Atlanta Area Chapters
"The mission of The Compassionate Friends is to assist families in the positive resolution of grief following the death of a child and to provide information to help others be supportive."
A Nonprofit Self-Help Organization for Families Who Have Experienced the Death of a Child
This becomes different with the passage of time. It never goes away, but at some point we learn to live with it, and in fact this horrible feeling becomes a lifeline of sorts. One of our biggest fears is to forget our children. Forget how they looked or how their voices sounded. The smiles and tears that blur together to make a child. This emptiness in effect becomes a constant yearning to remember our children.
Our hearts force us to find ways to fill that void to maintain our role as parents. Some are as simple as visiting the cemetery and some are as complex as changing our entire lives, dedicated to the memory of our child. In between are the many rituals we create or borrow from others to honor the memories and to keep our child's name alive.
Lighting a candle and saying a child's name keeps their memory burning bright. It means we are struggling to cope with this unwanted role of bereaved parent in the only positive manner we can. We will most certainly shed tears every time and we will still miss our child, but we are doing something that allows the world to hear our child's name and for that one moment the candle means so much more than anyone else could ever understand.
For a fleeting second that is our universe and every memory we have comes flooding back to us as we see the flame through tears, distorting it into something magical. It's the only gift we can give our children. This is as close as we can get to our child now. A tiny, flickering flame that can warm the heart and it's nice to think that perhaps they can see it also. It's a beacon, our light in the window, our shining star in the darkness. It's an opening of our hearts and a way to share our grief.
We gather to honor the memories of our children and to share this bond of lighting a candle for the children all over the world. We miss them so much.
~written by Jim Lowery, Sugarland, Tx
In Memory of His Son, Eric
Sharing Ideas for the Holidays
The holidays are always painful without our children and
as each of us are ready,
Throughout the newsletter you will see how some parents
include their children in their holidays.
Tanya, Daughter of Mine
My little one's first breath
stole away mine.
Ouiet nights together, hearts
beating as one.
Long days of summer growing
Bonded forever with love for
Father above, protect and be
Your gift so sweet, so precious
A mortal mother only am I.
My life, my soul I struggle
For when we cross over in a
moment of time.
~written by Karl and Kathy
Suchanek, Cumming, Ga
Giving to Others
My mom takes a full Thanksgiving
dinner to the local fire department
~shared by Scott Mastley,
THE UNTHINKABLE, THE UNIMAGINABLE,
YOU LEFT A MAJOR VOID
I NEVER THOUGHT I COULD LOSE
BUT NOW YOU’VE LAID YOUR BODY
PERHAPS IT’S NOT FOR ME TO
THE UNTHINKABLE, THE UNIMAGINABLE,
SOMETIMES EVENTS HAPPEN IN
I WAS HAPPY WHEN YOU BLESSED
~written BY RONALD WHITE, Lithonia, Ga
FATHER OF CHEO WHITE
In October 1996, my world fell apart. All things felt and believed were shattered. My emotions and feelings were swirling inside my head and heart at such a rate I could not deal with it. All the words I needed to say to my daughter on a daily basis, all the words I had to share with her, all the words I needed to tell her of the future were stuck. They were lodged in my mouth with nowhere to go. There were words of sorrow over my loss of something so precious and dear to me, words of fear, longing, love, joy, anger, hate and any number of other words that you can imagine. What to do with these words? I talked to as many as would listen, but still the words were there, still are in lots of ways. A friend, yes-another bereaved parent who knew, sent me a journal with words of encouragement to use it. I was frightened at first. What do I put in this book? If I wrote the words, would I feel better or worse? How to start? I thought about it for a few days, and then I just sat down and wrote. Oh how I wrote! Pages and pages of words, sprinkled with tears, yet containing my sanity. I wrote poems, letters, and holiday greetings. I wrote of my love, my loss, my longing. I wrote for days, I wrote at odd times, unusual places. I carried my little book, still do, and felt like it was a link to her in some way. I do not use it as much now. I guess time has robbed me of that need to say those words. I think they are still there, I just have become use to it. Maybe in a way, holding on to those words now keep her closer somehow. You know time has a way of dimming things for us no matter how hard we try to hold on. I think I have started holding on more to the words to keep her more alive and near me, if that makes any sense. Does to me anyway. I guess I am still afraid, more than I like to admit, more than others would like for me to be I should say. Journaling is good, if you can do it. Some can, some can’t. It was a help to me. I try to go back sometimes and read some of it. Some of the pages are so blurred because of the tears they are hard to read. Some of it is too painful for me even though I wrote them. I weep for myself when I read them. Some of them I could share most of them I could not. It would be like opening up my heart and soul and letting people see inside. I think someday I will toss them away, but not yet. Not just yet……
In Memory of Ashley…January 31, 1978 - October 22, 1996
Christmas Card Inserts
This is a sample of an insert Jennifer Greer (Share Atlanta)
Jennifer said the response from everyone was very good.
These were produced on Jennifer's home computer...
~Thanks Jennifer for sharing this with us.
A Tradition of Lighting Candles
This candle represents our GRIEF. The pain of losing you is intense. It reminds us of the depth of our love for you.
This candle represents our COURAGE – to confront our sorrow. to comfort each other, to change our lives.
This light is in your MEMORY – the times we laughed, the times we cried, the times we were angry with each other, the silly things you did, the caring and joy you gave us.
This light is for the light of LOVE.
As we enter this holiday season, day by day we cherish the special place in our hearts that will always be reserved for you. We thank you for the gift your living brought to each of us. We love you.
by Sherry Gibson, B.S., R.N. and Sandra Graves, Ph.D.
Connie would include something of Bo's in each year's card along with a picture of Nevada…that was her way of including Bo.
Johnny, Connie, &
Time lets you heal
How Many Stockings Do We Hang?
December 7, 1978 - October 24, 1997
My daughter, Marissa, was killed in a car crash August 6th, 1998. She was 3 years old.
In Memory of her Daughter Marissa
February 14, 1995 - August 6, 1998
A Holiday Wreath
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.
In Memory of her brother, Lowell Corn
In Memory of her nephew, Alex Corn
Hanukah is our Festival of Lights.
Let your light shine, so that their light may shine.
In Memory of Zachary, June 24, 1999 - August 30, 1999.
The Angel Tree
"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 tree, 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
THOUGHTS FOR THE BEREAVED DURING THE HOLIDAYS
Accept Your Limitations. Grief consumes most of your available energy no matter what the season. The holidays place additional demands on your time and emotions. Plan to lower your expectations to accommodate current needs.
Make Changes. Your circumstances have changed. Expect to make necessary alterations in holiday plans to accommodate those changes. Consider changing your surroundings, rituals, and/or traditions to diminish the stress. Serve notice on family and friends that this year things may be somewhat different.
Trim Down to Essentials. Limit social and family commitments to suit your available energy. Shop early or use catalog sales. Reevaluate priorities and forego unnecessary activities and obligations.
Ask For and Accept Help. Accept offers for assistance with holiday shopping, decorating, cleaning, cooking, etc. Chances are loved ones are looking for ways to lessen your burden at this time of year. Allow those who care about you to offer their support in concrete ways.
Inform Others of Your Needs.Give family and friends the tools they need to help you through the holidays. Be specific about your preferences and desires, and keep them up to date when those needs change.
Build In flexibility. Learn to "play it by ear." There is no concrete formula for leaming to deal with loss. You are the foremost authority on what is best for you, and your needs may legitimately change from day to day. Accept the fluctuations that must occur when walking in unknown territory, and learn to take each moment as it comes.
Give Yourself Permission "To Be." Allow breathing space and expect fluctuations in mood and perspective. The bereaved work overtime. Not only is life more complicated, but all energy is siphoned into mental and emotional resolution. Grieving is nature's way of healing the mind and heart from the greatest injury of all. Allow yourself the privilege of limping till your wounds have healed and you can learn to run again.
Reprinted by permission from Bereavement Magazine,
Lights of Love
Can you see our candles
Burning in the night?
Lights of love we send you
Rays of purest white
Children we remember
Though missing from our sight
In honor and remembrance
We light candles in the night
All across the big blue marble
Spinning out in space
Can you see the candles burning
From this human place?
Oh, angels gone before us
Who taught us perfect love
This night the world lights candles
That you may see them from above
Tonight the globe is lit by love
Of those who know great sorrow,
But as we remember our yesterdays
Let's light one candle for tomorrow
We will not forget,
And every year in deep December
On Earth we will light candles
Written by Jacqueline Brown
Peace Valley TCF, New Britain PA
Remembering Last Year's Candle Lighting - December 13, 1998
My husband & I both attended the World Wide Candle lighting Ceremony at Centennial Park. It was a very moving ceremony: from the introduction and readings to the whispered conversation among parents, to the words spoken by parents of whom their candle was lit in memory of, and to the ending that it was time to extinguish our candles because it was time for the next time zone to begin their ceremony. The glow of all the candles, the shared sorrow, the hugs and the tears brought us all together in unity in memory of our children. Our children were important and not forgotten on a night that was windy and slightly damp and the rest of the world, for us, stood still, as we remembered them and how they lit our lives with love, joy and dreams.
My eyes filled with tears as soon as I saw Centennial Park. My mind was filled with images of the last two times I'd been there: in '96 with James during the Olympics and in '97 with James and our French foreign exchange student. Now again I was at Centennial Park, and again with James, but with his memory of his life in my heart as he was spiritually at my side. My husband and I spoke quietly of these special times and how much we miss him in our lives. He has already begun to discuss what he can make for our memory candle, for next year's ceremony, to keep the wind from blowing out the flame!
I was also gratified that this event was covered by two television stations and that they aired their footage on the 10:00 and 11:00 news. Too often people (including friends and family) tend to forget and/or not speak of our beloved child; yet, we as parents, will never forget. To have recognition of this important ceremony on national coverage was important. To know that the flame of remembrance went around the world and a light was lit for the 24 hour period of Dec. 13, 1998 was so very special. All day long I thought about the different time zones and who was lighting their candle at that time and for whom.
Each difficult event has been yet another milestone for us and so does this day stand out as a very healing, very peaceful step along the grief journey we will travel forevermore.
Meg & Jim Avery, Sugar Hill, Ga In Memory of our son, James R. Avery, III 7/15/83 ~ 9/22/97
FIND THE TIME Most people "find the time" to pay their respects at the wake or visitation, or to attend the funeral, but seldom keep "finding the time" to stay in touch with bereaved friends. At the time of the death and for many months afterward, your companionship and thoughtful concern are very important! Since bereaved persons seldom call for help when they need a friend, make it your business to "find the time" and call on them.
RESPOND Bereaved persons need to be reassured that no matter if it has happened, or is yet to come, there are people who genuinely care for them, and who cared about the deceased. However, expressions that say "I understand" or attempt to explain "why" often carry unintentional assumptions that do more harm than good. As a rule, remember: A simple hug or handshake will show them that you care. They'll appreciate that you care. They'll appreciate a memory, if a short one you can share. But as much as any other thing you give a grieving friend, it's your patient gift of listening he'll remember in the end….by Bruce Conley
NEVER ASSUME…Never assume you can't make a difference. It was Longfellow who wrote, "Give what you have, to someone, it may be far greater than you dare think." The three most important things we have to give each other are our time, our undivided attention, and our unfailing love. The least important is our advice.
There once was a procession of children marching in Heaven.
Each one held a lighted candle.
As they marched, they sang. Their faces shone with happiness.
But one little child stood alone . . . .
Why don't you join us, one happy child asked.
"I can't," replied the child.
"Every time I light my candle, my mother puts it out with her tears."
From Dear Abbey, 1958
A very difficult area of functioning is coming to grips with the knowledge that there is absolutely no way of getting around holidays, despite you best efforts to avoid them. And they are horrendous times for many years. Their pain cannot be minimized. But they still must be faced.
One family trying to avoid Thanksgiving-which was the dead child's birthday as well-decided that family gatherings were no longer for them. They would travel or simply ignore the festivities. One day the mother came upon her ten year old daughter crying and asked what was wrong. She was sobbing, reported the mother, "All the children in school had told of their plans and make table decorations for the holiday and Lynn felt completely removed from her classmates. She cried that she was not only deprived of her brother who was dead, but she couldn't even have Thanksgiving dinner and a turkey!" I listened and held her in my arms and cried. They also mattered. That night I talked to my husband and we decided that, no matter how bleak and empty it would be, we would have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.
The family sat around the table, very quietly at first. The father said grace and thanked the Lord for a bountiful meal. When he was though, their ten year old said she had something to add. "I want to thank Mommy and Daddy for making this very special dinner for our family. And most of all I want to thank you God for having let us have my brother Eric for six years."
The mother who will never forget what her daughter said told me there was not a dry eye at the table for a few minutes. But gradually, as the meal progressed, they made an effort to discuss why the holiday was celebrated. From there, the parents told of amusing experiences at Thanksgiving dinners in their younger years. The mother said she planned to tell the stories to lighten the atmosphere just as carefully as she planned the menu. By the time the meal was over, the parents discovered what had been built up in their minds as unsurvivable had become just another turning point.
There will be many such turning points as you work your way forward. You have already survived what you were certain you could not live through-the death of your child. Turning points, plateaus, are merely steps in coping and nothing more. As you go through each holiday, each season, each happy/sad occasion, you will gain strength from having passed beyond yet another painful event.
Harriet Schiff, The Bereaved Parent
With trembling hands I struck the match
as the flame took hold and grew so bright,
I lit a candle in memory of ASHLEY MARIE SOCKWELL 1-31-78 - 10-22-96
In our Hearts forever...Barbara Sockwell - Snellville, Georgia,
For That I Am Thankful
It doesn't seem to get any
There are no more pictures
to be taken….
There is a missing chair at
The turkey is small…
The days are shorter…
The pain is still there….
The calendar still turns….
The room is still empty,
The guests still come,
The name is still missing,
The snow still falls,
The stillness remains…
The moment is gone….
Love was once (and still is)
I am living…
May your holidays be filled
with reasons to be thankful. Having loved and been loved is perhaps the
most wondrous reason of all.
Tie a Red Ribbon
One tradition we started last year was tying a big red ribbon around the tree in front of our house. This was our "Bryan" decoration. It was there to tell the world (or at least the little bit of it that drove down Morningside Drive) that we were thinking of our son. The neighbors, of course, asked us why we had hung this big red ribbon on our front tree. It was kind of an odd decoration, in kind of an odd location. Well, we explained it to one neighbor, and they explained it to another…and so on. Soon, many of the front trees on Morningside Drive were decorated with big red ribbons. It gave me a very heartwarming feeling to drive home each day and see these ribbons. They told me that the neighborhood was thinking about us, and thinking about Bryan.
Cindy Fisher - TCF, Cincinnati, OH
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)
Memory Candles /Special Poems
I lost my 19 year old son Brandon Michael Thomason on October 15, 1997. What I have done to include Brandon and his memory at Thanksgiving and Christmas....I have a very special candle holder that Brandon gave me Christmas of 96. I put a candle in it for the holidays and take it to the dinner table at Christmas and Thanksgiving. I have a collection of poems that I have collected since his death. I pick a special one for the holidays and read it before the meal with the candle lit and leave the candle lit all during the meal. I want his memory with me at these special times.
Please visit our online "Sharing Ideas for the Holidays" as it is updated almost daily.
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Comments from parents on the Sharing List:
I just wanted to take a moment to tell you what a wonderful job you're
doing. I really enjoy being on your mailing list pretty much more than
any other I belong to. I belong to a few e-mail support groups and don't
get me wrong, they're nice but sometimes I honestly don't feel up to participating.
I enjoy your list because it nearly always brings a smile and because I
don't feel obligated to post messages. It's this kind of passive help that
gets me by day to day and I just wanted
Some days, I am so depressed I don't know if I'm coming or going, and
I will read something you have sent, and it brightens my day.
I have received and enjoyed all of your e-mails. Though we have yet to meet face to face we are joined together by the same horrible fate. Lost and looking for someone to connect. Trying desperately to understand and to change this never ending cycle. Others outside this realm don't understand and don't want to be exposed as if we asked for any of this. Some will say just get on with your life. Others will say leave to the hereafter and still others can't bring it to themselves to open up because the pain has been almost unbearable.
Thank you for reaching out to help others that you have never seen their faces before nor heard their names but have heard their heartbroken cries and fear because it is also your own….Flonnace
"Friends Without Faces"
We sit and we type, and we stare at our screen
We chat with each other, we type all our woes
Soon friendships are formed - but - why we don't know,
Why is it on screen, we are so easily bold,
We can't tell real people, but tell someone we must
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