Avery’s Legacy: How an Alberta mother is parenting her daughter after loss

Click to play video 'Teaching children how to grieve by example' Teaching children how to grieve by example
WATCH ABOVE; (From Jan. 9, 2020) Our initial instinct as parents may be to shield our children from sadness but one child psychologist says watching us mourn gives children a script to deal with their own grief. Laurel Gregory explains.

“It is our intention that the items included will be helpful and meaningful to you as you move towards your grief and mourn your loved one.”

Cathy Decker includes a card with that message in every bereavement gift box she creates. It is the same caring sentiment that helped her navigate her daughter Avery’s death nearly three years ago.

“In those early days of grief, I have never felt more alone in my entire life. I honestly didn’t think it was possible to survive,” Decker says.

That feeling started to shift when a stranger, a bereaved mother, reached out to her with a gift.

“It was more than just the tangible items inside. It was a gift of hope that I could survive. It was the knowledge of knowing that I wasn’t alone.” 

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Avery, the Deckers’ first born, was born on Feb. 8, 2016. She was just 13 months old when she laid down for a nap at daycare and never woke up.

Decker says after more than a year of waiting for an official cause of death from the medical examiner’s office, Avery’s death was concluded as undetermined.

“They never found a reason why she passed away. We are all really familiar with the word SIDS, which is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Because Avery was 13 months, it’s an even rarer category called SUDC, which stands for Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood.”

In the months that passed, Decker met other parents mourning their own children. Following a strong urge to help, she began creating and donating bereavement gift boxes in her daughter’s honour. Avery’s Legacy offers bereavement boxes for child loss, pregnancy loss and — most recently — for children who are experiencing the death of a loved one. The adult boxes include items like candles, tea, chocolate and journals. The children’s boxes offer a craft, bath bomb, book and sweet treat.

READ MORE: Mother in mourning aims to start support group for those who lost a child

“We decided to create a box for children who are grieving, through experience with our friends. Many other bereaved parents I know have living children and they are trying to navigate their own grief, as well as support their living child. And there really isn’t anything to give them. They are almost the forgotten grievers, the children. ”

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Decker says pouring her energy into Avery’s Legacy is how she continues to parent her daughter after losing her. Every gift box comes with a picture of the 13-month-old girl.

“Knowing that Avery’s face is being seen by people and that she’s still making a difference means everything to me,” Decker says. “I think one of my biggest fears is that as time moves forward that Avery will be forgotten.

“To create this legacy in her memory really helps with that fear and knowing that she won’t be forgotten. That she’s going to continue to touch lives of people that I will never meet. That brings warmth to my heart.”

Listen below: Cathy Decker explains how she channelled her own grief into helping others at 16:10.