Compassionate Friends of Atlanta Area Chapters
Halloween is another day that holds Precious Memories for us.
Pictures of Our Precious
Reflections of Halloweens Past
on Halloween Past and Present
My Witch and My Angel
This is Halloween
My Cover-Up Mask
Wearing A Mask
Trick or Treat #2
Hiding Behind the Mask
It's Halloween again
And fall is in the air
I stopped by the store today
I saw costumes everywhere
I saw fairies and goblins
Frogs and toads alike
And then there was the little ghost
I closed my eyes real tight
I felt the tightening in my chest
Remembering that Halloween long ago
When you picked out the little ghost
The eyes had to be just so
I touched the fabric with my hand
Memories came flooding through
Of that last Halloween we had planned
When I was going to be a Goblin for you
I felt the tears start to sting
And knew I had to leave
Halloween always brings back
Memories from grief unseen
You left me a week before Halloween
Your ghost suit is still in the box
Sometimes I try and open it up
But something always makes me stop
Each year as I watch the children come by
I always look for a little ghost
Thinking of how happy you'd been
Wearing the costume you loved most
Maybe I'll just take a peek
If I'm up to it this year
And touch the fabric one more time
From that Halloween from yesteryear.
In memory of my son, Andy Dunbar
Jan.22, 1972 - October 24, 1977
My Ian was 20 when he was killed in a work accident. Like Jayne, I had
my children very young and grew up along with them. Since Halloween dress-up
had always been one of my favorite, most creative times, I suppose I passed
along my excitement to Ian.
We didn't have much in the way of money, so we made our own outfits.
We threw together a real "winner" (He won first prize!) in first grade
when he came to me at 8 p.m. the night before and said..."Mom...I gotta
have a costume for school tomorrow for the Halloween contest!" Before long,
he was transformed into a "lobster monster"...with cardboard head, body,
claws, protruding eyes....I don't know how he made it to school on the
bus! Or how he saw to get around that day! But that blue ribbon was quite
a prize for us both!
I found Ian on the back porch one day passing along the family tradition
to his little sister...He was painting her face with some kind of creamy
goo so she could be a "ghost"...The resulting photograph is one of my favorite
"partner in crime" shots of the two kids.
About 3rd grade, he decided to make his own costume...a "punk"....He
quickly went out of the house with friends after a mischevious glance at
me and a coat over his shoulders...We discovered when he got back from
knocking on all our neighbor's doors that he had torn up a t-shirt and
written obscenities all over the shirt...I'm sure the old ladies on our
street were mortified!
He continued to celebrate Halloween even into his teens and would always
ask, "What're we gonna do for Halloween, Mom?"...He would spend hours carving
a pumpkin or setting up spooky music to freak the kids on our street...and
would end up going out to enjoy the candy frenzy with all the other "kids",
even though he was 6 feet tall.
His last Halloween was spent away from us with friends. He had been
talking about dressing up as "Braveheart" and finally found a kilt and
a wig...We were told he was the life of the party, meeting everyone at
the door and threatening to lift kis kilt...only to show off boxers with
hearts on them! We finally saw a photo of him in that outfit after the
funeral...what a treasure!
Ian enjoyed life to the fullest and I feel so lucky to have been a part
of his amazing time on earth. So, "what am I gonna do for Halloween this
year?" I've made my own costume (Mona Lisa) and will be partying with friends....
Live life one day at a time.....and make each one a masterpiece!
Becky...Ian's proud mom, TCF Atlanta
Halloween has always been a special holiday time. I regret that our
son only had a one time experience at this magical time of year. I remember
as though it were yesterday, the wonder in his face, how he tried to eat
the candy through his mask, how he said thank you without coaxing. Then
I think of all the parents whose child never had the opportunity and I
am grateful for that one time. It's hard watching all the other children
trick-or-treating and yet there is something special about this season
that comforts me. As I watch the trees around me, I am reminded that there
is a beauty even in their drying leaves. There's a special aroma, a breath-taking
color scheme, and if you listen, a rustling in the air. I believe there
is a message in fall. I believe God wants us to know that death is like
a change of season, that our children now know far more beauty than we
can ever imagine. Like the tree that lives on through the barren winter
and comes alive again in spring, our children are not gone. THEY LIVE!
Nancy Cassell, TCF Momnuth Co., NJ
on Halloween’s Past and Present by Cathy Seehuetter
On the evening I type this, the nip in the October air is a reminder
that the major holidays are just around the corner. Halloween decorations
have been in the stores since July and Christmas décor even as early
as August. For those of us who are bereaved parents, siblings and/or grandparents
this means the sooner they are “in our face” the longer we have the constant
reminders that we will be facing the holidays without our child. Whether
it is your first Halloween following your child’s death or years down the
road, such as in my situation, the holiday season stirs the emotions bringing
varying levels of sadness, anxiety and sometimes even anger. With Halloween,
there is the sorrow of no longer having to find that perfect costume or
witnessing the delight in your child’s eyes when you found just the right
Many parents find Halloween a particularly hard one to get through.
In the past, I always thought of it as innocuous enough; there were the
costume parties with bobbing for apple, children excitedly dashing door-to-door
trick-or-treating, pumpkin carving, and the occasional harmless prank.
However, after my daughter Nina died, I became acutely aware of things
that I never gave a second thought to in the past. For instance, my former
neighbor made her whole front yard into a graveyard scene, complete with
fake headstones that said R.I.P. with scary or silly epitaphs as well as
hideous ghosts coming out of the earth with bony bloody fingers. Before
Nina died, I too found the cemetery “creepy”, but now I look at it differently,
even with a sort of reverence, and no longer have a problem going out to
my daughter’s grave-site, even in the middle of the night. I find the solitude
of the historic countryside graveyard where she is buried peaceful and
dignified and worthy of respect, and I was hurt by what I felt was apparent
ridicule and destain for the final resting place of our loved ones’ physical
bodies to the point of tears and anger. Moreover, some of the masks and
costumes portrayed faces of death in a way that I found highly offensive,
especially since I knew many who lost their children to some of the means
depicted. I took it personally and didn’t appreciate what I perceived as
a mockery of death.
Though I still don’t pretend to understand the allure of the above-mentioned
Halloween depictions, they aren’t as painful to me as they were the first
few years after Nina died. During the early grief years, we become very
hypersensitive to our surroundings and more keenly conscious of anything
related to death. It is pretty hard to look past the general non-bereaved
population’s seeming nonchalance about something we take so personally.
Though we wish there was more empathy and understanding, we also know all
too well that they cannot truly sympathize unless they also have walked
in our shoes. It is easy to forget that we too, before our children’s deaths,
may have shown the same indifference. I believe that we would like to think
that we wouldn’t have been so callous because we now personally know how
much this hurts those affected; however, before we lost our “innocence”,
truth be told, we probably didn’t give any of it much thought. That being
said, oftentimes it is still easier said than done.
On this 10th Halloween without Nina, I pretty much ignore all the ghoulishness
surrounding this time of year. If I do find I am having difficulty, I try
very hard to focus on positive and precious memories of Halloween’s past,
such as her belated birthday/Halloween party where our basement became
a makeshift haunted house where giggling blindfolded costumed witches and
princesses plunged their hands into bowls full of peeled grape “eyeballs”
and wet macaroni “brains” to the shrieks of “Yuck!”, or the photo taken
of Nina on her last Halloween. No longer of trick-or-treat age, she stayed
home to pass out the candy and carve an awesome Jack-O-Lantern that she
is pictured proudly along side, with her ever-present smile and that wonderful
twinkle in her brown eyes. Or the photos I have of her in her costumes
over the years from Care Bear to Punk Rocker. Because of my photographs
and precious memories, I also realize that I was one of the “lucky” ones
in that regard. There are those whose children died before they ever had
the opportunity to create memories, there is the sorrow that they were
never able to experience even one holiday with that child, yet alone several,
and that saddens me very much.
For those with a missing trick-or-treater this Halloween or the conspicuous
empty chair at Thanksgiving dinner this year, the first ones are the most
difficult. Though I find they are easier to bear as time goes on, you never
really forget the absence from the family holiday gatherings of one loved
so much, nor do you want to forget, really. Please try to remember that
this roller-coaster grief ride each year brings different feelings. It
is important that you just allow those feelings and let them happen, Try
not to be waylaid by other’s expectations of you. Trust your instincts
and go with them. Truly, only you know what you can or cannot handle.
With gentle thoughts,
TCF/St. Paul, MN
Most children enjoy Halloween, the costumes, the candy, the parties,
trick or treat, the decorations and so much more. My son looked forward
to Halloween with great anticipation. Until he reached the fourth grade,
Todd was happy to pick out a costume at the discount store….usually the
current movie or television monster.
He came home from school in fourth grade and told me that there was
going to be a costume contest and he really wanted to have a unique costume.
I asked him what he wanted to be, and I will never forget his response:
“I vant to be a vampire, Mom. A really cool vampire.” So, I talked to a
friend of mine who was into stage production, and we went to her house
the night before the contest.
She had a vampire cape, a vampire body suit, a vampire collar and great
makeup. Todd loved it. My friend stopped at the house early the next morning
and applied the makeup and did the finishing touches on Todd’s costume.
He looked just like the vampires in the movies, He was so pleased. He really
wanted to win first place in his class. I dropped him at school and told
him to have a wonderful time. He was elated.
As the day progressed, I wondered how he was doing. He had never wanted
to win a prize before; what if he didn’t get first place in his class?
I worried about him, knowing that his feelings were easily hurt by cruel
children and sometimes by cruel teachers. He called me at 3:30 to let me
know he was home. I could hear excitement in his voice, and I asked him
how he did.
“Mom, you won’t believe this”, he said in a serious, low toned voice.
“What happened?”, I asked, now wondering about the day’s events. “I won
first place, Mom. First place in the whole school. I can’t wait for Halloween.
Wait till Grandpa sees me. He won’t even recognize me. I even got a certificate
for first place….I’m putting it up in my room.” I was so happy that tears
welled in my eyes. My son had tried his best, and he had won. He had put
himself out there and he wasn’t disappointed, disillusioned or discouraged.
That was the first of many accomplishments in my son’s life. He went
on to win in track in high school, restore a 1965 GTO from the ground up
and receive numerous trophies and awards. He attained his BS and MBA and
was successful and respected in business. He was a great father to his
children, and his love for them was very deep.
He never hesitated to tell them he loved them and how proud he was of
them. He was a wonderful parent. He was always an amazing son. His death
left a scar on my soul and a hole in my heart. But his first success is
forever in my mind. The little certificate which he brought home and hung
on his bedroom wall is a treasure of his wonderful childhood. Halloween
is still a happy holiday, and it is one of the few which I enjoy. I thank
my son for that and for all the joy he gave me in his short 35 years of
Annette Mennen Baldwin
In memory of my son, Todd Mennen
TCF, Katy, TX
My Witch and My Angel
For Zoe Halloween is just about as good as it gets. Not much in my daughter's
world beats candy, costumes, friends, make-up, and staying up late even
on a school night. Life at age six can be gloriously simple.
But I don't know much of what my son Max thought of Halloween. When
he died at age two, he only had one real "trick-or-treat" to his credit.
That year -- 1987 -- I dressed him in a pumpkin costume and we traipsed
to a few neighbors. I took far too many pictures. Max was a fiend for sweets
and with the candy ration lifted for the evening, he had to be living well.
I imagine that year would have been his last dressed as a mommy-pleasing
pumpkin. At three or four I knew he would demand Ninja or pirate costumes;
I would have laughingly bought them and maybe even the plastic sword. I
would have let him paint grotesque stitches across his nose and wear fangs
that glowed in the dark.
Instead, this is Zoe's year to cast aside the girly version of Max's
pumpkin cap. The beloved pink princess frills and red nail polish are being
exchanged for a witch hat and black glue-on fingernails sharpened into
talons. For the first time, she wants to be Scary and Ugly. With mahogany
lipstick and smoky eyes, she will fly out the door in less than a month
to cross one more threshold that her brother did not.
I can see the evening now. As I assemble face paints on the counter,
I will take a deep breath--the same one I take every year at every holiday
and milestone. With my unsteady hand I will design witchy warts and create
wrinkles on Zoe's perfect face. I will declare he the Scariest and Ugliest
But as I help my little witch into her costume, I know my eyes will
fill with tears. I will think about the years that were supposed to be:
a young boy a Dracula, a 13 year-old teen in baggy clothes escorting his
little witch-sister down the block. Who would he be now, the toddler we
knew, the boy we lost? What would our life be like if the scary things
were still just make-believe?
Zoe will see my tears, but she won't be alarmed: in our family's emotional
lexicon, sad and happy often go together and crying is as OK as laughing.
She will ask me why I'm sad and I will tell her the truth: I am thinking
about Max and wishing he could be here.
And even though she is now the mean and fierce Witch Zoe, she will nod
her head with understanding. Her plastic nails will lightly graze my arm
as she reaches to pat me. Suddenly the frown on her face will disappear
and she repeats what has become her annual Halloween revelation: "Mommy,
it's OK. Don't forget that Max can go 'trick-or-treat' as an angel." She
describes a glittering figure, luminous wings a flutter, giant treat bag
at the ready. I smile at the idea and the moment passes.
Soon it's time to light the candle in the pumpkin. I stand on the porch
and watch Zoe skip next door to show off her costume. She heads up the
sidewalk, stopping halfway to turn and wave to me. She makes her scariest
face and yells, "Mom-take my picture!" I raise my camera and look through
the viewfinder. As the flash glows briefly in the dusk, I see a beautiful
angel standing in the shadows beside her. But this angel doesn't wear white
and his wings have been clipped. I am sure he never had a golden halo.
He is a small chubby boy with a jack-o-lantern face on his tummy and chocolate
on his fingers. It is 1987 and he is having a really great Halloween. Just
like his sister.
~Mary Clark - TCF, Sugar Land, TX
This Is Halloween!"
Goblins on the doorstep,
Phantoms in the air,
Owls on witches gateposts
Giving stare for stare,
Cats on flying broomsticks,
Bats against the moon,
Stirrings round of fate-cakes
With a solemn spoon,
Whirling apple parings,
Figures draped in sheets,
Up and down the streets,
Shadows on a screen,
Shrieks and starts with laughter
This is Halloween!
By: ~Dorothy Brown Thompson
lovingly lifted from
My Mom is A Survivor Halloween Page
My Cover-Up Mask
I wake in the morning with tears in my eyes. I have to face another
day without my child. I prepare to go to work and put on my "cover-up mask"
as I go out to face the world.
I get my work done and even chat and sometimes smile at my co-workers.
And they say, "My, how well she seems to be handling her loss." If they
only knew what I am suffering under my "cover-up mask." May work day is
over, and I go home and remove my "cover-up mask," and the tears come again.
I go to bed, as the darkness of night envelopes me and sleep eludes
me, the tears come again. I have gotten through another day without my
child. I have learned I must take one day at a time for the rest of my
life, since it will never be the same again.
TCF, Salisbury, MD
It is here, this day of merriment and children’s pleasure.
Gremlins and goblins
and ghosties at the door
of your house.
And the other children
come to the door of your mind.
Faces out of the past,
small ghosts with sweet, painted faces.
They do not shout.
who no longer march laughing
on cold Halloween night,
they stand at the door of your mind –
and you will let them in,
so that you can give them
the small gifts of Halloween –
a smile and a tear.
~WINTERSUN by Sascha
Wearing a Mask
Halloween is a great time to pretend to be someone else. You can be
mean and nasty even though you're usually a pretty nice person, or you
can be scary when you usually are the one that gets scared. You can pretend
to be strong and powerful or beautiful or mysterious or famous. You can
pretend to be anything on Halloween.
It isn't fun, though, to try to always wear a mask. Sometimes for a
person who is grieving, it seems like you need to always pretend to be
your old happy self. Your friends and others may want you to forget about
your loss and go on as if nothing much has changed. But it is really hard
to mask your true feelings all the time. It is much better for you if you
can "take off your mask" and just be yourself sometimes. If you let your
feelings out, then you are being honest with yourself and others. By taking
off your mask and revealing your true self, you will be a much more REAL
person. It's better to save masks for Halloween.
-From the Inside Fernside Newsletter,
A Center for Grieving Children
Trick or Treat
The night is dim
And the pumpkins grin
At children on the porch.
The doorbell rings
"Trick or Treat" they sing
My heart burns like a torch.
The Dracula's face
And a princess in lace
Are peering in at me.
How I'd love to ask
"May I lift your mask?"
And hiding, there you'd be!
You'd get such a kick
From that silly trick,
But disguised, you must stay.
In the wind that blows
My heart still knows,
You're playing October charades.
TCF, Tulsa OK
Sips of cider, pungent with brown sticks of cinnamon, foretell the swift
approach of fall. Another autumn, when the winds of change return. The
memories of Halloweens long past — devils, bunnies, pirates, gypsies, cowboys,
too, and astronauts, and bums and clowns— I made the costumes each fall
for my two sons and also for my daughter. My daughter had not yet outgrown
her love of Halloween the fall before she died.
Though she was 25, she claimed the season as her own to execute a harmless
prank on me, her mother— oh, maybe not for me alone, but rather planned
to share the fun with all her friends. Well— she became a nun. Her habit,
black and white, was quite authentic. Her face was scrubbed and saintly
free of rouge or gloss. Instead of oxfords, on her feet she wore a pair
of disco-demi-boots. Unlikely, yes-but black! She kept her normal stride
(quite brisk and long) while walking through the hallowed halls to my office
after class. She entered, but I, completely unaware of who she was, said,
"May I help you?" Only when she laughed did I look again and recognize
her cherub face. Then I laughed too, and laughing, told the story several
times to others. One colleague laughed and added later, "Yes, I saw her
too, and said to my companion, can you believe the shoes that nun is wearing?"
And so I'll bet that she'll be up to her old tricks again this Halloween.
And I'll be listening. The roar of heavenly laughter makes for wonderful
Shirley Ottman, TCF of North Texas, Denton, TX
Steven loved it even after he became to old (or to tall as he liked
to say). He still loved to dress-up and go to, or have a party. I still
have pictures from his Halloween's of past. He had such a sense of humor
and was like a little child playing dress-up. We were talking about having
a nieghborhood get together Halloween party a month before he passed, but
he was to weak and our time ran out before Halloween came. So now I half-heartedly
get into the fun of it,but remembering the fun he had helps.
Sheila Simmons, TCF Atlanta
Halloween was one of Melanie's favorite holidays. She looked forward
to the day with thrills and giggles. She would spend days on finding just
the right costume. Her first costume at age two was as "Mary" from "Little
House On The Prairie." The show was very popular then and Mel's older sister,
Trinity, insisted that they go as Laura and Mary Ingalls. Melanie, being
so young, didn't enjoy her first experience as a "trick-or- treater" that
year. Too many ghosts and goblins. But she did enjoy the rewards afterwards.
The next year she went as "Baby Apple Dumplin" to Trinity's "Strawberry
Shortcake" a popular cartoon for the time.
Over the years Melanie's costumes varied according to what was popular.
But the most favorite were the ones that were made up and created by her
own imagination. Thru the years she was a "black cat," a "Barbie Doll,"
a "cheerleader," a "witch," and a "50's Bobby Socker" to name a few. Each
costume thought out and planned to the last detail. Often times I ended
up sewing them for her. But I didn't mind.
Melanie continued to enjoy Halloween even after she became too old to
trick-or-treat. Often times she would dress up for the fun of it and would
volunteer to take her younger sisters, Miranda and Brittany, around the
neighborhood trick-or-treating. She loved planning Halloween parties or
haunted houses on our screened porch or in the basement. She would spend
hours decorating the yard with ghosts, goblins and witches, spreading fake
spider webs, lighting luminaries, building scare crows and carving jack-o'-lanterns.
She loved trying to scare the neighborhood kids or her sisters with a trick
or with spooky, creepy music and soundtracks. What Fun!! I can still hear
her laugh with glee and mischievousness.
When Melanie was about 16 she had me make her a colorful witches costume.
She didn't won't it to be the usual drab black but picked out a colorful
Halloween print material for the dress. I made the dress and she wore a
black witches hat with a Halloween/jack-o'-lantern pin pinned to the brim
of the hat. That year Melanie had to work and she wore her costume and
volunteered to pass out the treats.
Melanie had worked at McDonald's since she was 16 and had a great rapport
with the customers. Especially with the elderly regulars affectionately
referred to as "the coffee drinkers." It was one of these patrons that
took a picture of Melanie in her costume that year as she poured coffee
for the senior citizens and passed out candy to the trick-or-treaters.
Mr. Deitz presented me with a framed copy of this photograph after Melanie
died. He hand made the frame and beautifully matted the photo for me. I
now have it hanging in my living room. This photo shows the essence of
Melanie's spirit and personalitly. All smiles and laughter. Unfortunately
I can't share this photo with you for my scanner is not working at the
moment but the photo is one of my favorites.
^j^ hugs, Kathy Thompson, TCF North Carolina
(Melanie's Mama) 5/11/79 - 2/15/99
Hiding behind the Mask
I think we as bereaved parents wear masks 12 months out of the year,
not just on Halloween….perhaps on Halloween we should just wear our own
grief stricken face and not be noticed.
How many masks do you wear - even in a week … or a day. Do you way up
in the morning feeling the pain, with the knowledge that your child is
no longer here? Do you "mask" that face with your old normal face to say
good morning to your spouse? You can take the mask off and cry in the shower….it
somehow feels so good to release some of those tears. Time to wake the
children for school, put on the cheerful, positive mom mask. After dropping
the children off at school you can once again remove the mask and feel.
Soon you will be pulling into the parking lost at work….get the next mask
out….the most of the competent professional. WOW! That's a lot of mask
changing in a short time.
Strange isn't it how the MONSTER pain of grief makes us put on masks
to cover the pain often to those who really care and who perhaps are putting
on their masks to cover their pain when they see us.
Maybe we could all be so much better off if we removed our masks and
let the monster pain out.
~lovingly lifted from Bereaved Parents USA/Orange County
Newsletter October 1999
Pictures of Our Children
Brian Patrick Devine as "The Joker" October 1989
with friend, Chase, as "Batman"
Brian P. Devine
June 26, 1982 - August 21, 2005
Chad Gordon (Dallas Cowboy Quarterback) with his sister Lisa -
May 21, 1972 - September 3, 1996
A Scary Martian from Outer Space
James Avery - October 1986
7/15/83 - 9/22/97
In Memory of Katie Jean
4/23/98 - 6/18/00
Jessica Lyn Bryl
January 19, 1977 - April 3, 2000
May 11, 1979 - February 15, 1999
In Loving Memory of Tiffany Marie Sisson
"Our Enchanted Fairy"
Marissa Gabrielle Myers 2/14/95 ~ 8/6/98
Marissa's Halloween page is http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Hollow/4764/halloween
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