The Compassionate Friends of Atlanta 

Sharing Ideas for the Holidays

Gifts - Season of Giving

Memory Book

After hearing several surviving siblings discuss the idea in the TCF sibling group, I created a Memory Book for my parents for Christmas last year.   Of course I missed Christmas by a few months and gave it to them in early spring, but hey, they loved it anyway.  It was a big job, but it was very rewarding, and I'm glad I did it.  If you're interested, here's what it took to make it happen.

I made a list of friends and relatives who might want to say something about my brother, Chris, in writing for the Memory Book. I added a few of his co-workers and started tracking down addresses.  I sent them all a note explaining the concept and asking if they would be willing to help me put it together by donating a memory.  I asked them what they remembered about Chris, if they had any stories, photos, or even random observations that they could contribute, and I told them that it would help my family to know that we weren't the only people thinking of him. 

Most people were enthusiastic about it and said they would definitely send me something.  Some people didn't return my call.  And a few promised to deliver multiple times but didn't follow through.  It was a positive project, so I did not pester people about it.  I worked with what I got. Old friends called and said they struggled with their emotions and couldn't find the right words to say what they wanted to say. I assured them that anything would be great. 

When I received the poems, photos, and memories I put them in Pagemaker on the computer by scanning the photos and cutting and pasting the written memories.  You can also do this in Publisher in Microsoft Office 2000.  Make it look like a magazine or a brochure or whatever you have in mind. I used the color laser printer at work and paid them for each page.  I stuffed the pages in clear page-protectors and put the pages in a binder and sent each contributor a copy.  The total cost was around $60.  It took some time, but the articles touched my heart, and the photos made me remember things I had forgotten. My parents and I agreed that it confirmed our best feelings about Chris.  When other people consistently say what you've been thinking, you know that your memory is true. 

If you're up to the task I highly encourage it.

Scott Mastley

Since I am so new to this (my son died just 8 months ago), I am so thankful that you put this out early. I was actually going to e-mail you and ask for suggestions on how to handle the holidays, decorate the grave site, etc. 

The one thing I am beginning is a memory book for all my family and my son's friends. During the viewing, we had everyone who wanted to, write their favorite memory of my son down on paper and put it in a basket. You don't know how many times I have gone back and read those beautiful words of love. Some made me laugh, all made me cry. I have not shared them with anyone else up to this point and I thought I would make a book of all those notes, along with some poetry and pictures and give it out at Christmas in my son's memory. 

Deborah Odom, Loganville, Ga
Ratt's momma (20 forever) 

Another way we celebrate the Holidays from the Rome Chapter

TCF Rome Chapter celebrates the holidays by getting together Christmas night at one of the parents home. Each parents prepares/brings their child favorite finger food/snack. We know we can talk about our children without seeing the "oh no, she's talking about him/her again" look.....It's a safe place for parents to talk about their child and by bringing their child's favorite food helps us keep them in the holidays...... 

One of the ways we "survive" Christmas in our home since the death of our four-year-old son Ryan actually evolved from a comment made by my then 6-year-old son, Patrick. He asked me if Santa would know that Ryan was in heaven, or would he still leave presents for him under our tree. From that comment I decided to have "Santa" leave a special gift for/from Ryan under the tree. Since Ryan loved TIGGER more than any of his other toys, Santa always leaves a very special one under the tree for us. It is the first thing Patrick looks for on Christmas morning. 

Wanda Fry, Tucson, AZ

I do have one thing I did do Thanksgivings. I lit a candle and poured a glass of wine and put Steve's picture in his table space after grace we made a toast to Steve for all his gifts of love and memories he left us. Also I light a candle (electric) in his bedroom window which I leave burning 24 hr. a day from Thanksgiving until New Years Day (maybe he can look down and see it and know he is not forgotten) hope this helps in the idea list.

Sheila Simmons, Dallas, Ga

A Special Memory Gift 

Editor's Note (South Bay/LA newsletter): Our Sibling leader surprised her parents with a picture (one they didn't know she had) of her deceased brother for Christmas. Her parents were thrilled. When I saw this article I wanted to share what a wonderful and thoughtful gift it does make. LV Looking for a special gift this holiday season for a person who is dealing with a tragic loss of a loved one? Well, you don't have to search all of the specialty shops in town to find one. The one gift you can give doesn't cost a dime. Give them the gift of a memory!

A memory gift comes from the heart and will mean more to the receiver than a package wrapped in gold foil or expensive paper. You can make this yourself, with very little time or money. If you feel that this is not enough and you have to purchase something, then add to your present, and include a memory gift.

My suggestions are very simple, here are a few. If you have a computer, make your own card or type a special note to be inserted into your Holiday card. If typing is not possible, then a hand written message is wonderful. Either way, just jot down a memory of the loved one lost that stands out in your mind, the receiver will cherish this gift more than you could know. If you have a picture of the person who is gone, add this to your gift, letter or card with, if possible, the date it was taken and the situation involved. If you did not know the individual who had died then a note about how sorry you are and you know the holidays will be extra difficult will be fine, the acknowledgment of the loss can be just as meaningful as an actual memory.

The main thing to remember at the holidays, or any time of the year, is that a grieving person is thinking about their loved one and hurting. If the one who is gone is not mentioned, it does not ease any of the pain, so don't leave them out for fear of upsetting the ones left behind. Yes, the pain will always be there and you cannot take it away or fix the griever's aching heart, but you can give them the gift of remembering their special someone. So what if they cry, it's a human emotion. Your memory will not cause the tears, the pain of loss did. The worst fear for any grieving individual is that the one who meant so much to them will be forgotten, let them know in some way that this will never happen.

Whatever your beliefs, however you celebrate the Holidays, take a few extra minutes, and write, record, video tape or call someone who needs a Memory Gift, you could be making someone's Holiday Season something very unique.

--Bonnie Harris-Tibbs TCF, Richmond, VA 

Another tradition that was special for Melanie was that she collected music boxes. The ceramic kind with figurines or water globes. The tradition started when Melanie was about 7 or 8. Her grandmother gave her a little ceramic goose. She loved it and the next year I happened upon the mate to it. A little girl goose which I promptly bought her. When the third Christmas arrived I asked Melanie if she had anything special she wanted and she "yeah," she wanted another music box. So thus started the tradition. I would look and shop and find just the right music box. Over the years she has amassed quite a collection of all kinds of music boxes that adorn my living room. I will continue the collection and have already found the one for this year. Melanie's Gift. Another way of keeping Melanie close this year is to buy Melanie gifts. 

Melanie gave each person in our family a special gift each year. For instances she would always give her older sister, Trinity, a ceramic doll. She would always give her younger sister, Miranda, some sort of bear, be it a stuffed bear, a bear charm or a calender with bears. And lastly she would give her baby sister, Brittany, some kind of toy. A doll or game or something that I wouldn't buy her. Like last year Melanie gave Britt cans of silly string that had a pistol with it so you could shoot a steady stream of silly string. Only Melanie would have thought to get that. 

Trinity had said that she would miss the ceramic doll from Melanie each year and so I will do my best to continue as Melanie would have. To buy each one the special Melanie gift. The ceramic doll, a bear;etc. "But to find that one gift for Britany!!!" 

Kathy Thompson 
(In Loving Memory of my daughter Melanie Brooke Thompson 5/11/79 - 2/15/99) 

My mom takes a full Thanksgiving dinner to the local fire department because a fireman stayed in the car with my brother while waiting for the ambulance. 

~shared by Scott Mastley, Duluth, Ga
In Memory of His Brother Chris Mastley

My Emily passed away in 95 from heart failure. 

Our Bank has an Angel tree at Christmas and we always purchase a gift in her memory to share with another child. We also spend a lot of time in the Childrens Hospital. Emily's siblings go together to purchase a gift for the Peds department...videos, rockingchair, or games. They love to deliver them in Emily's memory. 

Another thing... Emily was with the VNA service on Hospice, so we write notes to be shared with other patients to cheer them up at Christmas Time. Shut-ins love to receive little letters.

Emily's momma... Mary

If you have something that you do during the Holidays that helps you,
we would love for you to share it with us. Please email

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