Will a Namesake Bring Back Bad Memories?

Filed under: Baby Names


Should I use a family name that's tied to a tragic memory for everyone? My mom's sister Cora was killed by a drunk driver when they were little girls. The driver was my grandfather's best friend. I want to name my baby girl after the aunt I never met, but I'm afraid it'll bring up too many sad emotions for my mom and my six aunts and uncles, rather than honoring her. I LOVE the name though, and I've always been told how much I remind everyone of little Cora.

- Concerned Daughter


Whenever we name children after relatives who have passed on, we tap into a swirling well of emotions. Introducing a newborn James, named for late Grandpa Jim, is likely to bring tears to your family's eyes. They come from a mixture of joy, mourning and sweet remembrance of a lifetime of memories.

When the first lifetime was cut short by tragedy, though, the mixture of emotions can be even more volatile. You may tap anger, pain, even guilt. Yet the positive effects of a namesake can be heightened, too.

You are a considerate daughter and niece to worry about causing your family pain by naming your daughter Cora. Don't jump to assuming the worst, though. Your mother and her siblings haven't forgotten their sister or the circumstances of her death; using her name won't remind them of something they'd hoped to ignore. The fact that they've always drawn comparisons between you and your aunt shows me that the family very much wants to keep little Cora's life vivid in the present. A new baby Cora could bring your family peace rather than sadness, and comfort rather than grief.

I suggest speaking frankly with your relatives about your hopes and fears. Start with your mother. Tell her that you love this name and love the connection you feel to the aunt you never knew, but worry about bringing sadness to your family. Ask her to give you her honest opinion on this name choice and its potential effects. I'd wager she'll reassure you that her family would love another little Cora to spoil and adore. But if she confirms your worries and steers you away from the name, you'll be able to make that decision based on firm knowledge rather than a hunch.

Have you faced sensitive naming issues? Share your experiences here. And if you have your own question to Ask the Name Lady, drop her a line!

Related: Baby Name Sounds Like A Bad Joke

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.