Life Advice



Annie's Mailbox: When a child dies in your family

Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar on

Dear Annie: When a child dies in your family, the world changes, and you will never again be the same person. Life goes on, but priorities change, and remembering the child who has died is an important way of traveling through your grief journey to the other side. The holiday season is especially difficult, as old traditions often give way to new, more meaningful traditions that help to remember the child, sibling or grandchild who has died.

That is why The Compassionate Friends created the Worldwide Candle Lighting. The Compassionate Friends is a national self-help bereavement organization for families going through the natural grieving process after the death of a child. The Worldwide Candle Lighting is held at 7 p.m. local time on the second Sunday in December. This December 9th marks the 16th worldwide event.

By lighting at 7 p.m. local time, candles first shine an hour west of the International Date Line and an hour later in the next time zone, creating a virtual 24-hour wave of light in remembrance of all children who have died, no matter their age or country of origin.

Hundreds of services open to the public will be held throughout the day, with services in every state, as well as Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and Guam. We will be joined by allied and sister organizations both at home and abroad, with services also held by local bereavement groups, churches, funeral homes, hospitals, hospices, children's gardens, schools, cemeteries and community centers. Anyone who is unable to attend a service is invited to light a candle in remembrance at 7 p.m. for one hour wherever they may be.

For more information on this touching tribute, please ask your readers to visit The Compassionate Friends at or call 877-969-0010 toll-free. We also invite your readers to visit our website on December 9 and post a memorial message in our online Remembrance Book. We do this "that their light may always shine!" -- Patricia Loder, Executive Director, The Compassionate Friends/USA

Dear Patricia Loder: Thank you for giving us the chance to once again mention the Worldwide Candle Lighting. This is a wonderful opportunity for the bereaved and their friends and family members to honor the memory of a child who has died and to be part of a community of others who are paying tribute to their loved ones. We hope our readers will look at your website and participate in this worthwhile event. (And as an added precaution, please do not leave your lighted candle unattended.)


Dear Annie: I find myself in the sad and unfortunate position of having a daughter who has decided out of anger to prevent my husband and me from having any contact with our 7-year-old granddaughter. This seems to be a common occurrence these days.

My friends and family tell us that we will eventually hear from our granddaughter when she is older and out on her own. I don't know if this is true. Have any of your readers been through this difficult situation and reconnected with their grandchildren after such a long separation? -- Arizona Grandparents

Dear Arizona: We hope so, and undoubtedly they will write to tell us if this has happened and offer words of encouragement. But in the meantime, check with an attorney to see whether your state recognizes grandparents' rights. Also, if there is anything you can do to repair the relationship with your daughter, please try. Estrangement is a high price to pay for angry disagreements that could possibly be resolved with apologies and tolerance. We also hope you will look into becoming foster grandparents.


"Annie's Mailbox" is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar. This column was originally published in 2017. To find out more about Classic Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Creators Syndicate at




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