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From the Fall/Holiday 2006 issue of For Those Who Give and Grieve.

Does your family have any special rituals to honor your loved one during the holidays? Do you do anything special to remember their life and gifts? Have you changed any old family rituals, or added new ones?

Posted by: Layne Workman

Holidays are difficult, my son loved them all, but especially Christmas and Easter. We have lost two sons, at the dinner table for Christmas, I put a sprig or leaf from a plant in my yard that was their favorite. Easter I still cover each an egg with their names on it. This way they are with us on these special times.

Posted by: Pat Cape

Ways I honor and remember my loved one during the Holidays and on his Birthday:

Holiday: - I light a candle by one of his photos on Christmas day. I give cash gifts to close friends and special cousins in his memory. I purchase a light on a local community Christmas tree in his memory.

Birthday: - I give gifts or cash to some of his former classmates, step-sisters, and to some of his cousins in his memory. I buy a decorated birthday cake and have my family and close friends over for a meal.

Death Anniversary - I shoot fireworks off on his grave. (He died July 6th.) I take the day off from work. I put a memorial in our local newspaper. I spend the day with my mother and a quiet evening with my spouse. So far this has been the hardest of the hardest days....I seem to think about his accident and play it over and over and over again in my mind. I give myself permission to not exercise that day, too.

Does our family have any special rituals to honor him during the holidays?
We always pray before the meal and mention his name.

Do we do anything special to remember his life and gifts?
I put "Donate Life" stickers on almost all cards and letters I mail. I have a "Donate Life" MySon1 license plate. My mother has a "Donate Life" 4Jake license plate. I have a "Donate Life" green plastic decal on the back side of my car. Whenever I put the memorial in our local newspaper on his death anniversary, I always include that he was an eye, bone, organ, & tissue donor.

Have we changed any old family rituals, or added new ones?
When he was alive we opened our Christmas gifts on Christmas morning. Now we open them on Christmas Eve night. I make it a point to remember to say "I love you" almost every time when I part from my family members and spouse.

Posted by: Kelly DeLine

When it comes to surviving the holidays and other special days I have found that anticipating these special days can be a good coping strategy. I do not mean just sitting around and feeling anxious, although I am certainly quite familiar with doing that. Instead, I am talking about thinking about the special day or holiday a few weeks in advance and figuring out what would could possibly make that day bearable for you. Perhaps, self-caring would be a better name for it. With fore thought you can plan to take care of yourself on that day as you remember and miss your loved one.

Sometimes the answer for how to spend the day was not found easily, and other times an idea would pop into my head. When I have an immediate emotional reaction to thinking about the special day, I know it will take me a while to figure out what will feel "right" for me. I have found it helpful to think about where I want to be- at home, at the beach, some place far away; who I want to be with- alone, my daughter, family, or friends and then, what I want to do- be spontaneous, plan an activity, etc. Ask your friends and family for what you need. When people ask what they can do, let them know what you have in mind. Writing in a journal can be a helpful way to record these ideas. Sometimes it is hard to remember that idea you had the other day. Recording it in a journal can help to keep it fresh.

All your well wishing friends and family members may "know" just what you need. I have found that listening and saying "Thanks. I'll let you know when I figure it out" or "I just don't know yet" are okay responses to their ideas. Appreciate their thoughts and wishes to help, but don't feel obligated to go along with plans that don't feel right to you. Take care of yourself.

Once I have arrived at some idea of my choice for the day, I have invited my daughter to do the same. When she has made her choices known then we sit down together and try to make a day that can meet both of our desires. If that's not possible then there may be a way you can each follow your own plan. Remember, just as there are no right or wrong ways to grieve, there are no rules you have to follow on those tough days as well. It's okay to spend time apart from your family if you have different needs.

One of the ways we have marked birthdays is with memory meals. This is where we prepare Jennifer's favorite foods even if it results in a "different" combination of items. There is no rule against waffles and clam chowder for dinner! Olives and chick peas can go with just about anything, and spinach balls are nutritious any time of the day! We have found it comforting to share stories about her while we eat her favorite foods. Sometimes it is just immediate family for this meal. Other years we have included friends. Jennifer loved coffee and one year I asked everyone to think of her as they had their morning cup of coffee.

On the second anniversary of Jenn's death we started a tradition of volunteering at a soup kitchen. Jennifer had always wanted to serve a meal there, so now we give our time to honor her memory and help her legacy to continue. Not only does it help us to feel close to Jenn, it helps others while it lifts our spirits. Some day I may ask others to volunteer a day helping others in honor of her life.

Of course when dealing with these special and difficult days, remember you can always change your plans if something doesn't feel right when the day arrives. Handling yourself with gentleness and understanding- even when you may not understand why you are sad, mad, tired, etc will lead the way in showing others how to help you as well.

One last word of caution, just because something felt right one holiday or birthday it may not be the right plan the next year. Take the time each year to decide what will bring you comfort and then try to make it happen. You've grown and changed and so has your grief. Take inventory with yourself and develop a new plan to care for yourself.

When the day is done, return to your journal once more and put your thoughts and feelings on paper. Write a list of things you want to remember for the next time that special day comes around. And remember, these days are difficult. You are doing the best that you can.

Posted by: Lorraine Tierney

I don't have any set rituals that I do to remember my son. You never forget, they are with you all the time. I do buy special ornaments for the Christmas tree for him. I buy the extra food bags at the supermarkets for the needy. I also pick a name off the Giving Trees that you see in the malls or supermarkets for needy children. I try to buy everything on their list. This is my gift to my son or from my son. I feel that I have filled that void temporarliy. The best is just follow your heart. Your heart will guide you to what you need to do to help you heal. I will never be the same person I was, I hope that I am becoming a better person because of the loss of my son.

Posted by: D. Sue Logan

My husband, Michael A. Cooper, was killed in an automobile accident on May 14, 2003. He was 58 at the time. Life is never the same without our loved ones. We shared over 40 years together as a couple.

His memory is kept alive in our family in many ways. Each year at Christmas a white poinsettia is put in memory of him in our church. At Easter, an Easter lily is placed in memory of Mike.

Each year on his birthday, yellow roses and yellow day lilies are placed in his memory in church. These were his favorite flowers. He would so enjoy this! Of course, the house is full of photos of him and wonderful memories.

At our home, I have planted a garden in his memory. The garden is outside of my kitchen window. I also laid a short brick sidewalk from bricks which he had collected from around the farm. Mike would be so proud of this garden. I have a stone placed in the center which has inscribed his name and dates of his life. It is wonderful because I can enjoy the garden in all seasons.

Posted by: Louise D. Cooper

Stephanie was born on Thanksgiving Eve in 1986. So her first Thanksgiving she spent in intensive care & my husband & I eating hospital turkey. The 2nd Thanksgiving we were very thankful for all our blessings because Stephanie was thriving. Before the next Thanksgiving Stephanie had passed & the entire family was avoiding Thanksgiving Day like the plague! I decided that the only way to get through the day was to be together, so I invited everyone to our house & we celebrated Thanksgiving in Stephanie's memory. Every year since we have all gathered together to celebrate the day. There have been more passings in our family over the 8 years but still we know we can get through & the holidays are the specials days we have to make special memories to leave behind after we are gone!

Every year on Stephanie's birthday & anniversary I always make a donation to the church in her name. I also try to do things throughout the year in her memory. Even though we only had her a short time I want her legacy to outlive me!

Posted by: Patty Smith

When my daughter died, her cousin wrote a poem called "She shines". We started collecting anything that related to stars and angels.

At Christmas. because of so many wonderful gifts of stars and angels we have an entire tree decorated with that theme. I also send out Christmas cards that have one of those two themes on them. It gives me comfort to be able to include her memory in the holiday.
Regardless of what family member's house we celebrate the holiday at, they include a centerpiece, or garland with stars as a quiet reminder that they remember..

We did add one ritual. We go to her grave on Christmas eve and the eve of her birthday and light a candle on her grave.

We also created a scholarship in her name that is given to a graduating high school student every spring. It is a joy just to hear her name said out loud when the scholarship is presented.

Posted by: Patti Norquist

Where should I begin. Tyler Joseph Cody, our precious son, died very
unexpectedly on September 25, 1997 due to injuries sustained in an auto accident
while going for a ride with his babysitters. He was almost 5 years old.

One of the most important things to us was that we wanted everyone to know
that Tyler existed on this earth, even if it was for only a short time, and what
a special little boy he was and how he gave the ultimate gift, "The Gift of

The first and most important thing we did as family was that we talked and
talked and talked about Tyler and the accident and how we were feeling each day
during our grief. We also sought the help of grief counselors and read and
read and read, anything and everything we could about grief and other families
who were also burdened with the loss of a child.

We have a picture of Tyler in every room of our house. We were given many
keepsakes such a angels, poems, stuffed animals, that we keep in an area in the
house that is always in plain sight for us or any friends or relatives that
might come over to visit.

We have a cedar chest which holds many of his precious items that he had as a
small child that were important to him or memorable to us as a family. All
of the sympathy cards and his Preschool papers are in the chest as well as
small toys or keepsakes are kept in the chest in our bedroom. Many special
pictures of him are on the top of the chest.

His preschool class planted a tree in his memory at the YMCA the first year
after he died. It remains at the Y and is growing every year and providing a
beautiful tribute to him. We also built a playground at the YMCA for 4-6
year old with a Farm Theme in mind which is what Tyler had said he would like to
grow up and be a "farmer". It is complete with a gutless John Deere tractor
that the kids can climb all over without getting hurt, a trike track for small
John Deere trikes, a blue farm house for the girls to play dolls in, and a
red look alike barn to store the trikes in. It also holds a huge rock with his
picture and a plaque describing him and the ultimate gift that he gave in his
short time here, "The Gift of Life".

We also planted a tree at our house and continue to put little white lights
on it as a sign of help. It grows about a foot every year, but gives us
comfort as we look out in the mornings or evenings and think about him continuously.

Every year we would try and do something to remember him such as go to the
Transplant Games. I went to Ohio and then to Minneapolis and treasured every
minute of the games. We have also started a candle lighting ceremony through
the Compassionate Friends to remember our children every year on the second
Sunday night in December at 7 p.m. worldwide by lighting a candle for them.

We have attended weekend retreats regarding grief through the Compassionate
Friends which gives a chance to reflect with other parents about our child and
theirs. We all seem to comfort each other by sharing each others pain and
memories of their child without feeling uncomfortable.

For Christmas we have a special little tree for Tyler that we decorate every
year. It has special ornaments that were given to him and some that we have
purchased to put on it in Memory of him. On holidays we always light a candle
to remember him and others in our family that have left us for bigger and
better things.

Last but not least this spring we dedicated a stained glass window at our
church, which we have been donating to for a very long time, in memory of Tyler.
It depicts Jesus with the Children with a lamb and is absolutely

Posted by: Jacolyn K. Cody

During the holidays, we light a candle in honor of Chad.

Every anniversary day of the death we do good deeds in his name. Last year we walked a neighbors dog because Chad loved animals. We took flowers to a elderly neighbor because Chad loved his grandparents. We played video games and laughed because Chad loved doing that. Each year we come up with creative ways to implement the good things he gave to the world when he was alive. We carry on those 'good things' for him.

Posted by: Carolyn Moor

One of the things I do to remember our daughter, Amanda, is to put flowers on her grave for holidays and on her birthday. Just making sure her grave is marked with flowers during a time that we are especially missing her gives comfort. Our hope is now and has always been that she is with Jesus now and we will be together again some day. Our faith in God continues to sustain us and give us hope even in the darkest days. Our church family is especially supportive.

I believe our participation with Team Oklahoma is a big factor in encouraging us. Watching our athletes compete as well as socializing with them makes me realize that we did the right thing in choosing donation. Even though they are not direct recipients of Amanda's organs and tissues, they are "our recipients" in that we have "adopted" each other. I enjoy watching them and listening to their stories. It is truly amazing to know that many of them were "one step from death" when they received a transplant.

Posted by: Cheryl Manley

My son Christopher has been gone three years on December 16, 2006. Our family decided that something beautiful could result from something so tragic, and so we chose to donate his organs. It is still hard to talk about him without at least one of us getting emotional, although, we think, and talk of him often.

My daughters and I have signed up for the newsletter, that has given us insight into other ways of dealing with our grief.

My daughters make sure that every Christmas, I have a new ornament to put on Chris' tree. Ones that have his name on them, or ones that have a special memory for one or all of us.

The most comforting, is that since the Spring of 2004, we have all noticed that "Butterflies" tend to spend a lot of time in our yards. We have had butterflies that show up unexpectedly at just the "right" times! I started a Butterfly Garden this summer, that has Butterfly bushes and a variety of beautiful flowers. I also included a solar light so I can see at night. For Mother's Day this year, my daughters gave me things to add to my garden. My next addition will be a bench to be able to sit on while we visit. Our butterfly visitors have been everything from a tiny white, simple butterfly, to a three inch monarch. These butterflies actually land on us, and just give us a comforting feeling!

A tradition has truly begun in this garden. I think that as the years pass by, it will keep Chris' memory alive in our hearts, as well as my own backyard.

Chris, we miss you tremendously, and hope that you will keep sending your butterflies, because like you, they are a true work of art!

Posted by: Julie Walker

After my husband Jeff died, I needed to fill a void during the Holidays that seemed to ache more than the regular hurt of loss. I invested in a custom made oil lamp that I put in the center of the room and I light it. Over the years, people have given me angel statues that I now parade around the lamp. It helps me to feel as if he is here with me and looking after me. I also have a special ornament that I bought the first year that I put on the tree in his memory. It sits at the front of the tree and all its qualities are reminders of past Holidays with him here and the simple pleasures of days gone past.

Jeff died exactly one month before our first wedding anniversary. So between these two dates I always make a special shopping trip to buy a silk rose, just one. Every year, I have added to the bouquet, which sits centrally located in my living room. This is just a simple reminder of the incredible love we shared and how short life can be, yet what a wonderful gift his was.

Having traditions that remind me of Jeff and honoring him has helped through out the years. I am honored that he was able to help so many people through the gift of organ donation. Holidays can be tough, but new traditions and rituals help to alleviate those hurts.

Posted by: Lori Lammert-Arndt

Making a Birthday cake each year for our daughters Birthday.

Including her on all occasions such as creating Christmas ornaments for our tree, some with her picture or name on them, a stocking hung with her name.

Others leaving notes for Michelle on her Birthday and Angelversary as well as at Christmastime.

Signing Michelles name to our Christmas cards every year.

Attending annual ceremonies to honor our child for giving the gift of life.

Planting a Garden for Michelle and buying plants throughout the year that remind me of her.

Posted by: CindyJo Greever

Ideas to remember loved one on holidays:

1) Set a plate for your loved one at the dinner table. I even put food on it.

2) Buy an ornament of your loved ones favorite character, hobby, etc and add to your tree each year.

3) Light a candle on the holidays. (I also light sage which is a Native American Tradition)

4) Play your loved ones favorite music.

5) Make Easter basket ( I then take it to the cemetery)

6) Buy something for your loved one for Christmas but give it to someone in need.

7) Don't make the traditional meal, make your loved ones favorite meal.

8) Make a birthday cake and sing Happy Birthday to your loved one.

These are a few of my own personal things I have done.

Posted by: Cheryl Monette

In memory of Patrick, I formed a team to help raise money for the Alabama Kidney Foundation’s annual Walk-A-Thon. Each year we’ve surpassed the amount raised the previous year. Our team came in as the 5th highest fund raiser in 2006, our third year to participate in this event.

As a family, we visit the cemetery on special days (Patrick’s birthday, St. Patrick’s Day, the 4th of July, the anniversary of his passing and Christmas). We take a plant or a small keepsake and leave it at the grave site for him. It’s often amazing to find other small trinkets already there that let us know others have remembered him on these special days as well. We have a mass said in memory of Patrick on the anniversary of his passing.

We attend the annual AOC organ donation picnic with our extended family to bond with our new family members, his organ recipients, and their extended family.

Posted by: Rosalind Hood

Our daughter and only child Donella died at the age of 34 as the result of a massive brain aneuorysm the day before Valentine's Day, 2001. She was a divorced mom with an 8 years old son. Tanner is now almost 14 and each Christmas we enjoy making homemade ice cream together. It was one of the last things we did the Christmas before our daughter's death. On her birthday we put balloons and flowers on her grave (she loved gardening), during the summer we keep a wind chime with such lovely music (she had a lovely singing voice), and all summer we keep the planter of flowers blooming next to Tanner's "MOM" wreath, at Christmas each year we place a beautiful wreath. We are greatful for having met Caron the recipient of her pancreas. A wonderful experience and a wonderful, loving recipient. God has blessed us even through our grief and sadness. June Van Asch, South Dakota

Posted by: June Van Asch

Debi was a charming and beautiful 38 year old when we lost her. She was proud to be an organ donor and as her family we were proud of that fact as well. My biggest fear is that we will forget that beautiful smile, charming laugh and the constant desire to keep everyone happy. So, since Debi was born on the 9th of March and passed on the 9th of November, we celebrate her every month on the 9th. It is a simple but meaningful celebration, we eat "tacos". Debi's favorite food was of course "tacos", not just any tacos, but from her favorite, Jimboys Tacos. So if we don't go there, we fix them just like Jimboys. I have read many posts and admire those who have started fun raisers and other ways to honor their loved ones, but "tacos" will always symbolize our DEBI.

To add another note, I have not heard from any of her recipients and long for a word. Only to know that her sacrifice and our loss has brought life to others. I loved the story about the father and son who were able to hear the heart beat of their lost loved one.

Posted by: Pam Ginsburg

Something that really helped me when my 36 yr. old daughter died was a paperback book entitled "Healing After Loss" by Martha Whitmore Hickman. I read this book daily (sometimes more than once a day) and found it helpful -- made me feel not so alone.

I've learned to cope during holidays by establishing new customs but always remembering Kim by talking about her and lighting a candle in her memory. Compassionate Friends was a help as well as a grief counselor that I saw 2-3 times a week for a year. I think I would have died if I had not been able to vent..

I also had a bench put at a local lake that is in her memory. I called her "my sweet girl" and I still miss her so every day... I take my now 5 yr. old grandson to sit on 'Mommy's bench" when he visits. He was 18 mos. old when she died unexpectedly.

I know indirectly that her organs were given to people who have done well and for that I am happy. I do wish that the organ donation people would recognize that a parent is just as important as a spouse though and be more forthcoming with information.

Posted by: Judy Moreno

Tammy was 28 years old and teaching first grade at
Lakemont Elementary School in Winter Park, Florida
when she suddenly of bacterial meningitis.

Tammy loved to read and had quite an extensive collection
of books--all kind of authors and a wide variety of kinds of books. Anyway, I couldn't stand to do anything with them right now so I purchased bookplates that said, "From the library of: Tammy G. Fletcher

2/7/1975 - 1/9/2004"

We set up all of her bookcases in our downstairs and made a "library" of her books. Anyone can borrow them
and if anyone wants one to keep, we will let them. There are over 900 books of all kinds. About 100 of them are children's books that she had when she was a child and/or books she bought to read to her niece and nephew and to use in her classroom.

All three of our daughters have this thing about wanting to alphabetize books, CDs. videos, DVDs, etc. Tammy had her books in alphabetical order by author or by title of book. Alphabetical order by author if she had read the book and alphabetical order by title if she had not read it. Anyway, her older sister put all the books in alphabetical order by author, in honor of Tammy.

We still have her CDs, videos and DVDs to do.

We gave a child's story book to every child that Tammy
had taught in the first grade that year. We had bookplates made with her
picture on it and put in each
book. We also donated books to the school library in
her name. Lakemont Elementary School planted a tree in their playground in honor of Tammy. This was on done at a ceremony in
March, two months after she died.

Posted by: Nancy Fletcher

As my husband, Jim, was killed 5 days before we celebrated our first Christmas, this has always been a very emotional time for my family. Jim had bought me a couple of the Snowbabies figurines an hour or so before his death. So, for the first Christmas, my sister purchased a Snowbabies ornament entitled, "The Brightest Star!" I have continued the tradition to purchase a personal ornament each Christmas in honor of Jim. I have, also, chosen to give his daughter from his previous marriage, something that symbolizes her father as a favorite tie, scarf, book, trophy, etc. of his at this time of the year. She has expressed how special this has made her feel.

I am fortunate to be able to celebrate the Christmas holiday with the recipient family of my husband's kidney each year since we met. We get together and share gifts, celebrating life and remembering the gift my husband provided, as well as the feeling I get from being a part of their extended family.

In addition, I have chosen to celebrate Jim's birthday, our anniversary, and the day he was killed (December 20) these past 10 years, by planning something special in which I honor him and his presence in my life. One year, my girlfriend and I traveled to Sedona, Arizona, where Jim and I had lit a candle at a The Chapel of the Holy Cross months before he was killed, in honor of our upcoming marriage. We returned to the chapel to light a candle in honor of Jim and to seek guidance in my journey forward without him. Each year these new activities comfort me in validating my husband and the feeling of being loved by him for being the person I was in his life.

Posted by: Jan Frye Hill

My daughter died on December 23rd. Christmas is quite different now in my families lives. We have learned how to be sad when we need to and joyful when we can. It is a reality that we are not the same people anymore so we don't try to pretend for the world that the holidays are the same. 10 years later we put our daughters portrait on the fireplace mantle and decorate around her. Her stocking hangs with the rest of ours and every Christmas St. Nick leaves a teddy bear in her stocking. My other kids love to see what she got every year!

Since we live in the Northeast we don't visit her grave as often in the winter because it's cold and bleak. I decided to get peach colored roses once a month and have them in the house. Peach roses always remind me of my daughter..So in winter I look at beautiful flowers everyday instead of going to a cold place.

Posted by: Patricia Morrison

Our grief journey and what we have done for comfort/hope: Our family has planted a tree that we gather under for picnics, story-telling and hugs/tears shared to make us all feel better. We meet at the cemetary on Tiffany's birthday and anniversay of her accident to bring balloons. In the beginning, we had a jar at the cemetary so we could leave notes. Now, we keep journals and search for new stories and jokes that Tiffany did or was in on. What gives us hope is knowing that even after almost 11 years (as of Sept. 5th), her heart still beats, her kidneys and liver still function. One of the greatest comforts through the years has been that knowledge that her ulimate gift lives on. The most important thing we have done through the years is to always mention her name in casual conversation, always feeling free to say something about her and keep her a living part of our lives.

Holidays: We always hang her stocking with all the others, later donating what we put in it to a charity. We make sure that as my grandchildren age, they hear stories of Tiffany and that besides Christmas, Easter was her favorite.

We are grateful for the chance to have donated Tiffany Accardi's organs, grateful for the sixteen years we had with her and grateful for the continuing support of Translife and all Tiffany's family and friends.

Posted by: Billie Lomonaco, Tiffany's mother

I have a daughter, son-in-law and four grandchildren. For Christmas each year, we all buy an ornament for "Poppy". Poppy drove a truck, like to fish and loved the Philadelphia Eagles. So we buy an ornament that reminds us of Poppy. So on our Christmas tree, you will see Santa in a truck, Santa with a fishing pole, an few Eagle ornaments and many angel ornaments.

Posted by: Diane Milbourne

Our family honors our son Noah's memory throughout the year but his birthday is October 30 so on Halloween we decorate the front of our house as Noah's Pumpkin Patch. It is a very kid friendly display since Noah was only 2 1/2 years old when he died. He really did not like the scary part of Halloween . So every Fall we look forward to Noah's Pumpkin Patch. There is never a holiday that you do not remember the loss of your loved one. We are Jewish so on Hanukkah we light a separate Menorah for Noah and my family is not, the first year after Noah died, we gave out to all of our close friends and family members that celebrated Christmas a Noah's Ark Glass ornament to hang on their trees, everyone was really touched by that gift. Now every year at Christmas he will be honored and remembered by all of are Friends and Family.

Posted by: Gabi Tidhar

Because of our jobs, national holidays were not a big deal to us. We celebrated our anniversary and our birthdays by going camping and fishing and I still try to do those things then. When you are busy, even those days can get by unnoticed soon.

Posted by: Donna Tope

Our 19 year-old son Michael was killed 8 years ago the week before Christmas. While there certainly is never a good time to lose a child, the holidays became very difficult. They are a a mixture of joy and celebration with the loving family that surrounds us, and sorrow and remembrance of our son who is not. The year following his death, we began a tradition of having an "Anniversary Mass" said in the small chapel at our parish on a Saturday morning in December. This allowed us a more private, quiet time to pray and remember. We then have breakfast for everyone at our home, and we look at photographs and tell stories. I purchase a large wreath with a single red bow, which we in turn decorate with smaller red bows signed by Mike's family and friends. It is a small thing, but everyone seems to draw comfort from signing their bows. We then place the wreath at the cemetery as our holiday remembrance.

Posted by: Donna Geffen

The way we Honor Our Son Kenneth Mark Leeds 3rd. Is First by when a
Special Holiday or Just a Day when We feel lonely We have made a Website to Honor his life and just to remember all the people he touched. You can lite a candle or pay a tribute or just read how a Special 9yr. old he was it makes the pain alittle easier to handle. And knowing he still lives on thru other people makes me know just how important his life was.

Posted by: Donna Cheesman

Last year was our first Christmas without our daughter Grace, who was 18 when she died. For many years my extended family gathered at the grandparent's home, with the last child/grandchild to arrive placing the little blue bell on the tree. Grace complained because we always got there early to help, so she never got to put the bell on the tree. Last year my mother put the bell on the tree, saying the tradition has changed. The bell will always be the first ornament on the tree, Grace's bell, because she was the first to arrive at our eternal home and would be there to greet us.

Our tradition of all the women and girls lining up by height also stopped. Even though some of the children were now taller and had "moved up the line", no one wanted to see the empty space where our tall model once stood.

We did get out pictures from previous Christmases and look at them, remembering all the happy times as well.

Posted by: Lisa Lovegrove

Over the years we have implemented several “quiet rituals” to remember him during special times.
I bake his favorite cake on his birthday and share it with family, friends and co-workers. At Thanksgiving and Christmas, we set our table with a special candle in the center piece and light it in remembrance of him. For both his birthday and Christmas, I donate the money which I would have spent on his gift to a charitable organization or participate in the local “angel tree” program.

Posted by: Diedra (Dee) Thompson

Balloon Remembrance

One thing my husband and I did on the first anniversary of our son's death was plan a trip to the cemetery with flowers. A friend told me of an activity that we also did. We not only took flowers, but we took a helium filled, fairly large balloon that had "love" written on it. I had the store tie several long ribbons on the bottom of the balloon. I also took scissors with me. It was a clear, brisk January day with the sun shining when we arrived at the cemetery. We also took our dog, Willie. We all stood by our son's grave, held the balloon in the air and each said a few words and prayers. Then we cut all the ribbons leaving one long strand of ribbon. This act signified cutting our ties with our son and letting him go to heaven. The long ribbon we left represented our unending and undying love for him. We let the balloon go. A slight wind came up and so gently carried the beautiful balloon up into the sky. It moved slowly in the wind, missed all the trees and rose until we could not longer see it. Our dog sat by our side and we watched in amazement. For us it was a freeing moment to let him be with God. We continue to miss him, think of him often and have mourned his loss. This activity helped us move on with our grief. I have also been thankful for my friend sharing this with me and hope to pass it on to help someone else.

Posted by: Fred and Jeanne Mills

We celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, Halloween and other traditional holidays...We did do a few things differently obviously this past year..We've only been through each holiday once w/o my I can't give you a vast amount of info about this..but I can tell you what we did.

For Halloween for instance..I carved a jack-o-lantern w/Derrick's name, year of birth and year of death and placed it on my porch for trick or treaters to see. It was beautiful... it turned out really well...all the neighborhood kids loved it..and I know Derrick would have loved it because he had asked me several times to do this when he was alive and I didn't think I could..but I did it..He loved watching me carve the pumpkins...and he was my "judge" as to whether I should put them out or not...

For Thanksgiving, we left the place where he usually sat at my mother's table to Thanksgiving dinner vacant and we had a plate there turned over with a candle lit in his honor. My mom fixed his a few of his fave things...Mashed potatoes and steamed cabbage.

For Christmas...I brought several ornaments and put his pic in them to hang on the tree...we placed and decorated a small tree that we put at his gravesite..he liked Christmas decorating and his tree had battery operated lights on it..and he had a solar powered snowman light there also... I surrounded myself w/him by remembering and watching a few holiday videos. What a blessing. Now I don't know if I will do the same things this year..but I bet it won't be much different.

Posted by: Sherry Ellis-Freeman

Our son Skipper became an organ donor at 11 months when he was shaken by his daycare provider. This was right after Thanksgiving, 3 weeks before his first birthday, which should have been Dec 24, 2000. The holiday season is difficult for us. Really, the anniversary period starts with Halloween and our memories of him dressed in a duck costume. Thanksgiving Day he performed for the family, really taking off on his own two legs for the first time. And then days later he was on life support with tubes and machines and no hope of recovery. Those memories just fill our days come the holidays. Now we have the balancing act of our second son, born after Skipper died. He's 4 now and he deserves to have holiday memories, so we can't just skip over that time of year.

One thing I have found helps me is take the time to commemorate his birthday. Skipper was just learning how to walk and one of the toys he held to help him balance was a very small beach ball. It was only 6" or 7" and just under inflated so that it was easy for him to grasp. I buy two dozen every year and gift wrap them in Happy Birthday paper. I attach a note congratulating parents on the birth of their baby. I explain the gift was his favorite toy as a baby. Nowhere do I mention that he died or even hint at it. I don't want to make any new parent feel jinxed by the accepting the gift. It's just to celebrate that their baby was born the same day as ours. I take them to the hospital where he was born and the nurses give them out to all the babies born starting Dec 24. It's all anonymous.

For my extended family, to ensure they don't forget or think that we have, I bake cupcakes. We leave a cupcake at his grave on his birthday as well, and then I package up the remaining ones for the various family members we spend Christmas with. I just let them know the containers are at the back door for them to take with them as they leave. I suppose it's a passive/aggressive move on my part. Otherwise they'd spend the day not mentioning him. Now if that happens, I don't have to resent it. I know they take those cupcakes home, I'm sure that if they eat them they are aware of him with every bite. And if they don't, they throw them out just as aware of him.

As for how do I survive my continuing journey of grief...a few ways. We have an organization in his name that works to prevent Shaken Baby Syndrome. We've accomplished a great deal. This helps my husband especially, this is his way of coping. For me, sometimes I have to back off, especially during the holiday/anniversary period. I continue to go to counseling. And I have found an online support group of other families effected by shakings. They are a wonderful group that has helped me keep my sanity.

It's still very hard when I meet someone new. I always feel a little on edge. Trying to decide whether or not to tell them. It involves weighing the burgeoning friendship. Will this person continue in my life beyond the casual pass-in- the-hallway type comments. If so, when do I tell them and how. And almost always it ends a conversation, brings tears to their eyes, leaves me trying to make them feel alright. Most times though I tell. I have decided being upfront with others is the most fair way to treat them.

I don't know if any of this helps.

Peggy Whalen

Posted by:

Our son was 29 and oldest of seven children when he died in an auto crash and donated his organs. His birthday was Nov 22. We now had one less birthday to celebrate in our family, but his birthday could not be forgotten. So we changed the date to "Parents Day" in our family to commemorate that our firstborn son made us parents for the first time. Our remaining six children do not forget and send us Happy Parent's Day greetings on Nov 22. That day gave us great joy many years ago and in this way, we continue to keep it that way.

Posted by: Kevin & Phyllis Cogan

When I first lost my daughter, Beth, I kept a journal and wrote to her every day. It was a way to express my anger, sadness and love for her. I slowly stopped writing as the reality set in that she's not going to walk through the door any more. Beth was only 18 when she died in an auto accident on June 15, 1999. For Christmas that year, I made each family member and all of her friends decorative ceramic angel wings to hang on their Christmas trees every year in her memory. On each was a ribbon with a small bell at the end of it. I glued her picture on the ribbon and glued a banner across the top that read, "Beth, you earned your wings". All of our extended family gathers every year at my Aunt's home to have dinner and exchange gifts. Every year, my Aunt Pat gets out a white teddy bear she bought with Beth's name on it. She announces to everyone that Beth is still part of the ceremony as we call out names for gifts. It's been 7 years and she is always brought up in conversation. That has been the most helpful thing to me. You always worry that everyone will forget she ever existed. My family makes fun at some of the things she did and we all laugh. I told them it was the best medicine and to never be afraid to talk about her.

In addition, Beth had proclaimed herself an organ donor just 6 mos. prior to her death when she renewed her drivers license. I never thought I would have to make that decision. However, knowing it was her wish, it was less painful to decide. What kept me going that first year was my never ending drive to contact all of her organ recipients. I needed to know she didn't die in vain. I was fortunate enough to have met or corresponded with all but two. It was the most comforting feeling I ever experienced. They were so grateful but also sad for me because they know Beth had to die so that they could live. I told them nothing was going to bring Beth back and she left all of us with the most beautiful gift anyone could give.

Beth was such a women's libber and athlete, it was ironic that her heart went to a man who lived just minutes from the accident scene. I raised her not to be prejudiced against others and therefore, when her liver went to a Hispanic mother of two(one the same age as Beth), one of her kidney's to an African American mother of two daughters (one the same age as Beth) and both of her lungs and pancreas to three different caucasion women, I was so proud. I would receive yellow roses on Mothers Day every year from her heart recipient because I told him they were her favorite flowers. I received calls on Thanksgiving from some of them because they just wanted to say thank you. And I was always remembered on the day of their transplants with cards or calls of thanks. It was the most rewarding experience of my life. I'm so glad I was persistent in making contact with them. I'm sure they feel the same way because I made them feel so comfortable.

Beth's birthday is the hardest day of all for me. Every mother always remembers the birth of their first born child. I still have difficulty getting through the day, so this year, I hired a limousine and took the entire staff to a restaurant for lunch and then to Clearwater Beach. I gave each person a yellow rose and we toasted to Beth with champagne. I shared a memory album I made with them and they were so supportive. I was new to the area and didn't have any new friends yet. I was finally able to move away from Baltimore to Florida in Sept. 2005. It took me 6 years after her death to be able to separate myself.

Teresa Colburn Bird

Mother to Beth Gontasz

Posted by: Teresa Colburn Bird

The year after my sister died we sent out a Christmas letter and asked that people email us or send us a letter of memories they had of my sister. Then, as they would come in we put them in a stocking, then on Christmas we read them. Now, we have put them in a memory book. This really helped the grieving process and helped us to honor her in a special way.

Posted by: Raenelle

A friend of mine made my son a blanket out of my husbands old shirts and someone else it making my daughter a pillow out of a dress my husband bought her for christmas the year he died. We send balloons to heaven on every occasion.
Helen Gregory Spotsylvania Virginia, husband ALbert "Buddy" Gregory II 08-22-72 to 11-21-01

Posted by: Helen Gregory

I lost my daughter, Jennifer, on December 18, 1997. Shortly thereafter I
joined The Compassionate Friends. Although, I no longer attend their
bi-weekly meetings, I do participate in the functions that are dedicated to
all deceased children. At Christmas time, even though I do not celebrate
the holiday anymore, we have a "holiday" dinner in memory of our children.
In August, we have a memorial picnic, and in September, we have a memorial
walk. There is a brunch and special balloon launch in June, which you can
do privately with family and friends on birthdays and/or your loved one's
passing date. Also, we have a candle lighting ceremony the second Sunday
in December at 7:00 p.m. around the world, which can be done in the privacy
of your own home, with or without family, friends, etc. We started a
scholorship fund for graduating seniors at the high school where my
daughter taught music. These are some of the things that I do to keep my
daughter's memory alive. Hope it helps someone!

Posted by: Patricia Oines

Hi, My name is Terri Zubia. My son Joseph was hit by a car on December 8th, 1997. He was 8 years old. As you can probably guess, Christmas is not the happiest time of year for us any more.
We had Joseph cremated instead of buried. We brought him home in a beautiful mahogany box with praying hands etched on the front. This has enabled us to have him with us for every Holiday. No matter where we may go.

As for his Birthday, every year we send him a bouquet of balloons. On the first birthday without him I invited family and friends over. We let go 300 balloons. He would now be 17 and I now send one for every year he would have been.

Posted by: Terri Zubia

I lost my Dad on February 1, 2005. It has been very difficult because I feel empty like a part of me is missing. I have to be strong for my children though. Adrian is 8 and Avery is 5, and they loved their papaw so much. Our family has several rituals that we do throughout the year in memory of my wonderful Dad. On Valentine's Day we meet at the cemetery with red and white balloons, and with our Valentine's tied to the strings we let the balloons go up to heaven. On Father's Day we purchase Father's Day balloons, and tie our cards to them as well. Sometimes we include pictures of my kids to send also. The balloon idea is something that my kids can relate to and it makes them happy to send the balloons and gifts up to heaven. During the Christmas season, the funeral home that we used for my Dad's service hang up wreaths outside their business with the names of people that had past away that year. The family then buys a sentimental ornament to hang on the wreath in their memory. The funeral home also has a memorial service for those; like us, that have lost someone they love and help others try to cope with it during the holidays.

Posted by: Laura Winterton

During the Christmas Holidays, I place a small wreath at the spot
near where my son was hit while bicycling.

Posted by: Steve Gardner

I try every year to get them a card for all the imporant holidays that we would get together for (Christmas, Mothers & Fathers Day, etc...)

How I honor my parents during the holiday season is...

Every Christmas the whole family myself and my family, my sisters and their family, and my parents would get together every year to exchange gifts. I started back about 10 or so years getting my parents a Christmas Ornament that had all the grandkids ( 7 grandkids) on it. I would go every year at my local mall and pick one out and get the grandkids written on them.

Even though both of my parents are gone, I still to this day go get the Christmas ornament and stick it on my tree. It is hard to do, but I know in my heart that they are there with me when I stick it in the tree.

On their anniversary of their passing, I try and get down to the grave site. They are buried in Delaware and I am in Baltimore. My father died on Fathers Day morning and my mother on her birthday. I either get down on Fathers Day or Mothers Day and visit the grave site. If I can not make it, I will go into my room and talk to my parents.

It is very hard to have someone you love pass but as I have told people in the past, you need to remember the good times that you had and that will keep their memory alive. I miss my parents so much but I know that they are watching over me and the family.

Yvonne Kuehn

In loving Memory of

Charlotte and Charles Czerwinski

Posted by: Yvonne Kuehn

Do you do anything special to remember their life and gifts? Yes, a grandson that bears his name

Posted by: John and Margaret, Matt, Jamie, Andrew, and Lillia