Online luminary signups support grief from a distance

Linda Ellison isn’t sure how many luminaries will light the way at Saturday’s Shining Light Memorial for Pregnancy and Infant Loss. She does know each represents a baby who is loved and who is missed.

Families and staff will gather at 7 p.m. Saturday in The Forum at Carle for a candlelight ceremony to honor the memory of babies who are no longer with us physically, but will forever be in our hearts.

“The luminaries give families something very tangible—to see their baby’s name, to have their child recognized among a group of people with similar experiences,” said Ellison, Carle’s perinatal bereavement coordinator. “Some people need to connect with others—to know they’re not alone—sometimes without even saying a word.”

And some simply aren’t ready.

The Carle website features event details, as well as a way for those who will not be attending the event to participate. Families simply enter information about their baby on the website, and organizers will place a first name, phrase or symbol on a line of luminaries that will wind its way through the Memorial Garden.

“I tell those who aren’t coming not to feel bad about that. They’re just not at that place yet. It’s still too painful,” Ellison said. “We will remember your child with a luminary. This allows people to grieve the way they need to.”

Leslie Kirby will be at Saturday’s event, marking yet another way for her and her family to remember the two precious daughters they lost, Raley and Aubree.

The first time Kirby attended the Shining Light Memorial for Pregnancy and Infant Loss was more difficult than she imagined.

Last year was a bit easier. And she now feels prepared to talk with others, to tell them she understands what they’re going through and to let them talk about their loved ones if they’d like.

She knows that’s not always where people are.

“For some people, an event like this is the last thing they want to think about. Everyone processes their grief in a different way,” she said, adding those who use the online opportunity might appreciate taking the at-a-distance step.

“Offering luminaries this way allows grieving families to put their toe in the water, to be a part of the memorial event but not actually be there.”

For more information, please call Ellison at (217) 326-3196. This event is made possible by generous donations to Carle Center for Philanthropy.