Lighting a candle in memory of a lost child

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Riley families who have lost children are invited to come together for the Worldwide Candle Lighting Memorial Service on Dec. 8 at Indiana Landmarks Center.


By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior journalist, mgilmer1@iuhealth.org

For 22 years, the second Sunday of December has been about shining a light in the darkness – the darkness of grief and sadness that can swallow a family who has suffered the loss of a loved one.

The Compassionate Friends organization started the Worldwide Candle Lighting Memorial Service in 1997 as a way for people to honor the memory of a friend or family member. And this year, Riley Hospital for Children families are invited to participate in that candle-lighting ceremony together in a special event beginning at 6:30 p.m. Sunday at Indiana Landmarks Center, 1201 Central Ave., Indianapolis.

At 7 p.m. local time, families around the world are encouraged to light a candle and leave it lit for one hour, creating a virtual wave of light for 24 hours as it moves across time zones.

Elizabeth Boring, program manager for Riley’s Hope in Healing Pediatric Bereavement Program, said the local event, which is open to Riley families who have suffered a loss, gives parents an opportunity to honor their child in a place where they can meet other Riley bereaved families and feel connected to families around the world.

“I think a lot of families who’ve experienced the loss of a child can feel very isolated or feel that other people don’t always understand their grief or their experience,” Boring said. “To be able to share space and time with other grieving families in an event that focuses on honoring their child’s memory is really important.”

When they arrive, families will be invited to sit at tables, and each person will be given a candle. The program will start with a brief welcome, followed by remarks by the guest speaker, a Riley mom whose child passed away. There will be moments of reflection, music and poetry, then participants will light their candles at 7.

Parents, who are asked to register in advance online or by calling 317-963-0829, may provide a photo of their child by emailing an image along with the child’s name to rileybereavement@iuhealth.org so it can be included in a slide show during the event. Following the program, with candles still lit, parents will be invited to meet with other bereaved families over refreshments.

The event is free, but registration is required.

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