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Children remembered with special memorial

MONTICELLO — Bereaved parents, siblings and grandparents herewill be joining with others across the world Sunday in lightingcandles in honor of National Children’s Memorial Day.

The event is being sponsored by Compassionate Friends (CF). CFis a national non-profit, self-help support organization thatoffers friendship and understanding to bereaved parents, siblingsand grandparents. It’s goal is to help them work through thefeelings of loss and misplaced guilt to heal emotionally.

“Friends can hurt with you, but they can’t sympathize or reallyhelp because they haven’t been there,” said Donna Williamson of NewZion, president of CF’s Monticello Chapter. “You have to havesomeone to talk to who has been through what you’re goingthrough.”

Although the Monticello Chapter is in the process of becomingself-governing, they are presently a satellite of the ColumbiaChapter and will join with their parent organization there forSunday’s candlelight vigil.

The event is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sunday at Columbia City Park,near the Marion County Regional Public Library.

“It’s open to anyone, whether they’ve lost a child or not,”Williamson said. “Maybe they just know someone who has and want tolend their support, or maybe they just feel for lost children.Whatever the reason, everyone is welcome to attend.”

Several special ceremonies will be held during the event forthose who are bereaved.

“It’s very emotional,” Williamson said. “Last year was my firsttime, and it’s so wonderful.”

Williamson lost her 13-year-old son, D.J. Sills, in an accidentat her home on Sept. 12, 2001.

Often, she said, people are afraid to reach out and seek help inmanaging the strong emotions that come with a child’s death. Agreat start is to join an organization like CF.

“It’s hard to take that first step, because you don’t know whatyou’re walking into,” she said, “It’s so comforting to be amongthose who truly know what you’re going through, because they’vebeen there.”

CF was founded in Coventry, England, in 1969 by the parents oftwo young boys who died only three days apart. The parents metthrough a chaplain and an immediate bond was formed as they workedthrough their grief. The two couples decided to share their healingdiscovery and help others come to terms with their group.

Compassionate Friends was incorporated in the U.S. as anon-profit organization in 1978. There are now more than 600 groupsnationwide and hundreds of chapters in Canada, Great Britain andother countries throughout the world.

Meetings of the Monticello Chapter are open to all bereavedparents, grandparents and siblings who wish to attend and are heldthe third Thursday of every month at 7 p.m. at the Lawrence CountyRegional Library.

For more information about Compassionate Friends or thecandlelight vigil, call Williamson at 587-2055, Nan Jordan at587-2116, Stephanie Dunaway at 823-3378. Information can also beobtained by calling the Dottie McAllister, president of theColumbia Chapter, at 736-1954.