After My Son Died: My Life As A Cemetery Mom

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Death Of A ChildLast month, Ontario, Ohio police posted on their Facebook page a video of a very disturbing theft. In it, a woman is shown taking a stuffed toy duck from a child’s grave. The child, a fourteen month old boy named Hayden “Tank” Cole Sheridan, died in 2007.

The Ontario police decided to set up the camera after numerous complaints from his family. The suspect has since come forward. Her claim is that she needed to move the toy so a stray dog on the property wouldn’t destroy it.

As a bereaved mom, this story really hit home. I was especially struck by the words of Hayden’s dad. In an interview, Scott Sheridan said that they would continue to decorate their son’s grave. As he put it, “That way we feel we’re including him even though he’s passed away.” My heart really goes out to Hayden’s family. I have been there. In fact, I still am.

While my family has never experienced a gravesite theft, I sure understand their pain. After the loss of my nine day old son Liam in 2008, I was shattered. For the first few months, my husband and I practically lived at the cemetery. Our first project was decorating his grave for Halloween. We set up a little ghost and put down a couple of pumpkins. Just a couple of months earlier, we had looked forward to spending this first holiday with our son. But now, this was all we had. It was the only way we could parent our child. It was all that we knew. This was our new normal.

In our particular case, the cemetery has devoted a whole section to all of the children gone too soon. It is called Holy Innocents. Almost immediately, I was touched by seeing the other gravesites. I would wander around, learning the children’s names and wondering how they passed. Some graves had been there for years. I often wondered how the parents were doing today. Were they able to survive this nightmare? Did they go on to have more children? In the beginning, my husband and I could not imagine either. Our pain was still very raw.

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  1. Paul White

    May 22, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    I should not have read this work 🙁

    • LiteBrite

      May 22, 2014 at 4:05 pm

      I shouldn’t have read it at work. Now, I’m trying not to cry.

      But I’m glad I did read it. It puts a lot of things into perspective.

  2. guest

    May 22, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    Child loss grief – which I have also experienced (299 days of life, cancer) – is such an individual and unique path. We chose not to have a grave site as the cancer diagnosis made me fear being the mother crying over a hear-shaped gravestone in the rain, and the intolerable image of that fueled many of my decisions. I didn’t like thinking of my baby as in the ground – to me she is in the sunshine and the birds and spring breezes and unexpected snowflakes. I bet you also find Liam in those places. But my heart couldn’t do both. Bringing my son home last year triggered so much guilt. He’s 14 months old now, and every time I say to him lovingly, “You are the sweetest baby in the world,” I always think of her, of my daughter. When I sing songs to him that I sang to her, I feel like I shouldn’t. My made up lyrics to certain songs that I sang, swaying dancing together while she got chemo. It helps to hear every story of other parents walking this path, struggling with issues I can relate to, and figuring out their own way through them.

    • LadyClodia

      May 22, 2014 at 3:35 pm

      I’m sorry for you loss.

    • Eve Vawter

      May 22, 2014 at 3:40 pm

      this is so heartbreaking and beautiful

    • Hyperbolme

      May 22, 2014 at 10:59 pm

      Those of us who haven’t lost a child, I feel, are part of your congregation–a congregation of parents who mourn your loss and celebrate the joy and can imagine the confusing feelings over your sons arrival into your life. We haven’t walked the path and we fumble around and don’t know what to say most times, but you are supported by us, too.

    • KaeTay

      May 23, 2014 at 1:09 am

      you could think happy thoughts.. that while you sing the songs or say things like that she is smiling, watching you and looking out for her younger sibling.

  3. Lee

    May 22, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    I am so sorry for your loss. This honestly brought tears to my eyes. I am glad your family has found some comfort and peace in your son’s final resting place.

  4. JD

    May 22, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    This was very beautiful. Peace to you and your family.

  5. LadyClodia

    May 22, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    I’m sorry for your loss. This is a beautiful piece.

  6. Tinyfaeri

    May 22, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    I’m sorry for your loss, and that’s a beautiful way to keep your son’s memory alive, and for your younger kids to be involved in remembering him.

  7. Guest

    May 22, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    Ooof, that hit home. I’m just so happy that you could connect with those women at the cemetary and that your children are able to connect with their older sibling. This was a beautifully written piece.

  8. kellyshaun

    May 22, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    🙁 very sad sorry for your loss Peace to you and your family.

  9. Bethany Ramos

    May 22, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    Thank you so much for always being so brave and open to share your story. You are a wonderful mother. <3

    • kellyshaun

      May 22, 2014 at 3:39 pm

      Yes Agree

  10. Eve Vawter

    May 22, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    we all love you Kathleen

    • kellyshaun

      May 22, 2014 at 3:43 pm

      yes ,Ofcurse

    • Kathleen Sullivan

      May 23, 2014 at 9:04 am

      Love you guys as well!

  11. val97

    May 22, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    I’m so sorry for your loss. Beautiful piece.

  12. momjones

    May 22, 2014 at 3:47 pm

    I love that Liam is alive in his sister and brother. Thank you for sharing your incredibly poignant story.

  13. Spongeworthy

    May 22, 2014 at 4:28 pm

    I’m so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing. I think it’s lovely that your younger children will know their big brother.

  14. Angelina Robert

    May 22, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    Dont worry pray for him

  15. journalgal2

    May 22, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    Beautiful story. I’m teary just reading it. Your precious boy will never be forgotten – it’s obvious how much love surrounds him.

  16. momma425

    May 22, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    My son would have been 8 this year on the 21st of April. He was born still, and I don’t have a grave for him- but I have a little spot in my house where I have candles I light for him and we have a sunset beach picture with his initials framed and hung up with all of our hanging family photos. Time makes it easier and not easier.
    I remember one year, I was particularly sad towards the end of April and my mom made a comment about how the 21st is just one day and soon it will be over so I can move on. I was like, “You don’t understand. The 21st is just one day, but he is gone everyday. I miss him everyday.”

    Wishing you peace.

    • Kathleen Sullivan

      May 23, 2014 at 9:04 am

      So many hugs, so sorry for the loss of your son, I love how you are remembering him!

  17. scooby23

    May 22, 2014 at 8:00 pm

    If I could, I would give you 1,000,000,000,000,000 hugs. You deserve it for going through this horrible, horrible tragedy. NO ONE, no matter how terrible of person, deserves to go through it. I’m not sure if this is exactly related or not, but I’ve been noticing a new trend that I like to call grief-shaming. It seems like whenever I come across a touching article like this and they talk about the way the family goes through the grieving process, there’s always “EWWW THATS SO WEIRD” or “Groooosssssss” ah, the internet. You can always count on it judging you, no matter how sad the situation.

  18. That_Darn_Kat

    May 23, 2014 at 9:59 am

    I am so sorry for your loss, but thank you for sharing your story with us.

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