The Christmas holidays often make coping with the loss of a loved one, especially a child, more difficult.
Claire Simons, of Evans, lost her unborn son, Elijah Rooke Simons, in 2003, but feels her grief is often dismissed or overlooked.
"My grief and my situation is very different," Simons said. "Mine is the wanting memories, not being-haunted-by-them kind of thing. ... A lot of people tend to just ignore it and it makes you feel silly for grieving, and yet you've lost a child and it is rough."
Simons will share her story as the guest speaker at A Time For Special Remembrance, a service Saturday for all parents who have lost a child of any age.
Debra Allsup organized the ceremony in honor of her daughter, Katie Ridenhour. Katie's birthday is Dec. 14, and she died at age 13 from small-cell ovarian cancer three days after Christmas in 2005.
"It helps me to be able to live on in her honor," Allsup said of the service. "The Lord has given me other children, but no one will ever take the place of a child not here with you. It is still a piece missing."
Allsup said the service is not meant to be sad, but a special and joyous time.
The fifth annual ceremony for parents and their families who have lost children will start at 7 p.m. at Christ's Sanctified Holy Church, 136 N. Belair Road, Evans.
"We had over 100 people last year," Allsup said. "It was really good. I think that it is a tradition I want to carry on. ... I really feel strongly that it is a good thing for people ... to get together at that time and just take a minute of silence and quiet time and remember our child."
Part of the service includes placing ornaments in the child's honor on an outdoor tree. Parents can bring their own ornaments or one will be provided.
The service will also include music, prayer and a photo collage.
"We're going to do a collage for parents who want to bring a picture," Allsup said.
Allsup said the service is designed for parents of children of any age, from those who died in utero to adults. She said Simons' message is special because so many parents are affected by the loss of an unborn child.
Simons said that her son died about 15 weeks into her pregnancy but that she was able to deliver and hold him.
"I'm going to tell part of my story just because those that are grieving in that way, I want them to hear that," Simons said. "Also, we don't always know why God does what he does. In fact, very rarely do we know why. But that baby (who) died very likely saved my life."
With her husband, Craig, Simons has a 12-year-old son, Garrett, and a 3-year-old, Anna Kate. But through the death of her second son, doctors discovered a blood clotting disorder. A blood clot was the likely cause of his death and, if gone unchecked, could have killed Simons and her daughter during her third pregnancy.
Simons and Allsup are friends, and she also plans to share Katie's story, which Allsup has never shared at the service.
"She really felt led to do it and felt like it needed to (be heard)," Allsup said, adding that she is always too emotional at the service to talk about her daughter. "She wanted to be the one to tell her story."
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