Memorials are lovely, but so often they focus on the sadness of the loss and the pain of the grief after losing loved ones. The pain is felt even more dramatically when that loved one is your child, grandchild or sibling.

Every December on the second Sunday, the nonprofit chapter I founded in 2003, The Compassionate Friends of Greater Newburyport, participates in the international organization’s Worldwide Candle Lighting. Each chapter around the globe holds their memorial in the 7:00PM to 8:00PM local time slot, which together, forms a twenty-four-hour memorial to our children.

In our chapter, we include a couple of twists to this memorial, which normally includes readings, music and lighting candles in a meaningful way. First, we added the concept of a “Memory Tree.” We ask families to bring their child’s picture and optionally a special candle to light and ornament to hang on the Memory Tree, which remains on display for more than a month. We have extra candles and blank ornaments with markers and stickers to personalize them for families who need them.

Hanging an ornament adds a tangible personalized step to the memorial.

This year, we are trying another new process, during an optional shorter one-hour chapter meeting after the memorial. I would like to encourage families to focus on the positive about their children, not just the pain. One of our chapter mothers, Kathy, has written a lovingly irreverent humorous monologue about how she named her son, Ka. She is going to kick off our mini-chapter meeting with that monologue and I asked the other families attending to bring a funny or positive story, reading or memory about the child they lost. We will pass the photo of the child around our circle while the parent or grandparent is telling the story.

That way, we will have the opportunity to share laughs about our children while remembering them, and have some light-hearted discussions during the holiday season to help heal our missing them so much.  

I’m hoping that these families will take some of these stories home and share them with their friends and families, causing more funny memorable stories to be told about their children and making everyone more comfortable during the holidays.

It is often awkward for visitors, who do not know what to do or say when visiting bereaved families over the holiday. This is one way you can free up tension, enjoy time together and fondly remember the loved one.

I believe there is a less tangible but more important benefit to this… our children in spirit will feel this, enjoy it and hang around us more. They want us to heal, to laugh and remember them fondly. When we do, we focus more on the “LOVE.” 

Close your eyes as you laugh about them and see if you can feel them!

 Happy Holidays and may you have fond memories.

PS It’s all about the “LOVE,” as I describe in the last chapter of my book.

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