How to name my child?

All parents have to ask themselves this very question. Often mother and father have a precise idea how to now the new life. When we are children and also later as adults we may not question why we were named like that. Some however may want to change their name because they are in one way or another not comfortable with it. Or it is because they want to forget the story that lies behind this name: their own story.

Why do I write about this? Because it became clear to me that also my name “Renate” had an influence on how my parents looked at me from the first day on. And consequently how I looked at my own self. Regardless of the kind of childhood we experience we are always shaped by the losses, role models and the pride in our own name. Unconsciously we pass this on to the next generation: to our children. This becomes clear when they are named after a person their parents have known or have a certain idea of.

And here comes the problem: The newborn child is already entangled in inner parts or stories that exist “outside” his true- individual self. Thus it is possible that every time parents look at their child, they look at the same time at the person the child is named after. Thereby the feelings for that person are transferred to the child. Lateron it unconsciously identifies with that person and also connects with the person’s lifestory.

For my own life this means that I connect with the story of my Aunt Renate. She died in Eastern Germany during the first years of Russian occupation. In those days after the Second World War nearly all children were malnourished and also many old people died of hunger. My mother and her two sisters had Typhus, but is was Renate who suffered the most from it. After 10 days in a hopelessly overcrowded and under-equipped hospital she died alone. Her mother was not allowed to visit her because the authorities feared the spreading of the disease. My grandmother had to leave her other children in the care of her neighbor in order to sell bedlinen to nourish her offspring. The children’s father had bled to death at the frontline in Russia after a shot in the knee.

Again and Again I asked my mother about this „Aunt Renate“. I kept imagining her, a bony girl of 10 years lying on the floor of a crowded hospital. I could “feel” how lonely she must have felt among all those dying people. It was known at that time that nobody who entered the badly equipped hospital would leave it alive.

She kept her daughter’s illness secret from the authorities. As Renate suffered most from the three siblings  it was obvious to their neighbor that she had Typhus. Thus the authorities were informed and my grandma was forced to take her daughter to the local hospital. She put the weak 10-year old girl on her bicycle and brought her there. My mother –by then only 6 years old-saw the desperate conditions in the hospital. Ten days later her sister was dead and had to be buried. As my grandma didn’t have the money for a coffin she let her old wardrobe made into one.  In the  mourning hall my mother saw the bony corps inside the makeshift coffin. When the tiny coffin was finally lowered into the earth my mum remembered that her sister’s name RENATE meant that she would be reborn again. At this instant she decided that if she ever had a baby girl she would name it Renate. That way her sister could come “back” and live on a better life.

33 years later I was born. As a child I often felt a deep sadness and I wept without knowing why. Today I know that I was trying to live a part of my dead aunt’s life-as her replacement. I tried to make up to the fact, that she had to die when she was only 10 years old whereas I was lucky enough to live on.

This went on until one day at my psychologists’ office. We did a systemic research and made a  family constellation. Curiously all the cushions that represented my aunt, her siblings and her mother and grandmother were formed as a cross. It may sound weird but when I went into “contact” with my aunt Renate I heard her say (in my head): -Let me go! It is okay. I didn’t want to live anymore. I am fine where I am now. You have to life your own life!

But I couldn’t let go. I was holding on to the vision of my aunt. Because-as sad as her fate might have been-imagining her has always given me the feeling not to be alone. Under tears and a crucial pain I finally let go off my aunt Renate. I was aged 36 years now. Letting go was a way to find my true self. And while writing my autobiographical healing novel it was that aunt Renate finally found a place where she was memorized and could rest in peace at the same time. It was the day when my homepage was put online that I truly had the feeling, of having made her a memorial.

It was now up to me and me alone to go looking for it: my place in the world.

Written by Renate Weber