The families of those who died too soon came together at Bethlehem SCV on Sunday evening to take part in the 22nd annual Candle Lighting Remembrance ceremony hosted by the Santa Clarita Valley Chapter of The Compassionate Friends.
“It’s to honor the children that have passed on,” said support group leader Diane Briones. “It’s for the families that have lost a child, a grandchild, or a sibling, but it’s mainly to honor them and to remember them at the holiday season so that it’s a way of starting the holiday season in a more positive note.”
SCV chapter co-leader Alice Renolds agreed that the onset of winter and the approach of holidays such as Christmas can aggravate the feelings of grief and loss that come with the loss of a loved one.
“It’s sad, you know? It’s one of those times that you really know you’re missing your child more during this time, I think, than any other time.”
Briones and Renolds have been members of the organization for 25 years and have been hosting the Remembrance ceremony for 22. The ceremony is a part of a larger international event hosted by the global organization that begins in Australia and is held virtually for a full 24 hours.
Both women have also suffered their own losses, with Briones losing her daughter in an automobile crash 26 years ago and Renolds losing two sons in a car crash in 2000. For them, holding the remembrance ceremony allows them to use their own experiences to help others heal and mourn their losses.
“It’s just a way of honoring our children to help other people handle their grief,” said Renolds.
The venue was appropriately somber, with the entrance to the main area being adorned with a poster displaying the young family members each event guest had lost. Many of the departed were children, with one being an infant who only lived a day.
The program included various tributes to lost loved ones by the event runners and guests alike, including poem readings, songs, candle lightings, and a video tribute.
“We need not walk alone,” read greeter Kathy Hilton, reciting the organization’s official credo. “We are The Compassionate Friends. We reach out to each other with love, with understanding, and with hope. The children we mourn have died at all ages and from many different causes, but our love for them unites us. Your pain becomes my pain, just as your hope becomes my hope.”