I am so sorry you're sick and wish you well soon.

This is exactly what I want. My father died when I was 20 and i've had to go through a couple of major milestones without him. I went to a wedding this past weekend and I wish that I had a tape like that, or a letter, so that I wouldn't feel so alone on my wedding day. I love the memoire idea but I think that these milestone messages are wonderful and all parents should do it because you just never know. I have a letter that my father wrote to me as part of a retreat when I was 18 and it is to this day one of my most treasured possessions.
 

Deelight

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My mum died unexpectedly of a heart attack when I was 13 - when I went to school in the morning she was fine when I got back she was sick and passed away that night - I have a fear of leaving my LO when she is little namley due to this

I have videos of her and her voice and I still have not been able to watch them - I am now 31 but I know they are there if I want to and that is the good thing - I would feel worse if I didn't have the choice I think also because of how young I was is the main reason I still can't watch them.

If my mum had known she was going to pass I would have loved her thoughts written down and wishes for my future - the big events are always the hardest and I have struggled this past year not having her around for those (wedding and birth of my first kiddo).

One thing I did see as well was a photo album where you could record your voice next to the pictures I thought this was really cool as well and something can be enjoyed as well now as well in the future :)

Medicine has come a long way and will continue to progress in leaps and bounds Skye is very lucky to have such a caring mum as you :)
 

natalina

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Noel- I think it's a beautiful idea. My parents are fortunately both still with us, but I would love to have a book like that from either of them. If I had lost them at a young age, it would mean even more. Actually, my brother and I have asked my dad to write his story (he came here alone from Cuba at 14, not speaking the language or knowing a single soul, and went to the Catholic church for help) because he really won't talk about it much and we want to be able to know and appreciate all he went through, but as of yet he is still resistant to the idea. He says he just doesn't want to relive it at this point. I pray that he doesn't take the story with him when he goes, and that he will find a way to leave it with us.
I hope that you are around to share the memoir with Skye at a special point in her life. I am positive she will treasure it always. Even if it does make her cry, they will be good tears.
 

noelwr

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thanks again for the subsequent replies. I really like the milestones idea... so maybe I will write separate letters for that.

Italiahaircolor - thanks so much for sharing your mom's story and it gives me great hope to hear she survived and never had a relapse. I am tired of hearing about statistics from the doctors and prefer to hear about real life survivors.
 

tiffanytwisted

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Mar 28, 2006
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Noel- I ditto the major milestone messages. I was 28 when my mom died, and I have since gotten married and had two babies. I found as I went through these major milestones that I was both sad because she wasn't here and also because I wanted to hear about how she felt when she had her wedding day, pregnancy, babies, etc.
 

Cehrabehra

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I think ALL parents should do this for their children. Being ill makes it in the forefront of your mind, but really - any of us can go at any time without any warning at all.

I have a good friend who lost her mom at 5 and she feels a longing lack of connection. I *know* she would love to have something like that to connect her with her mama. She is sad that she just doesn't know her. Her sisters were teenagers and her dad never wanted to talk about it... so the void is all the more present. Sure, having a book like that might make her cry and miss her mom more, but she would have a piece of her that is just completely missing now.
 

nfowife

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My father died suddenly when I was 10. I would have loved to have this from him. I don't really have anything from him, keepsakes or anything, and I wish I did.
Hopefully you'll be around a very long time to give her the book yourself.... either way it will be a special, treasured, prized thing. And even more special as she one day possibly becomes a mother herself.
 

erinl

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Noelwr,

I am wishing with every fiber in my body that you live a long long life and are there for your child.

I lost my mother 9 years ago, when i was 30. She was 55 and it was completely sudden and unexpected. i am the oldest of 4, the youngest was a senior in college. None of us were married or had children at the time. I would have loved to have read anything she had written, there are so many unanswered questions about her life. My mother is not here for me as i raise my own children, but if she had written a bit about how she felt while mothering me-- the good and the bad, it would help me as i go through the same process. I was an adult, but i didn't have the chance to talk to her as a wife and a mother myself, and reading about her in those capacities would be of great comfort to me. Sometimes I feel like she sugarcoated things for us, and I would have loved to have learned more about the real story. Does that make sense?

Big hugs to you and my thoughts are with you.
 
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