My Child Has Died, But Their Name Lives On

My child has died, but their name lives on.

Before she was born, I knew our daughter would be Dorothy. From the very first time that her name graced my lips, I knew it would be the name that I wanted to speak forever. 

In high school, I used to doodle my name with the surname of my celebrity crush so I could look at it while I daydreamed. With Dorothy’s name, I was no different.

I wrote it everywhere.

Perfecting it’s loopy cursive ‘D’ and imagining all the places I would get to write it — permission slips, gift tags, on the inside of a backpack for the first day of school.

I never imagined how it would look on a death certificate.  

Yet, there I was, two days after her stillbirth dictating to the hospital social worker so she could ensure it was spelled correctly. After she left the room, I had a terrible thought:

Did I just “waste” the perfect name on a baby who died?

Immediately, I felt sick with the guilt of such an awful thought, but I was just so angry.  

I felt cheated.

I had once envisioned seeing Dorothy’s name on birthday cards and school certificates. No one chooses their child’s name and imagines what it will look like on a headstone.

There were moments in those first weeks of grief where I wondered if it was possible to change her name.

At the time I was thinking that it would allow me to save Dorothy for any future children we might have.

Now, when I look back at that time, I know my thoughts were laced with denial over what had happened. I think that I imagined if we called her something different, then it might not hurt so much that she was gone.

Reclaiming the name would mean reclaiming Dorothy. 

But, here’s the truth: changing her name would never bring Dorothy back.  

It took some time for me to accept this truth because it meant accepting that my daughter was dead. I learned acceptance, but I could not shake the desire to speak her name.

To write it down.

To share it with the world.

Dorothy may have left this place, but her name was left behind and I could be the one to give it life.

So, that’s what I have done and that’s what I will continue to do.

I will write it down so that I can see it.

I will speak it out loud and I will encourage others to do the same so that I can hear it. 

Her name is her legacy and it lives on even though she does not. 

I love Dorothy. From the very first time that her name graced my lips, I knew it would be the name that I wanted to speak forever.

My child has died, but her name lives on.

Photo by Irina Iriser on Unsplash

2 thoughts on “My Child Has Died, But Their Name Lives On

  1. We lost Jamie in April of 2010. He was diagnosed with Lissencephaly (aka smooth brain). Jameson Swain Ross was supposed to be on his birth certificate. We lost my little guy at 31 weeks. His 2 older brothers never knew they were in the same hospital room in Labor & Delivery where he was naturally delivered. I have since had my next son. As a stay at home dad, I often look in to the back of our Suburban wishing all 4 boys were singing to Linkin Park as I get them to school on time. My wife is a high risk Ob/Gyn and is the doc who has to diagnose the losses through ultrasound. She is not allowed to relay what we have been through as a support mechanism. It is only afterwards that the patient and their family find out what our experience has been.
    As we work on awareness, we find many more families who have experienced loss. We didn’t get to hug and kiss Jamie. We do not not want to outlive our 3 guys. We want to support the families who have gone, are going, and will go through this pain. God bless everyone who follows this thread. My family is all in on making sure you have a sanctuary to be alone and just have a good cry. You all need to be left alone and just grieve. Away from the constant reminders of what “could have been.”
    Take care & stay safe.

  2. I just went through this less than two weeks ago and I remember thinking the same thing, about saving the name, but it’s my sweet daughter’s name. It will always be hers and hers alone. But I did misspell her name. I feel awful, because it’s wrong on everything: her death certificate, her cremation records, everything. I feel like I failed her again. It’s so hard to keep going, even with my living child and husband. I have only written her name by hand once, but I will keep writing it, and maybe one day I will smile when I see it.

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