The Compassionate Friends of Atlanta Area Chapters

Halloween Memories

Halloween is another day that holds Precious Memories for us. 

Pictures of Our Precious Goblins

Reflections of Halloweens Past

It's Halloween

Halloween Memories

Halloween Magic

Musings on Halloween Past and Present

Halloween Memories

My Witch and My Angel

This is Halloween

My Cover-Up Mask


Wearing A Mask

Trick or Treat #2

Another Halloween

Remembering Halloween

On Halloween

Hiding Behind the Mask

It's Halloween

 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.

Sharon Bryant
In memory of my son, Andy Dunbar
Jan.22, 1972 - October 24, 1977

Halloween Memories

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

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Halloween Magic

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 

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Musings 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 one.

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,
Cathy Seehuetter
TCF/St. Paul, MN

Halloween Memories

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 life.

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 of All.

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 

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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, 
Dodging, disappearing, 
Up and down the streets,
Jack-o-lanterns grinning,
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

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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.

~Joan Watson
TCF, Salisbury, MD

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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.

Those children

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

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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

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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. 

-Kathie Slier 

TCF, Tulsa OK 

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Another Halloween

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 imagining. 

Shirley Ottman, TCF of North Texas, Denton, TX 

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Remembering Halloween

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.

Steve's mom
Sheila Simmons, TCF Atlanta

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On Halloween

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 

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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 - October 1982

Chad Gordon
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

Melanie Thompson

May 11, 1979 - February 15, 1999

In Loving Memory of Tiffany Marie Sisson


"Our Enchanted Fairy" 
Halloween 1997 
Marissa Gabrielle Myers 2/14/95 ~ 8/6/98
Marissa's Miracle 

Marissa's Halloween page is

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