Is it Time for a New Tradition?

by Kathy on April 12, 2014 · 11 comments

in Accountability, Background, Bereavement, Birthdays, Change, Coping, Decisions, Family, Loss, Memories, Molly, Planning

For the past six years, on Molly’s Heavenly Birthday in April and at our perinatal bereavement support group’s Walk to Remember in October, our family has participated in beautiful and therapeutic balloon releases in honor and memory of Molly, Babies Benson and other babies who left this world too soon.

In the early years all I knew was how special these traditions were to me, my loved ones and other bereaved families and friends. However, sometime over the past few years it came to my attention the potential dangers that come with this practice of memorializing babies, and others who have died, by sending balloons with our love up into the sky.

I was saddened to learn what can happen when the remnants of some of the balloons return to the ground or often (and worse) bodies of water and then are found by animals who eat them, can get very sick, and sometimes die.

Sean releasing a pink balloon on Molly's 1st Heavenly Birthday (April 2009)I feel very conflicted about this and, to be honest, tried to block out/forget about what I had read for awhile. But from then on participating in the memorial rituals didn’t feel quite the same and actually felt wrong to me.

This year, as we prepare to celebrate the sixth anniversary of Molly’s birth and death, on April 17th, I was thinking about what to do. The Dominick’s grocery store, where we got our pink balloons every year since Molly’s first Heavenly birthday in 2009, closed in December. So I wondered where we should try to pre-order them from. That is, if we are going to continue this tradition…

A BIG IF…

I talked about it with Bob, the kids and my parents. Though Sean and Abby are somewhat sad about saying goodbye to this tradition, they are open to trying something new, equally special, and safer. We brainstormed ideas and one of the front-runners, which my mom suggested, is blowing bubbles. We would get enough containers for each person who joins us at the cemetery, on Molly’s birthday, to participate. We are still considering other or additional options and welcome your suggestions.

As for the Walk to Remember, I am not sure if our support group is ready for a change like this and don’t know if it is a battle I should pick. But I can help influence how my family and I choose to honor our baby girl’s life and memory. Though releasing pink balloons (adding one more for each year Molly has been gone) is a beautiful and breathtaking experience for us, I realize it may also be literally taking other living creatures’ breaths away.

So as we move forward, I ask for your thoughts, prayers and support, as always. If you know of other and safer ways to honor our baby girl’s life and memory, please feel free to share. Thank you!

To our Christian brothers and sisters, I wish you much peace and love as we enter this Holy Week in our Lenten Season.

To our Jewish brothers and sisters, I wish you a wonderful Passover.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Esperanza April 12, 2014 at 10:50 am

I have thought about this every time I’ve seen posts about balloon releases (not specifically from you, but in general). I think I must have been taught the repercussions of releasing balloons early in life because I remember chiding friends about it, and having to educate them on what happens to those balloons when they return to earth. It’s sad, because I love the sentiment of a balloon release, and it looks lovely and is an uplifting sight. But I too don’t think the consequences are worth the potential harm, so I absolutely support you and your family doing something different. I think it’s an awesome lesson for your children, actually. One I hope they’ll take with them into life.
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Kathy April 14, 2014 at 10:15 pm

Thank you, Esperanza! I appreciate you sharing your experience, perspective and validation, especially as it relates to what our children can learn from this.
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Joy April 12, 2014 at 11:00 am

The balloon releasing bothers me, too, for the same reasons. I know many families who will bake a birthday cake and light candles for their loved one who has passed. It’s safer, more intimate and lets the kids really get involved (making cake) in a tangible way!

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Kathy April 14, 2014 at 10:19 pm

Thank you, Joy. I really appreciate your comment and suggestion. We do make a cake or cupcakes in Molly’s honor and memory every year. We also bring a candle to the cemetery on her birthday, which we light at her grave and sing to her there. Most years the one or both of my kids help me to make and decorate her cake or cupcakes too, which I agree is so nice, to include them in that process. This year, Abby chose the flavor of the cake, the icing and the decorations, which I thought was sweet (how much she cares about this).
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Molly Jo April 12, 2014 at 8:00 pm

This post brought me to tears. It’s hard to say goodbye to traditions that we’ve kept to help us say goodbye to loved ones. Thank you for the encouragement of finding a replacement tradition. I love the idea of bubbles, they are so beautiful and light and fun.
What a moving post.
Have a Blessed Holy Week!

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Kathy April 14, 2014 at 10:14 pm

Thank you so much, Molly Jo! I really appreciate your kind words and validation.
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Justine April 13, 2014 at 5:47 am

I love the idea of bubbles. They’ll drift and pop, and the children will love to play in them and with them. :) Sending you love as you let go, and embrace something new.
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Kathy April 14, 2014 at 10:21 pm

Me too! I ti is hard to let go, but I love the image you paint here and know you are right. It will be a beautiful new tradition and I will feel so much better about honoring our baby girl on her Heavenly birthday this way, this year.
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Aurelia April 13, 2014 at 8:56 pm

Thank you for writing about this! I’m a fellow babylost mom and a nature lover and the balloon releases have always troubled me. It seems contradictory to honor the lives of our children through an act that can cause harm to wildlife and the planet. It’s not just the balloons that are an issue, but the strings as well. I’ve never raised the issue before because I have been afraid to add to anyone’s suffering, but I love that you are taking steps to consider changes in your own event. Bubbles are a lovely idea. I attend an annual walk where they hand out bubbles and ask you to blow them when your baby’s name is spoken. On a crisp October day, there’s usually a good breeze and the bubbles travel far. It’s a beautiful sight. Thanks again for raising this, and best wishes as you seek clarity on the issue for yourself and your group. XO
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Kathy April 14, 2014 at 10:25 pm

Thank you, Aurelia. I am sorry for your loss and appreciate you sharing your perspective and experience. I haven’t broached this directly with my support group yet, but am trying to get up the never. Like you, I don’t want my suggestion to add to anyone’s suffering. But I also wonder how many, if they knew, would still feel comfortable doing this every year.

This part of your comment especially resonates with me,

“It seems contradictory to honor the lives of our children through an act that can cause harm to wildlife and the planet.”

I agree and it is one of many straws that broke the proverbial camel’s back for me this year, in deciding to start a new tradition with our family. I look forward to seeing how beautiful the bubbles will be on Molly’s birthday this year and know I will feel better celebrating her life and memory this way.
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Erin M June 24, 2014 at 2:39 pm

Kathy,

I am so sorry for your loss and want to let you know you I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers. It is good to see that you are thinking of changing your ways in respect to wildlife.

Ever since my cousin lost her baby I have been trying to come up with a safe and beautiful way for loss families to remember their children. Bubbles and candles are beautiful and peaceful. I also had a bigger idea: “A Thousand Trees” – a day in which families can plant a tree to remember their loved ones. It is something they could go back to every year and sit under to find some peace.

May God bless you and give you peace every single day.

With love,

Erin
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