An hour of remembrance for lost loved ones

Staff photo by Connor Cummiskey The Compassionate Friends of South Central Minnesota lit candles to remember adults and children who have passed on Sunday in Redeemer Lutheran Church.

NEW ULM — It was an hour of remembrance Sunday night for families who have lost their children.

In the hall of Redeemer Lutheran Church, the Compassionate Friends shared their experiences and ways to get through the holidays, and lit candles for their loved ones.

“It has been existing in New Ulm for 37 years to serve grieving parents and siblings and grandparents,” Judy Kastman, a group leader, said.

After a few opening remarks, family members lit small white candles and said the name of the person who they were remembering.

The Candlelighting Ceremony began at 7 p.m. The ceremony is international, starting at the dateline, where New Zealand sits, and moving east each hour.

Then a few members stood up to share their experiences and how they cope with grief during the holiday season.

The first reader compared the grieving to snowflakes — similar yet unique individuals formed around a dust particle.

“We, like snowflakes, also have several things in common,” Sarah Gieseke said. “We all have a common, hard particle at our center. We all have a child, grandchild or sibling that died. No two of our stories are the same. The details are all different. Son or daughter, young or old, car crash or lingering illness — each of us has a unique pattern to our lives, and we have all felt freezing numbness in our centers.”

One woman shared how after her daughter died, her family stopped putting up stockings — until her two other daughters asked why other kids had stockings.

To cope, the family hung three stockings, including one for the dead child. However, the next morning the two daughters woke her, alarmed that Santa had forgotten to fill the deceased child’s stocking. So they both offered treats from their own collection to correct what they viewed as Santa’s mistake.

One reader presented a list of coping tactics other parents from around the country had shared on a blog.

They included: knowing when and what your family celebrates and planning coping strategies ahead of time, making a list of things that bring joy and scheduling one a day, lighting a candle for the deceased, making ornaments that represent them and keeping them included, donating or doing good in their name, and smashing ornaments and making something beautiful from the wreckage.

Once the speakers had finished, the group watched a slideshow of sons and daughters who were being remembered.

At the end of the hour the group stood in a circle, held hands and took turns saying goodnight to their departed loved ones.

The Compassionate Friends of South Central Minnesota is a local chapter that meets monthly in Redeemer Lutheran Church, 700 S. Broadway.

On the last Monday of each month, except in December for the Candlelighting Ceremony, they meet to offer support to each other as they learn to live with the grief of losing a family member.

Compassionate Friends welcomes all people who have lost a child, regardless of whether they were an adult at the time or not or whether the grief is recent.

Kastman lost her daughter 28 years ago, but still participates in the group, in part, to help others through their grief as she was helped.

The chapter began July of 1980 with LPN Darlene Nelson, Barb Netzke and Kathy Goodall.

Since then the chapter has grown to a mailing list of over 300 addresses and an average of 18-20 men and women participating in monthly meetings, Kastman said.

Connor Cummiskey can be emailed at