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Will a namesake bring back bad memories?

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 the 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.


Please do not add links to your comments. Thank you.

March 16, 2010 10:27 AM
By mme.g (not verified)

My mother is one such baby - she is named after her maternal aunt who was killed by a land mine in Europe after WW2. It was very tragic for my grandmother, and when her first child was born, she couldn't bear to name her daughter after her deceased sister. But four years later, just before my mother was born, she had a dream in which my great-aunt appeared to her and told her it was ok. And so my mother was named for her aunt, and her memory is living on. Good luck to you!

March 16, 2010 3:08 PM
By Elizabeth T. (not verified)

My mother was also named for a deceased aunt. I think that everyone appreciated the tribute, and if it were not for my mom's name, I'm not sure I would ever had heard of my grandmother's sister, except very briefly in passing. The fact that she had a namesake meant that her memory was kept alive longer in the family lore.

March 16, 2010 4:24 PM
By Kristin (not verified)

How about Coraline? Or Corey if you like unisex names. How about changing Cora to Laura/Lora?

March 17, 2010 9:45 AM
By Sheri (not verified)

I was named after my father's sister who was hit by a tractor trailer just outside the family house. In fact, he named me her nickname instead of her formal name so I'm Sheri, not Sharon. The family was behind him about the name - he talked it over with my grandparents before I was born and they were really touched by the idea.

Cora is such a lovely name, too! You could also give it a little twist and do Coraline - I love the Neil Gaiman book and the movie was pretty cool, too. She's a very strong little girl heroine type =)

Good luck!

March 17, 2010 11:50 AM
By Kim (not verified)

My middle name is Irene, after my Paternal Grandmother. She passed away after a 4 year battle with breast cancer and lymphoma when my father was 11 years old. I haven't heard of, or witnessed any time that my middle name has caused any pain, and I'm quite proud to be named after her.

March 17, 2010 11:54 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My adult daughter named her first born son after her twin brother, Jeremy, who was struck and killed by a drunk driver at the age of 7 in 1986. I am honored and thrilled to have another little Jeremy to love again.

March 17, 2010 12:18 PM
By Debbie (not verified)

I am named directly after my aunt, who was killed by a drunk driver when my mom was only 14. She discussed the naming with her family too, and they all thought it would be a way to honor their daughter/sister, rather than bring back bad memories. I was named completely for her, meaning I took her first, middle, and last names, with my dad's last name added on. When I got to around preschool age, I started asking questions and was told all about my aunt, and I think it was pretty cool for me to carry on the legacy of such a wonderful person. And keep in mind, I carry ALL of her names. So I think just using your aunt's first name shouldn't be too bad, in theory. But, everyone is different and some people might have mixed emotions. I think in the end, most will be happy that you are wanting to honor her, and once they see the name (which is so cute, btw!) attached to a beautiful baby girl, any hard feelings will most likely disappear.

March 17, 2010 12:42 PM
By Tirzah (not verified)

I definitely think you should talk to people first. You don't want to blindside the relatives right at the point the baby is born. Give everyone time to work through the mixed emotions prior to the birth.

March 17, 2010 1:39 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I agree with the advice to ask your family about it. We wanted to name our son the same first name as my husband's brother, who had died of a heart defect as an infant. We asked his parents, and they thought it was a beautiful idea. I would not have been able to do it without their blessing, though. They have always referred to the baby they lost by a nickname, and we call our son by his full first name.

March 17, 2010 2:33 PM
By Kimber (not verified)

In my family, I have had three
male cousins die in the past 12 years. All different deaths at very young ages. They were all three my grandparents only male grandchildren. There are now 6 granddaughters and we all have named our children after our siblings/cousins, whether it's a first name or middle name. Honestly, it is sometimes very hard! Especially the first one that did it. To look at that sweet baby and to call him a name that we haven been able to use towards a person in so many years was hard at first! But we have all been able to move on and call these precious children by their own names and not think of tragedy everytime we do. Time heals

March 17, 2010 2:44 PM
By Anon E Mouse (not verified)

I too have a middle name of my aunt who passed away at a young age. My cousin has the same mn. I don't personally find it weird but rather think of it as a special connection. I feel like my mom and grandma thought of it that way too otherwise it wouldn't have happened. Talk to your family, but I have a feeling they will consider it a terrific tribute.

March 18, 2010 10:32 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I have a friend who named her baby after her mother who died in a car accident. The only problem I think she failed to anticipate is that the name is a very unusual name. So whenever people ask her, "oh, that's an unusual name how did you you choose that name for your dd?" She relives her mom's accident. They have started using a nickname instead of the the given name when introducing the baby.

In the original question above I think Cora is a lovely name that goes with many of the names being given today. As long as your family blesses the idea I don't see why not.

March 18, 2010 1:41 PM
By PJ (not verified)

I had a beautiful baby boy who I named after my grandfather who was still living. My mother raised me as a gentile as well as herself. My mothre's family was Jewish. My mother never ever told me that Jewish never name their children after family still living. Sadly my baby died at 5 mon. My mother waited until after my baby passed to tell me that and it was punishment from God. If I had known I would have never named him if it hurt any part of my extended family. I only meant to honor my grandfather.It was a sad moment that came between my mother and I. If only I had been taught about my heritage.PJ

March 18, 2010 3:25 PM
By RB (not verified)

I was named after my uncle, who died under "mysterious circumstances" at age of 22. (Whether or not he was murdered was never officially determined, as far as I know.) My mother decided that her first child would be named after him, and when I came along ten years later, even though I was a girl, I got his name. I've always felt a connection with this uncle I never met. I used to wonder if it caused my mother or grandmother pain to call me by the name of someone they missed so much, but I trust that they wouldn't have made that decision if it would have hurt them.

March 19, 2010 9:07 AM
By NAMES (not verified)

You could always Do Coralane, I think its prettier than Coraline!

March 20, 2010 9:32 AM
By dale (not verified)

In my Eastern European Jewish culture, it is commom (almost mandatory) to name a child after one or more deceased relatives. Since many non-orthodox Jews have both English and Hebrew names, and both frist and middle names, there are often many relatives to choose from, avoiding 'his side'/'her side' arguments. My ex and I had a few dead grandparents and aunts/uncles to choose from, and we decided who to name after by discussing which one or ones of them we liked or didn't while they were alive in addition to which of those persons' Hebrew or English name to use. Concerned daughter need not make this a Senatorial debate, though she should discuss this with her mother, who will mpst probably be actually saying that name for many years. A wonderful compromise might be to give the child the aunt's name as her middle name. That way, while always 'there', the name will not 'in her face' 1000xtimes/day.

March 20, 2010 12:12 PM
By Robin H. (not verified)

My suggestion would be: Invite your family if you can to a family dinner. Once all gathered rasie your glass and thank them for coming. Tell them how much your family means to you and tell them you have a question for them, because they mean so much to you, thier opinion matters to you. Tell the stories you have heard about Little Cora. Then ask them how they would feel if you named your child after her. It would be a blessing to name her after Little Cora.It's not to bring up heartache or bad memories. It's to honor a little girl who meant so much to her family. And when your little girl arrives, she will mean so much to your family just as she did. If your family lives all over the country may I suggest a Conference Call. Its not as personal as a family dinner. But everyone would be together at the same time and you could discuss it as a family. Good Luck! Cora is a wonderful name and I truly feel by reading your post, that Little Cora would be honored to be remembered in a POSITIVE AND HAPPY WAY. Let us know what happens.Please :). If you need a Conference Call company try: find the phone number and call the reservations department and tell them your story. Tell them Robin sent you.


March 23, 2010 3:02 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I would definitely talk to family. My cousin's middle name is two names, after my late grandfather and my late uncle. My uncle was killed by a drunk driver when he was nineteen. My grandma was touched that her daughter wanted to use her brother's name but asked that she not use it as a first name since even though it has been a long time, hearing it brings back sadness. Maybe if your family does not want to hear it all the time but you still want to use it, use it as a middle name.

March 23, 2010 2:36 PM
By CP (not verified)

The mother of a friend died of cancer about 2 months before that friend had her first baby (the first grandchild.) The baby girl was given her grandmother's name, Claire, as a middle name. The friend's brother and sister both used Claire as a middle name for their first daughters too. I think as they grow it will connect the cousins as well as connecting them to their grandmother.

March 30, 2010 12:47 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My mother named me after my deceased aunt whom I never got the chance to meet. Well, in a round about way she did. Her name was Christine Elaine. I am named Laney Christine. Laney is usually short for Elaine, but in my case, my name is just Laney. I still have my own name, however it is in rememberance of my moms sister who passed. I love how you want to name your daughter Cora and I think it is a beautiful name. I truely hope that you family is all in agreeance and would be overjoyed in naming her Cora. Best wishes!

April 4, 2010 1:52 AM
By melissa (not verified)

I am named for an aunt who passed away at just 6 days old. Her name was Lisa and my parents did not want to use that name for the sake of my grandmother(who is still affected when thinking of her after over 40 years)so they chose Melissa. I think they made the best decision to use something similar, but not exactly the same. My advise would be to ask some relatives, and if they give their blessing, go for it.

April 9, 2010 11:53 AM
By Concerned Daughter (not verified)

Thank you all for your advice! I talked to my mom very frankly, and with a bit of trepidation yesterday and she was totally excited. She loved the idea and said it would not make her sad at all. YAY! I really wasn't sure what response she would have. So I have her blessing! Cora it is! (Now to tackle the rest of the family, but if my mom's happy, I'm happy)

April 9, 2010 2:16 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I think you must talk to your family rapecaully the ones it will affect the most and then make the choice. I lost my son and now 11 years later my sister wants to name her son and call him by his name. I can't cope with it and requested she use it as a middle name. She refused and long story short I can't be around my family because of it. Communication is important!

April 13, 2010 12:40 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My baby sister was born on the same day that many years before our uncle died of SIDS at the age of 6 months. His name was Ricky and had my mother known she said that she would have named my sister Ericka and call her Ricki (more feminine with an I). However, when my mom asked my grandma why she didn't mention the connection, my grandma said that she didn't want to associate her grand-daughter's birth with the death of her infant son. Get approval from your mother (anybody beyond that is up to you) and then go for it. Cora, Coraline, even Cordelia are all beautiful tributes to your aunt.

April 19, 2010 12:48 AM
By Vomiting (not verified)

Oh, I'm glad your Mother is happy with your choice! Cora is beautiful and it is a sweet sentiment.

Your son did not die due to your violation of Jewish tradition. It was a horrible coincidence and I am so sorry for your loss.

April 24, 2010 1:39 PM
By Sarah (not verified)

I think the family will probably be pleased. Unless the death is very recent, families generally like it when somebody is named after a loved and lost family member. But I agree with the others, you should let the family know your intent before the baby is born, to give people time to get used to it. You don't want the announcement of the baby's birth to be tinged with sadness.

To the previous commenter who said that her friend named her baby after her mother who died in a car accident and that she had to relive the accident every time somebody asked about the name, I would probably have just suggested offering fewer details. "We named her after my mother, who died many years ago." A short, simple phrase would help keep her from reliving the entire thing because it would become almost routine.

My husband and I intend, if we ever have a boy (we're about to have our third girl), to name him after a good friend of ours who died right after our wedding. It's a bit easier in our case because it's a common name, we both like it, and since he wasn't family and we don't have much contact with his family, there isn't as much association with the name to people we know.

And it's true that Jewish tradition says that you don't name a child after a living relative, it's because of a superstition that when Death comes for the older relative it might become mistaken and take the child instead. It's superstition and seems kind of silly to me in light of Judaism--God doesn't make mistakes and there's no such being as "Death." And your mother should *never* have told you that it was your fault, even if you'd known about the tradition and violated it willingly. That was cruel and unfounded of her, and while I'm sure it must have hurt, I hope that you aren't taking it to heart. I'm so sad for your loss.

December 15, 2011 7:48 PM
By Dawn (not verified)

Has anyone ever thought about the baby as she grows? Will she feel like she has to live up to the dead loved one she was named after. My niece, Krystal has just found out she is having a girl. I want to be so happy, Yay it's a girl. But then she said she was naming her Angela Faith. Angela after her sister who killed by a drunk driver 2 weeks before her 18th birthday, while she was asleep in the back seat of the car, Krystal was driving. Krystal was the only surviver. Krystal also feels guilty because she convinced them to go that night and not wait until the next morning when Angela wanted to leave. A friend Eric, who was in the passenger seat also died. Anyway, I am having mixed emotions about the name. Even Faith is the name Angela wanted to name her baby girl that she never had a chance to have. My sister who has memorialized Angela, who is in constant pain over her death. I cant imangine that this will help her. I know she wont hurt Krystals feeling by saying anything. But in the end when this Angela grows and realizes the shoes she has to fill and the image she was named after. I would not want to be in her shoes.

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