Today, my baby would have become a teenager. Connor died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in 1997. He was 3 mos. and 24 days old. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about him and feel his presence next to me. I went on to have three more beautiful children and they all know about their brother Connor.
People deal with the death of a child in different ways. Some choose to shove it under the carpet and completely ignore it. Unfortunately that only works for so long. Eventually the grief has to come out. I was given the most wonderful book when he died, The SIDS Survival Guide. It helped me to not only deal with my grief but make me realize that I wasn’t alone.
Friends and family never know what to say to me still. The hardest part for a grieving parent is that, for everyone else, life goes on after a while. But for the parents, it’s changed forever. The world even looks different. Only a few people will even think of calling me today to let me know that they remember that it’s Connor’s birthday. It’s usually not that they’re insensitive, it’s just that, in their mind, they assume that by calling me and talking about it, it will make me feel worse. As if they’re reminding me about something I would never remember if they didn’t tell me! The best advice I can give anyone who knows a parent who lost a child is they want to know you remember! It’s as simple as picking up the phone and saying “I’m thinking of you and remembering your beautiful son.”
We celebrate his life every year on April 12th. Each of my children know they have a brother in heaven. When someone asks them how many brothers and sisters they have they immediately say 4. That’s reality for them and it makes me happy. We’ll get balloons this afternoon, write something on them and then send them up to him in heaven. Then we’ll eat cake. I won’t lie and tell you that I’m not going to shed some tears today. I absolutely will. And I’ll play Janet Jackson’s Together Again – it’ my private song for him.
And yes, I’ll celebrate his life, as short as it was. Connor gave me and many people an incredible gift. I’ll always remember how many people reached out to me when he died to tell me how he touched their lives and made them hug their own children a little tighter. People who never met me or my son but heard about him sent letters and e-mails about how special he was.
Connor gave me a gift too. He helped me find my passion and follow my dreams. If I could change the way things happened I would but, through the tragedy of his death, I found who I was meant to be and my calling. I count myself lucky that I’m one of too few people in this world who wake up every day loving what they do. Child safety and baby proofing was never something I thought I would do but it became so clear once he died. I wanted to help other SIDS parents work through their grief and educate other parents on how to help save their children’s lives and prevent injuries. I had the good fortune of working with Oprah Winfrey on a PSA for SIDS and testifying before Congress to increase funding for SIDS research. I met the most incredibly caring people at First Candle who literally brought me back to life. And every day I hear from and interact with hundreds of people who share my passion for keeping kids safe. As The Safety Mom and founder of Safety Mom Solutions I get to do what I love! Thank you Connor, for giving me that gift. Happy Birthday baby – Mommy loves you.
Alison Rhodes is the founder of Safety Mom Enterprises and Safety Mom Solutions, the premier baby proofing and child safety company in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area. Alison is a family safety expert, TV personality and consultant.