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Keeping Daddy's Memory Alive

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In the wake of Heath Ledger's passing, a grief expert gives advice on how a Mom can help a child remember her father, and celebrate the life he lived.


Like the rest of the nation, we are still reeling from the news of Heath Ledger's death. Our thoughts keep going back to Matilda, who will grow up without a father. And we can't even begin to imagine the pain that Michelle Williams is going through. This is truly something no Mom should ever have to face, yet she's forced to.

Right now, Heath's face is on every magazine cover, every primetime news show, every celebrity Web site. But in the months and years ahead, when his untimely passing becomes a distant memory for the general public, he will still be Daddy to one little girl.

We talked to Ellen Sabin, the author of the children's book The Healing Book: Facing the Death—and Celebrating the Life—of Someone You Love, for her advice for all Moms looking for ways to help their little ones do just that.

Mom•Logic: How can Michelle keep Heath's memory alive?

Ellen: No one is trained to help their child through death, and many times the parent is also doing their own grieving. It's hard. But with a child as young as Matilda, who's not really old enough to have her own long-term memories, photos and videos really help. Show her pictures of Daddy, and tell her how much Daddy loved her. This will help keep the memories alive.

Mom•Logic: What should she say to Matilda?

Ellen: What you would say to a 2-year-old is very different from what you would say to a 10-year-old. You can't ask her things like, "What was Daddy's favorite food? His favorite color?" Because she won't know. It's better to share her own memories of Daddy with her daughter, like "I remember when Daddy did this," or "Daddy took you here one day, and you two had a great time." It's very healthy to keep her Dad alive for her in this way.

Mom•Logic: What sorts of things do you suggest in your book to celebrate a loved one's memory?

Ellen: Thinking and talking about someone who died helps them stay in your heart and memory forever. Write down things Daddy loved about his daughter, and how she is similar to him. Journal about any memories of a special day they had together, and the many things he taught his daughter. It's healthy to remember the "color" of someone you really loved, so writing and journaling these thoughts can be really healing.

Our thoughts and hearts go out to Michelle and Matilda during this difficult time.

next: Edwards: My Wife Wanted Me to Run
2 comments so far | Post a comment now
butterlamb January 28, 2008, 3:03 PM

What? “Like the rest of the nation we are still REELING…” Isn’t that a bit of an overstatement? Sorry, yes, even shocked, but anyone who is “reeling” over the death of someone they did not know certainly cannot speak for “the nation.” On the other hand, we’re all so celebrity batty, perhaps you can.
On another note, his child will have no memories of her father, therefore there will be no actual “memories” to keep alive. I do not dispute the effort to give her some notion of the father she will not have) but the only thing that can be offered are someone else’s memories, sanitized and edited or re-crafted and implanted.

ginger February 10, 2008, 8:27 PM

i disagree, this little girl will ALWAYS have a father. nothing can change that. no, she may not have memories of her daddy but others such as her mom can instill in her what her father was. she will always carry around a part of her daddy. this little part she carreis around will infact be helpful to her mom. AS she gets older she will hear others talk about their daddy, If you don’t begin to talk about her father, she will not know what to say or how to talk about the father she didn’t get to know. she made a connection with him at birth. that is somethign no one can take away. i’m a mother of 4, my oldest just turned 4, our yougest our twin girls who just turned 1, they know who daddy is and can pick him out of a crowd…I’m sure this little girl could have done the same. her mom is going to have to come to the point of having answers for their daughter when she starts asking where is daddy? if she didn’t have any kind of memories of her fatther, she wouldn’t ask for him….

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