At my house, I’m the keeper of the calendar, the one who sends family greetings for birthdays, holidays and get well cards.

The first time I had to write a note and sign our family names, my heart stopped and air refused to fill my lungs.

Moving down the family line from my husband through me and each of our children, how was I going to mark the place where Dominic SHOULD be but no longer is?  Or, better said, how do I represent the space he continues to hold in our hearts and lives but can no longer be easily seen by others?

You ADD children to your family, you don’t subtract them. 

I have struggled with this for many months.  I tried signing just the family name but that has always seemed impersonal to me–quick and easy and kind of lazy.  I tried including only our living children and our new daughter-in-love which meant that there were still six names but my heart knew one was missing.  

Dominic is a living, breathing heartbeat within my own chest.

You can’t know me without knowing him.  My story, my family’s story includes him even though his physical presence is no longer with us.

So I have decided that I will list his name with ours on traditional family greetings.

[Dominic] will appear in the proper place on my family signature line.

Brackets are used in quotes to indicate that a direct quote has been edited–that something must be added to understand the context or to fit the quote into the surrounding information.

I will honor my son and let others know that although my life has been edited, the full text can only be understood by including  him.


Author: Melanie

I am a shepherd, wife and mother of four amazing children, three that walk the earth with me and one who lives with Jesus. This is a record of my grief journey and a look into the life I didn't choose. If you are interested in joining a community of bereaved parents leaning on the promises of God in Christ, please like the public Facebook page, "Heartache and Hope: Life After Losing a Child" and join the conversation.

20 thoughts on “[Context]”

      1. Dear Melanie, thank you! Please know I have been helped greatly by following your posts. Almost 4 years now since losing my son. God bless you and your family.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. On I did this same thing! My younger son is now with your son up in heaven. When I sign our names I
    Sign And (Ross too!). In the family signature. So nice to hear about this from you

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Melanie that is a lovely way to include Dominic. I was always far too lazy to write everyone’s name so in that sense nothing changed….apart from each time I add ‘& the crew’ to mine and my husband’s names it stings.
    Sending love across the ocean, I know this is a difficult time in the year for you. xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I always write a Christmas letter to my extended family and friends in other parts of the world to keep them abreast of our family happenings. With one exception, I could not do so this Christmas after losing Tom last Dec. 30th. I just couldn’t find a way to send the usually joyful Christmas letter. I did send one to my old friends who was the stand-in for my son’s Godparents at his Christening to inform them of Tom’s passing…but I mailed it on the 22nd to ensure my sadness did not dampen their Christmas joy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How thoughtful and kind to time your letter that way! It was three years before I could send a letter and it is very different than the ones I used to send. No timetable, no hurry. Do what is right for your heart. ❤


  4. I have never listed our children’s names on cards or gifts since Leah died two years ago as I can’t possibly write only three names instead of four. 💔 I haven’t sent Christmas cards and I’ve forgotten most people’s birthdays but I’m trying to send birthday cards again this year. I think that your idea Melanie of using brackets is lovely. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so sorry for your loss. I read a bit about your journey-it is unbelievably hard to figure out how to do all the things we still must do after our children leave us. Yet, life goes on. I’m glad this may give you an idea of how to navigate this small corner or “things to do”. Praying that grace and mercy are your close companions and that God gives you the strength you need for each new day.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I always too the pictures for our family Christmas cards and our extended family vacation pictures. I haven’t taken a family group picture since David died nor have I sent Christmas cards. I just can’t. If I ever do, I’ll remember about the brackets.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This was so true for me too. This year is the 1st year I did Christmas cards and it was so difficult. I struggled for a couple of weeks. So I put David’s initials on them, I could not leave him out. I love your ideal so much better. He is and always will be a part of our family. 30 years of putting his name their will not end because he’s not here physically.
    He will always be my baby, even at 6’7″ and a wonderful man.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Charlene, I still haven’t sent cards-I didn’t figure this out until after Christmas this year. But I did put his name in brackets on family gifts. It was interesting to see the reaction of those that received them. I’ve decided that the comfort of others can’t be my first priority-it has to be my own ability to deal with the grief. So, as long as I’m not being “ugly” ( a southern term) I’m going to do what is right for me 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Melanie, this is June Gray and I still sign cards and etc with my name and Charlie (in Heaven). Love you June Gray


  7. I have struggled with the same thing since losing my babies. I’m now almost used to just signing the names of my earth babies but it was so hard the first year or so after we lost them. I remember writing an email to my entire family (extended family included) telling them that we would be pursuing adoption (in 2014.) When I got to the end of the email I just COULDN’T write some of my kids’ names and leave out others’. I signed it Josh, Bethany, Liam, Asher, Lucy, Jude, Pax and future baby Weathersby. It felt so wonderful just to see all the names together like that! No one responded to my email. I know it made them feel uncomfortable and they probably thought I was crazy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know–that’s why I wrote this post. I felt like I needed to explain my reasoning. I imagine it is even more difficult to navigate this treacherous place when other people didn’t get to see or feel the child that is missing from our earthly existence. I just can’t give Dominic up to only memory. right now. Love you and appreciate all the ways you have encouraged me in my grief journey.


      1. You are right…it is harder to include the baby when no one else has seen her as an “established” part of our family. If I were in your shoes, I would sign Dominic’s name for the rest of time. I love the idea of putting it in brackets since he is set apart but still an integral part of the family💙

        Liked by 2 people

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