Sunday, December 28, 2008

New Year's Resolutions

Ten New Years Resolution for bereaved parents to work through:

I will try to use my inner resources to cope with my loss, whether it be alone or with another loved one helping me. In the process I will remember that this is a long journey and not to worry that in my upward journey, I may fall but will have the strength to get up again and continue on.

I will take care of myself and my body with exercise, sleep and eating right, because if I do not, my body will revolt. I must save my energy and use it wisely.

I will not create an artificial front of pretending because of my loss but express my feelings as I work through my child’s death to the best of my ability.

I will remember that I did the very best parenting for my child and that my child knew it and loved me as much as I loved him.

I will use external resources when I feel hopeless or in need of help and not feel ashamed about it.

I will not expect everyone to understand and will try to be patient with those who don’t.

I will try to be happy about something at some time during every day so that eventually it will come naturally.

I will reach out and try to help someone else in pain, knowing it will also help me.

I will talk about my child always whether others feel uncomfortable or not. My child was the most important person in my life and I do not want him or her to be forgotten.

I will fight my way back to a meaningful life once again. That is what my child would have wanted for me.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


My hope: that each of you will find peace in your heart, joy with your families and hope for the future. This holiday season I give to you this poem of hope I wrote recently, dedicated to my daughter, and wish you all a Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah or whatever you personally celebrate worldwide.


As I look up to the sky,
during this holiday week,
a bright star shines down.
I feel it is you smiling at me,
telling me it is okay for me to laugh,
it is okay for me to be happy again.
I'm trying, I tell you.
It is not an easy road to travel
when you have lost the most
important thing in your life.
But my heart is full with love
from a wonderful man and many friends.
And, of course, I feel your love surround me
on this chilly December day.
It warms my heart and my body as always.
I keep busy and try to make a difference
in this world by helping others.
I do it for you, in your memory,
and I find it is a wonderful feeling.
I know you used to do it also,
you used to help close friends
and even strangers.
I look around me and see young people
enjoying the outdoors, running, playing,
wishing for a good snowfall.
I hear their laughter and their good wishes
for this holiday season.
I know there is hope for a better
world when I look into their eyes.
I wish I could share everything I say
and do with you, as I used to.
I miss you so much,
my beautiful daughter.
I think of you every minute of every
day and always will.
I want you to know, though,
that I always was a survivor
and will continue to be one
both for you and for me.
I love you, always and forever.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Todd's candle

The following is a portion of one mother’s beautiful story I discovered in a bereavement newsletter of how she thinks about and remembers her son during the holidays and all year long. I dedicate this week’s selection to her and all bereaved parents.

“Each night as darkness settles over our home, a little candle begins flickering in the east window of our staircase landing. The tiny light burns until dawn and then silently is quenched with the rising sun. This is my son’s light. About a year after Todd died, a suggestion was made to me to place a candle in the window for the holidays, as I had no inclination to decorate.

I placed a candle there, and I have now replaced that candle with yet another candle. This is Todd’s candle…this is Todd’s light.

Todd’s candle has a Victorian appearance and will burn steady or flicker. When the darkness comes forth, Todd’s candle begins its nightly vigil…a vigil that will not end until I am dead.

Although this is a small gesture, it has deep meaning for me. Sometimes I awaken in the middle of the night and walk into the atrium at the foot of the steps by the light of Todd’s candle. I’ll grab a glass of water and watch the candle flicker. Other times in the early evening, when only a reading lamp is lit in the living room, I will look into the atrium. Todd’s light shines. I feel as if he is with me somehow, in the light of this little candle. I think about him, his life, his joys, his sorrows, his immense capacity to love and to laugh. I feel a deep closeness to my son that cannot be explained to anyone but those who have lost a child. I understand that there is much peace and solace in keeping my child in my heart and life and in establishing my own private rituals of remembrance.

Leaving a candle in the window has been an American tradition since the Colonial Era. The candle symbolizes the warmth and security of the family home and its message is loyalty to a family member who is not present. So, it is fitting that Todd’s candle shines each night…reminding all that he is absent from our home, but not from our hearts.

Each of us has a ritual of remembrance of our child. Some of us have consciously established this. Others have unconsciously done so. But there is a ritual that brings our child close to us, only to us. Our rituals are a very personal choice. I chose not to share my ritual for 2 ½ years. Then one day a child who lives across the street asked me about the candle. I told her that it is my son’s candle. She asked if he was in Iraq. “No, I said, he’s in heaven.”

A momentary look of fright passed over her face, and then she smiled. “I thought you had kids. You act like a mom.” Her innocent comment about me “acting like a mom” once again reinforced the fact that we will always be parents. Those of us who have children who have died will always be parents to those children. That role has shaped who we are, and intensified it more with the death of our precious child.

This is one element of losing a child that escapes the general population. If you have not lost a child, you don’t understand, you can’t understand the feelings and emotions that run so deeply in our psyches and our souls…We know what pure and overwhelming grief really is.

When I gaze at Todd’s candle now, I remember his life, the security he felt within these walls, the growing up years, the love, loyalty and emotional stability he experienced as a child which enabled him to become a man of courage, self confidence and gentleness in the face of life’s worst and best.

Todd’s candle is one way to tell him that I love him as only a mother can love…unconditionally and forever. And I will always remember. I will always be Todd’s mom.

I have found that being a parent is a lifetime journey…even when our children are not with us on life’s road. As parents we define ourselves as interwoven with the fabric of our children’s lives. We always remember.”

by Annette Mennen Baldwin from Katy, Texas

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Worldwide candlelighting event

A week from today, Sunday December 14, at 7 p.m. will be the 12th Annual Compassionate Friends Worldwide Candle Lighting as a tribute to a child who has died, as each time zone lights its candles. The scene is repeated thousands of times around the world and has captured the eye of the world like no other event of its type.

Patricia Loder, executive director of Compassionate Friends, says that this event shows that people from around the world can gather in peace and unity to remember all of the precious children who have died. This is TCF’s gift to the bereavement world and Pat says they are so happy that it has received such universal acceptance.

Visit the Worldwide Candle lighting page on TCF’s national website where there is a brochure with helpful suggestions on how to plan one of these services if none is held in your area. The national office can also be called toll free at 877-969-0010 for information for suggestions or where a service is being held in your area. If you are unable or do not wish to attend a formal service, you are asked simply to light a candle in your home with friends or family. In addition, you may leave a heartfelt message on TCF’s online Remembrance Book opened only on that day.

Last year I attended one of the Children’s Memorial Day Services at a local mortuary. Each year more and more parents attend as they become aware of its existence.

I remember it looked like almost 1,000 people attended on that cold December night in 2007. A variety of people read poems, favorite sayings and said prayers. We all got to file past the Angel of Hope as music played, and we were given white flowers to place at its base. As we made our way back to our seats, we each received a candle, which we lit. We were also given a very soft, cuddly teddy bear to hold on to (and keep) as the names of each child were read who were either buried in that cemetery or who had bought a plaque near the Angel honoring their child.

I could hear sniffling, sobbing and soft talking all around me. As I looked around, I could also see the anguish on the stunned faces of the parents who, in their wildest imagination, never dreamed they would be sitting here with the rest of us. Parents were of all ethnic, cultural and religious affiliations. We were one in that hour that we honored and remembered our children so they will never be forgotten.

Many allied organization joined in the remembrance such as POMC, MISS, MADD and BPUSA. In addition to funeral homes, churches, hospice and local bereavement groups, as well as informal groups meeting in many communities, participation was high.

This ceremony is a powerful message to the world. Wouldn’t it be even more powerful if we could get everyone once a year on this special day to light a candle for all children who have died? I hope that this year you will be able to participate in some way on this memorable day.