Event helps mothers cope with death of a young child

December 10, 2018 GMT

The annual Havasu Lights of Love candle vigil was held by the Open Arms for Empty Hearts support group at the Calvary Chapel on Sunday night.

The support group honored mothers of children who have passed away with poetry, musical numbers and a candle lighting ceremony. During the ceremony, Mayor Cal Sheehy presented a proclamation recognizing Sunday as National Children’s Memorial Day.

“80,000 children die each year; it is one the greatest tragedies any family can endure for a lifetime, Sheehy said in his proclamation. “I urge citizens to honor the children we have lost but will never be forgotten.”

This ceremony takes place all over the world on the second Sunday of December, according to Charlyne Gastelum, organizer of both the support group and ceremony. “At 7 p.m. in every time zone, candles are lit to let our lost children know they are special, loved, and will never be forgotten.”

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Before the candles were lit, Fran Bohl led the congregation in a reading which was followed by poems from Debbie Quinn, Mary Ellen Thome, Elma Goetz, and Paige Weber.

Weber, whose son passed away this year, read, “If I could have a wish come true, a dream that’s come to pass, I’d ask to spend a day with you, and pray that it would last. My wish may go ungranted, but it always will be true. I’d trade many of my tomorrows for one yesterday with you.”

Following the readings, the candles were lit by group members Velma Belk and Debbie Christensen. As the candles glowed, Gastelum asked each mother of a lost child to stand and share their child’s name, with some sharing two. At the front of the pulpit sat a poster board with pictures of their children.

“We don’t want to be here for obvious reasons but it’s a phenomenal help to be with women who know what you’re going through,” said Christensen, who has been a member of the support group since 2001, when it was called Journey from Mourning to Joy. “You know you’re not alone.”

The Open Arms for Empty Hearts support group is open to all women suffering with the tragic loss of their child. Gastelum said, “We do this specifically for women because the relationship between a mother and their child is different than any other. We’ve carried you and birthed you, our bond is stronger. Dads and siblings grieve too but it’s different for us.” The support group meets on a need-to-meet basis. Calvary Chapel, as well as Casa Serrano allowed the group the time and space they need to meet.

“It is extremely important to share with the mothers who are suffering that there is no time limit on grief and no one grieves the same,” Gastelum said. “No one is supposed to lose a child, we are not prepared to deal with something like this. Which is why we have a group where you can turn to for support or just a hug.”