‘No one should grieve alone.’
They smile from photos of many sizes, squinting into the sun or posed in school photos: delighted babies, proud middle school athletes and self-conscious teens. Photos of children full of life and promise in happier times are lined up on tables at Lurie Children’s Annual Memorial Service, held on a warm summer night in the Museum of Contemporary Art’s garden. The ceremony honors the memories and celebrates the lives of children who have passed away and is attended by hundreds of family members.
The death of a child is an undeniably life-altering experience affecting every member of the family. The mission of Heartlight, Lurie Children’s bereavement program, is to offer support and resources to grieving families when confronted with the loss of a child. Heartlight’s support is provided free of charge to bereaved families in the community whether their child was cared for at Lurie Children’s or elsewhere.
“Lurie Children’s is dedicated to the health and well-being of children and families,” say Alice Caceda and Marivel Vargas, Heartlight Coordinators. “The Heartlight Program expands the mission of the hospital by addressing the needs of families facing loss. Events like the Annual Memorial Service mean so much to parents who have lost a child, knowing that their child is not forgotten.”
Funded solely through philanthropy, Heartlight hosts several annual events and provides a range of services and resources. Support groups for siblings and parents have long been a core component of the program, providing a safe environment for both parents and siblings to find comfort and understanding by meeting with others who have experienced a similar loss.
Offered in English and Spanish, the groups are open to the community. Staff is available for educational and supportive presentations as well as crisis intervention for medical professionals, community groups, schools and other organizations coping with loss.
“No one should mourn or grieve the death of a loved one alone,” commented Caceda. “We are so grateful for the donors who recognize that supportive services play a powerful role in the healing process. We could not do all we do without their commitment.”