The Compassionate Friends of Atlanta 

Sharing Ideas for the Holidays

Memory Trees/Stockings/Wreaths/Ornaments

I really have loved reading about everyone's children and their special Christmas memories. My Nina loved Christmas. From the time she was little she always took whatever little money she had saved up and bought well-thought out gifts for her family and friends. She enjoyed giving gifts to loved ones no matter how inexpensive, making Christmas cookies, decorating the tree, being with family. I think it interesting that the last Christmas that she was with us she bought me a ceramic angel. I hadn't even started my angel collection until after she had died and sometimes I wonder about that gift and why she bought that for me that particular Christmas. Was she sending me a message subconsciously that said "Next year I won't be here in the physical sense at Christmastime, but I will be here with you in spirit." How does that saying go...something like "The presence of her absence is everywhere."  Six Christmases later and I miss her so much. 
Cathy, Nina's mom, St. Paul, MN TCF

I began a tradition after that first dreadful Christmas blurr of hanging my daughter's stocking up along with the rest of the family. Then each year I do something special in her memory...  like take a name from an "Angel Tree" at the mall or where ever and buy a gift for a needy child in her memory.  I put the angel note in her stocking.  I make a donation to the Salvation Army to help feed the hungry and homeless at Christmas and I put their acknowledgement in her stocking.  Things like that.  As the years are passing, her stocking is filling up with good deeds done in her memory and things I know she would appreciate knowing were done in her name, my beloved  "Carissa".  It helps refocus the heartbreak of missing her into something positive and helpful.   The pain eases over the years but Christmas is always so hard to get through no matter what. 

God comfort you all as you face another Christmas without your precious children. 

Peace and Hugs, 
Debby, mom to angel Carissa 10/19/94 - 10/20/95 

We have a memorial stocking for Carlene. It has come out the last 2 Christmases since she died. We write a memory and put it in it and read them when we want to. We also have crochet mini picture frames of every family member to hang on tree and include one for her. I buy a doll for doll collection.

The other good thing is to buy a favorite toy of theirs and give it to a needy child or buy a dress or item of clothing and do the same

Jenny (Carlenes Mum) 

In response to Handling the Holidays after the death of our children, I want to say that the third year after our daughter Kelley died, we finally put our Christmas back up but decorated it much differently than we did when we had Kelley with us. Now, instead of that tree, we put up the tree completely decorated with angels and ornaments that were Kelley's before she died. We also changed the lights from multicolored to all white lights. We call the tree "Kelley's tree." It brings us great comfort, although it can bring some sadness at times, too. 

We also put up a tree at Kelley's grave every Christmas and decorate it also, with the help of friends and family that put an ornament on the tree each year. This year we have to get a bigger tree, because we have so many ornaments now! It makes us feel so good to see that others still remember Kelley and us at such a difficult time of the year by leaving an ornament or decoration at Kelley's grave. 

Angel Hugs, Diana - Kelley's Mom

My daughter and her best friend, Tee Jaye Barnett, age 20, and 2 other friends were on their way back for UGA football game Oct. 5, 1997 when a parents worse nightmare happen. An automobile accident took Tee Jaye's life instantly and my daughter, Misty Stockton, age 18, lived 9 days before going home.....(Can't stand the be D word).

Sunday after Thanksgiving (Nov. 1997) the Barnett's and my family each had "open house." to celebrate our daughter's life on earth. We sent out invitations to Misty and Tee Jaye's friends and family asking them to help us "Celebrate Misty & Tee Jaye's" life by purchasing a Christmas ornament of their choice and bringing it to open house. Each family had purchased a small 3 foot Christmas tree and permanent black markers.Their friends wrote the girls messages and signed the ornaments and placed them on the tree. Each friend was encouraged to share a happy memory of Misty and Tee Jaye. There was much laughter, smiles and a few tears, as so many of their friends shared memories of the girls with us. We had stressed this was not to be another "receiving of family & friends" but a times of family & friends sharing memories and "decorating Misty & Tee Jaye's Christmas Tree". Later that day we carried the Christmas trees to the Cemetery and have used them on their grave every year since. 

Sandra Stinson , Rome , Ga

It is coming upon three years since my only child, my son passed away. For Christmas which is rather hard seeing others sharing, caring with their children, I have found certain things that help me. He was 14 1/2 so I do have some years of things he had made, be it cards, molds, etc..and so I dedicate an area in our home to his memory. I take a shelf, decorating with not only christmas pictures of him from the past, but all the things he had made for our holidays and me. It is my way of keeping him close, included and special. I do the best job, making it as great as I can, as if in some small way, it is my gift to him. So naturally I want it to be beautiful, and in the process this has brought me softness within my heart.

It is a way of connecting still with him, not the same, but better than if I denied myself and his memory. I am doing the same for other special days as well. What I have found in doing so, is that I want to make things as special as possible, to still see beauty, to keep that part of him alive via me, as I am the vessel that carries his memory and keeps the torch forever burning for him.

Nadine mother to Austin
(5/16/82 - 11/17/96) died via suicide 

The first Christmas after my 12 year old sister Ashleigh died, we didn't know what to do to remember her or to do something special for her. What we ended up doing was so special to all of us! It made us all feel that she was with us that day and always. My grandma bought a little tree, and decorated it with sunflowers and white lights. Then each family member brought with them a special ornament that reminded them of Ashleigh. We each showed our ornament and talked about why we had picked it. It worked for us really well. I wanted to share this in hope that maybe this will be helpful to someone else....Thank you! 

Sarah Bruner
Older sibling of Ashleigh Nicole Bruner January 23, 1984-October 20, 1996

We lost our 19 year old daughter, Melanie Brooke Thompson, on February 15, 1999, in a car accident. This will be our first painful Christmas without her. I have been looking and borrowing ideas from different people and places on remembering and honoring our loved ones. I have found many wonderful ideas but would like to share one of mine.

From the time that Melanie and her sisters were very young I have given them each a special ornament which they would open before Christmas and hang on the tree. I started the tradition to quiet the cries of "anticipation" before Christmas and to give them a pre-Christmas gift. They loved and looked forward to the tradition each year. So I would shop and find each girl just the "right ornament." Special for them.

I intend on keeping up that tradition this year and will find Melanie her special ornament too. But this year I intend on adding a new ornament. A special ornament for Melanie. An Angel ornament with Melanie's name and the year. I have already found the one for this year. It is a lacy, cross stitched, angel that I will make and add Melanie's name and the year 1999. Here after I will look for that special angel ornament to add for each year without Melanie.

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

This will be our first Holiday season without our son Zachary. It has been 6 weeks since He went home to be with the Lord at 2 months old. I've read all of your suggestions for the Holiday sand found them helpful. I didn't see this suggestion and plan to do it, so I'm passing it along. I plan to purchase a Christmas ornament every year for Zachary and hang it on our tree. I will be shopping for our other children and that way I can buy a present for Zachary as well. Perhaps Christmas shopping wont be so sad then. This year I will buy a "Baby's First Christmas" ornament for him. It is still his first Christmas. He just will be spending it with Jesus instead. Christmas Day first hand! Each year I plan to buy an ornament that would reflect Zachary's age and developmental stage. I also plan to hang his stocking every year with a letter to him inside. One of our family traditions has been to make a homemade ginger bread house and a gingerbread family( complete with the dog). I will make a gingerbread man for Zachary, and he will stand with the rest of the gingerbread family. I am also considering setting a place at the dinner table for him on Holidays. He loved being at the dinner table with us from the moment we brought him home. I think he could smell the food. Thank you for letting me share.

In Memory of my Son, Zachary Thomas Schwabe
June 24, 1999 - August 30, 1999 
Tricia Schwabe, Zachary's mommy
Waynetown, Indiana

We put up a tree on Amanda's grave and we buy her angels to put on her grave. We add a new ornament to her tree each year. Amanda's tree looks better then my own tree... it helps alot.

`submitted by Deborah 
In Memory of her daughter Amanda Jo Bailey
June 24, 1996 - February 22, 1998

The Angel Tree

Last December I went into a store and saw beautiful chain angels to be placed on Christmas trees. I thought for a minute whether I should buy a few and put them on Michael's tree at the cemetery. Michael was five when he died from complication associated with open heart surgery in 1993. Unfortunately, I quickly realized that they would probably be stolen and decided against buying them. Later that same afternoon and while at my office, I looked out the window through the winter air and thought silently of our precious little boy and those china angels. I then began to write:

"As Christmas approaches, many of us forget that the true meaning of this holiday is to give. We know that Michael would have given his last toy to a child without one. In remembrance of our child: those of you who come to visit Michael may take an angel from his tree and hang it in your home to help keep Michael's spirit alive."

I left my office that evening and went immediately back to the store and bought every single china angel they had. Last year, we went through 200 angels. We could not keep them on the tree long enough. We received notes and gifts at the cemetery from strangers who said they could not take something without leaving something in return. And how special our child must have been. Even six months later a stranger approached me at the cemetery and asked if I would be putting the angels up again this year because every time she got to the three, they were gone. 

The joy we received in giving the angels was insurmountable. We know there is a part of our son in so many homes and every time these people look at their angels, they will think of Michael. 

`by Lori and Mike Devanney 
East Haddam, Connecticut 

Just wanted to share some things we do on the holidays - the ideas you sent us are great. Holidays are such a bittersweet time, remembering all the precious times we had with our precious ones, and then grieving for all the ones we cannot have now. Somehow, God pulls us through.

Last Christmas, we ordered a roll of red ribbon which can be imprinted with personalization, and then cut in strips. We had "Dustin Hay - Loved & Remembered" put on ours. They can be cut and hung on Christmas trees, enclosed in cards, or we folded ours like the ribbons for Breast Cancer, and at our Christmas program at church, everyone pinned one on, remembering Dustin. We also had small cards printed up (the size of business cards), and enclosed them with our Christmas cards. We had them imprinted with the message Dustin Shane Hay Dec. 7, 1978-Oct. 24, 1997 Forever in our Hearts There was a red rose at the bottom of the card. 

Also, at our local hospital, (I don't know if different areas do this or not) - they have a Lights for Life program each year. A person sends in the name of their loved one, and the names are read, and for each name a light on the Christmas tree in front of the hospital is turned on. 

The first Christmas after Dustin was gone, I couldn't bear the thought of just putting up two stockings instead of three, so three were hung, but instead of them being filled with presents, we wrote notes to Dustin telling him how much we loved and missed him, and Merry Christmas in Heaven.

Also, this isn't really for Christmas, but it is something else we had done. I gathered up around two hundred pictures of Dustin, and some videos clips, and picked out several songs I liked, and took them to a video recording shop, and they put the music, pictures, and video clips together into a film that's about an hour long. To me, it is priceless. 

God Bless Lisa (Dustin's Mom)
 December 7, 1978 - October 24, 1997

A Holiday Wreath

A holiday wreath is a traditional part of the holidays in many homes. It can be a simple arrangement of fresh greens in which four candles are placed. As you light each candle this year you may create a new ritual which will become a lasting tradition for the holiday season. We hope that this memorial will help you include your loved one in the holiday season. `Sondra Wright, Atlanta, Ga

My nephew, Alex Corn, (18) was killed in a car accident January 31, l996. He was like a son to me. My brother, Lowell (Alex's dad) died by suicide July 1, l999. After Alex died, I decorated a "Memory Tree" and have continued to do so every Christmas since 1996. Now, I will do the same for my sweet, loving brother.

I decorate the tree with cards, pictures of Alex, baby shoes, handprints, angels, gifts, doves from the funeral/floral arrangements, little handmade ornaments given to me by Alex.....anything personal I have received or collected over the years from him. Of course, I decorate with lights...lots of lights which make the "memories" stand out. The tree topper is a huge bow with the last picture of Alex attached to it. The tree gives me great comfort each time I pass by it and it's a reminder to my friends and visitors that YES, this person lived, YES, this person was loved deeply and YES, this person made a difference in my life and his life counted as much as anyone's....and the memories live on.

~shared by Martha Corn Grogan

In Memory of Alex Corn and Lowell Corn
Cumming, Ga

We always have two Christmas trees--we have the family tree in the Living Room and then we put up a Memorial Tree in our den. It's decorated with special angel ornaments that we've collected through the years. It's in memory of our two babies, my daddy and my mother-in-law and father-in-law. We purchase new memory ornaments every year to add to the tree. We light candles on Christmas day in memory of each of them; our son whom we lost in 1962, our daughter whom we lost in 1963, and our parents. We also donate money to a needy family who has either a baby or small children and do it in memory of our babies.

~shared by Jo Ann,
Founder Operation Angel

My daughter, Marissa, was killed in a car crash August 6th, 1998. She was 3 years old. 

For her first Christmas in Heaven, I bought some little things to put at her gravesite and I borrowed the idea of having Santa fill her stocking with flowers. While video taping my son, Matthew (almost 2 now), that morning, we included Marissa's stocking and gifts from Santa. The flowers we bring to Marissa as a family. An acknowledgement of her Life and that we remember her and Santa hasn't forgotten either. I think this will also help my young son to remember that he indeed had a beautiful big sister. 

At dinner we light an Angel Candle for Marissa...the Angel sits atop a star, which is symbolic for us. Marissa is our "Twinkle Star". We leave the candle lit all day as a reminder of her presence.

We also take time as a family to talk about our memories of my precious child. I invite each family member to share their feelings or a special memory of her. There are tears, but the tears we cry on the inside 365 days of the year, so that is okay...but more importantly, we find ourselves smiling through these tears as we share. Each family member has a little different spin on what they remember and for me, her mother, I love to hear all the special moments that my child was able to experience. 

And, we always release balloons for special days. We write little notes on them and send them Heaven bound. My son, Matt, now asks for balloons to send to the sky to his sissy...and he is not yet two. I think it is imperative for families to acknowledge in some way their beloved children. They are with us always, and by acknowledging this fact, I find it to be healing for every family member. I know this is a lot, but I thought I would offer what we have done and plan to do for every Christmas to come.

Laurie Myers***Marissa's ^j^ Mommy***

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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