Problems Dealing with Family Gatherings

    Angel Parents' Suggestions for
  • Family Reunions
  • Birthday Parties
  • Weddings and Funerals

I am going to change names when necessary because most of these suggestions are VERY HONEST. Like most pages at Angel Hugs, please plan to come back as we add more all of the time.

One of the support groups here locally has decided to do not only a meeting each month but also a night out for dinner. It is especially nice for those that want to get out, but do not want to hear about extended families. There are abount five of us that do this on a regular basic. These women are very sensitive to my needs. They talk about anything but their other children, or grandchildren.

We mostly get together and talk about our (heaven) children. We also make a trip to a movie once in a while. None of us play golf, or not well enough to make an event of it.

Hopefully these could be some ideas for someone who is looking for something to do.


Julane, you took the words right out of my mouth. I know what you are talking about, those dreaded reunions. I look at the other boys my son's age and I want to say to their parents, "My son was smarter than yours, my son was better looking than yours, my son was a better person than yours, my son was my life, how come you have your son and I don't have mine?" I think we all have thoughts like this from time to time. I don't wish this life of sorrow on anyone, I really don't but life sure can be unfair at times. The only people who really and truly understand us are the grieving parents of a child. My son was twenty five when he died. I am very thankful for our precious daughter. Love to all of you Note from Julane, I don't know if we really mean that our children were so much better, we just want them remembered and it is difficult when the others are there and ours isn't. And, unfortunately, it is difficult to brag when no one is willing to listen. And I think they should listen. They can brag about what their kids are doing the rest of their lives, we only have what our kids "did" and they will do no more. However, like I say in Darren's album, when we are really sure they are angels, we know their adventures continue. And when we can find people who will listen, then we can tell some pretty interesting stories, also.
I don't know how close your family is but when we have a family gathering we always lite a candle for the ones who can't be there. We use different colors for the ones have passed on (usually white), then a different color for those who are still with us but just can't be there for whatever reason, It does seem to help and it is a way to include those who can't be there.
I just came home from a week long family reunion. It has been almost 36 weeks since our only child, an 18 year old son died from menningococcal septicemia while in his Freshman year at MYU. My family has been very supportive. It is a small family, made so much smaller by Oren's death. I have found that I can't help myself from talking about how much I miss Oren, and it opens the opportunity for others to express themselves as well. I have also felt like screaming, but that is usually when I am by myself. I welcome hugs, shared tears, and any remembrances of Oren from other people; family, friends, strangers. I cry freely, openly and often.

My husband is tired of seeing me in mourning but that is just "the way it is". It helped to have family around, surrounding me. They helped by renting a cabin on a lake only 3 miles from my home. We got to be away from home without all the hassle. I took a week off work and played tourist and my husband got to fish whenever it wasn't raining with the men of the family. Some could only stay for half the week but that was OK, too.

Funerals are hard. We've been to one other one since Oren died. I guess I don't expect life to be easy anymore, but I do take all the help and concern from others that I can get.


For several years after my daughter was killed (8 years ago) I just avoided going to those kinds of things. In fact, I avoided most of my family and friends because I felt that they just didn't understand. I started going to a support group for families of homicide victims and made many new friends. It seemed much easier to attend functions with them because they were all experiencing the same feelings I was. Then I noticed that gradually I had let my old friends and family back into my life. The functions with them were easier to be a part of because I still had my safe "new family" of friends where I could go and just be myself. I think the key is to only go to the functions when you are ready. And, don't ever feel that you have to make excuses for not attending. Just simply say that it is not something you are up to right now and leave it at that. When the time is right, you will know.
As far as suggestions, we just came back this weekend after a trip with my immediate fam....it was a week from hell....my niece acts so much like our daughter, I just had to turn away from her several times for self preservation...she and our daughter were like sisters...My niece is a year and a half older than our daughter and they are the only girls of the fam...watching my nephews was heart wrenching even though I am sure that they never knew why their aunt had to leave the room. Like I told one of my Angel Moms...don't let your family dictate to you what is right for you...you take control of the situation. Some of the activities will be easier to handle...they seem to be easier when the crowd is larger and you can get lost in it ...the more intimate the group, the harder it is to hide your feelings. Unfortunately, the larger crowds are more insincere and some come out with the stupidest things to say...like, well, honey, it's time to move on....WRONG remark, oh, dumb one....If you know (or suspect) that insincere Aunt Gertrude and pompous Uncle Bernster are going to be at a function...don't go...or just make sure you steer clear of them...or just be "loaded for bear"...'cause sure enough...they WILL find you, just to "see how you are holding up" and really couldn't care less. Another thought...have your own fam function...invite those you know will be in sync with you...whether it be a memorial or celebration type of gathering...you decide...you set the tone...you invite whom you want...big or small. Another way, is to have someone who has "influence" in the group help set the tone of the outside function in your favor...let them make some kind of announcement that during the time of the gathering, we want to remember the ones not with us...remember, we may not be the only ones who have lost someone and we should be sensitive to the other folks, too. Prepare several comments that you would like to have ready should you need them...we all know that the more you get out, the better and easier it is the next time...that one step at a time effort is overwhelming but something that we must do in order to be able to maintain some sort of semblance of normalcy...we must make sure that we are able to face tomorrow to continue our angel's legacy...for if not us, who will? Does anything I said make sense? It is late and the ramblings flow easier during this time than at any other time....Hugs
Hi Julane, The only things I attended were funerals and only if I felt I could handle them. I did it for the living not the dead. As for how I did it, well, I always had an exit! Sat in the back. Made sure I was in CONTROL of the situation and when I felt I wasn't - out I went. I felt guilty at first but then realized, I was hurting! In our situation, we have to tell white lies just to survive. In time when we are stronger then we can say, EXACTLY what we would really like to say. Anyway, you get the drift. Do what you think you can handle, just have an escape route. Love all you do for others. Thanks, new friend
HI JULANE I JUST HAD TO WRITE TO YOU.... WE JUST GOT HOME FROM MY 4 YR. OLD NEPHEWS BIRTHDAY PARTY. I ALWAYS THINK THAT I WILL BE OK, BUT IN A CROWD I GET SO OVERWELMED WITH MISSING OUR DAUGHTER, I THINK I WILL SCREAM. TWO OF OUR NIECES WERE THERE, TOO AND ONE IS THE SAME AGE AS SHE WOULD BE AND THE OTHER IS A YEAR YOUNGER. IT IS EXCRUTIATING FOR ME TO BE AROUND THEM. I CAN JUST HEAR SOME PEOPLE THINKING, "WHEN IS SHE GOING TO GET OVER THIS??" I MANAGED TO LAST 45 MINUTES. THANK GOD FOR MY FATHER-IN-LAW, OR IT WOULDN'T HAVE BEEN THAT LONG. HE STUCK TO ME LIKE GLUE. IT WAS JUST MY SON AND ME, AND HE IS AMAZING FOR A 9 YR. OLD. HE JUST LOOKED AT ME AND SAID LETS GO, MOM, I WANT TO PLAY WITH A NEIGHBORHOOD FRIEND. BUT, I KNOW HE KNEW THAT I WAS STRUGGLING. MAN, THIS IS AWFUL. ANYWAY, I DO FEEL A LITTLE BETTER NOW, SOME OF THE TENSION IS GOING. I KNEW YOU WOULD UNDERSTAND. THANKS. Note from Julane: An escape route can be an exit door or it can be a planned-ahead-of-time signal to leave. This is also where the white lies come in. When you are with someone (even a nine year old) who can tell when it is time go, you can feel a little more secure.


Just a few notes on handling the tough occasions. About 1 year after our son died, a co-worker and good friend's son was killed in a car accident. I knew we wanted to be there for them but I was scared to go to the same funeral home. All the memories! PRAYER. We got on our knees and prayed for strength and acted out on faith that God would be with us. We felt the fear and did it anyway. I had to keep reminding myself that it was their loss not ours, to step outside ourselves. Guess what happened? God blessed us. I could see him working in us and in them. Holding them up. We didn't stay long. Didn't say much but just being there was miracle in the making. Healing had begun and what strength we had received.

At weddings and family reunions expect tears. Wearing a chain that belonged to our son and my husband wearing his watch to these occasions helps in some small way - whenever you want them especially close. Also prayer before you go. I never want to be held back by my fears. I have found, like I said, that whenever I step out even though in fear but am all prayed up God gets me through and what a blessing I do receive. He is with us. Love, Barbara Andre

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