Some just lost a child four months ago.
But everyone who attended Sunday night’s candlelight service at Center Stage at Heritage Hall was able to share their joy, pain and hope together.
The Rome chapter of Compassionate Friends, a support group for those who have gone through the death of a child, participated in the annual Worldwide Candlelight Memorial, and more than 100 people came out to share, to support, and to remember their loved ones.
According to Sandra Stinson, the Rome Chapter leader, National Children’s Memorial Day was designated as the second Sunday of December by President Clinton in 1997. Ever since then, Compassionate Friends chapters around the world have had the candlelight ceremony to pay tribute to those children who have died.
“People do this in memory of their child, and in a sense, it’s a holiday gift to their child to remember them in this way,” Stinson said. “It’s a form of healing.”
The ceremony included songs, prayers and poetry readings, and it also featured the lighting of candles for one hour. Chapters of Compassionate Friends around the world on almost every continent also lit candles for an hour, and Stinson described it as a way to “share the bond” with other families who have endured the same tragedy.
At the end of the ceremony, the Rev. Gary Graves read the names of all the children who have passed on as their families stood to honor them.
Graves’ own daughter, Michelle Graves Buxton, died in 2005. He said that people in the Compassionate Friends network can offer a unique support system for each other, because until you have endured the loss of a child, you don’t know the depth of the emotion and how deeply it affects you.
“When you come to something like this, or come to the meetings each month, you see all these different people and it helps remind you that you’re not going through this by yourself,” Graves explained. “Because when it first happens to you, your first impulse is to think you’re the only one this is happening to, and you can feel hopeless.
“This group gives people an opportunity to help some, and it’s also a way to express your grief without falling apart.”
Graves said the annual candlelight service does bring some painful emotions back to the surface each year, but at the same time, he said it “helps make you a little stronger, and you see that people can move on.”
“There is always a scar there,” Graves said, “but a scar is somewhere where healing is taking place. That’s the lesson in it for me.”
The Compassionate Friends group meets the second Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. at Redmond Regional Medical Center. For more information, contact Stinson at 706-235-6108.