Miami-Dade County

Grieving relatives find comfort at annual vigil by Compassionate Friends

Miami Herald Staff

Holding a lit candle, an emotional Peter Klein remembered his son Douglas who died of suicide back in 2011.

Although it was a difficult period in his life, Klein said he has been able to honor his son’s life every year thanks to Compassionate Friends Miami Chapter, a non-profit organization.

“It saved me from insanity, madness and all of the horror of losing a child especially from suicide,” said Klein, wearing a T-shirt displaying an image of his son, who was 37 when he died.

Klein was among dozens of others who also celebrated the life and love for a child, grandchild or sibling at the organization’s candle lighting event Sunday at Miami-Dade County Fair & Exposition Goode Building.

Co-leader Shelly Ellis said it is an event to help overcome tragedy.

“They are here for a healing and to feel that inner peace hopefully knowing they aren’t alone on this journey,” she said.

At the event, guests spoke with others who are dealing with the death of a child of any age from any cause. People held the memorial candle and, before lighting it up, some stated their loved one’s name out loud, holding back tears. There was a memorial table filled of framed photos. A slideshow was also played. There was inspiring poetry read by Compassionate Friends and songs by vocalist Karen Strolis-Lewe.

The candlelight ceremony is celebrated worldwide on December 14.

The Compassionate Friends Miami Chapter is a non-denomination self-help organization that offers support, understanding, friendship, knowledge and hope to parents, grandparents and adult siblings following the death of a child.

Marilyn “Pinky” Dulman has attended for more than 10 years when her brother Jeff Bowers suddenly passed away.

“It’s comforting feelings,” said Dulman, who also wore a T-shirt displaying an image of her brother. “It’s a way to honor my brother. It is dedicated to his memory.”

She was joined by her 94 year-old mother Shirley Bowers.

“I feel the love and I miss the love of my son,” she said of attending the event.

While the gathering offers some comfort, the pain that comes from losing a loved one never fully heals, said co-leader Cindy Baum.

“You never forget,” she said. “There is no such thing as closure. When your child dies is not something that doesn’t go away.”

Aside from the candle light event, the group holds a meeting the second Thursday of every month at 7:15 p.m. at Temple Beth Am, 5950 North Kendall Drive. There are no fees to attend meetings.