Tribute to lost children part of larger effort to heal by remembering
By Mallory Murphy
“From a young age we are taught that everyone will die and that you will one day bury your parents or grandparents. No one ever mentions your child. You aren’t supposed to bury your child; that’s just not how it is supposed to happen. Sadly though, it does happen.”
These are the words of Morgan Schum, a lifelong citizen of the Sullivan community and member of the East Central Illinois Chapter of The Compassionate Friends, an organization created to provide support to bereaved families.
Next month marks the five year anniversary that Morgan and husband Jason Schum lost their firstborn child Grant to complications during delivery. With a nursery back home decorated in red and green tractors, the couple went into delivery that day with the intent to bring their son home, but after the infant’s three day struggle for life, the Schums made the decision no parent wants to make – to remove their newborn from life support. They left with the knowledge that their lives would never be the same.
“For a bereaved parent there is no ‘normal’ anymore, and we can’t have the same life we had before,” said Schum. “We have to figure out in our own ways how to continue on in our new lives.”
As with most loss, the couple found themselves coping with theirs in different ways from each other, often finding that when one was having a good day, the other was upset.
“My husband rarely talks about him (Grant) or the situation. Don’t get me wrong, he will talk about his son if someone else brings him up, but he doesn’t discuss anything outside of that,” said Schum. “He does not attend meetings with me and usually goes to the cemetery on his own.”
Schum was able to find the support and comfort she had needed a month after her son’s death when another bereaved mother in the community told her about The Compassionate Friends. The nonprofit organization, founded 40 years ago and run by bereaved parents volunteering their time, provides grief support to families after the death of a child. With 650 chapters worldwide, the organization connects family members of any given area who are affected by the loss of a child, regardless of age.
“They changed my life,” said Schum. “I never thought I could move past my son’s death but being able to talk with other parents who understood what I was going through helped me continue on in life.”
With the biggest fear of bereaved parents being that their child will be forgotten, The Compassionate Friends organization finds ways through communication, therapy, fundraisers, and memorials to keep the child’s memory alive. This also allows parents to work through their own struggles in the grieving process.
“The group has really showed me that I’m not crazy,” said Schum. “It is okay to be fine one minute and crying the next and that I’m not wrong for wanting to talk about my child. They’ve also taught me how to go on with my life. It’s okay to have good days and not feel guilty that I’m smiling even though my child is not here.”
The Compassionate Friends’ 17th annual Worldwide Candle Lighting, an event believed to be the largest mass candle lighting in the world, will take place Sunday, December 8. The East Central Illinois Chapter will be bringing the lighting to Sullivan for the first time, and the special service will be held at the First United Methodist Church beginning at 6:30 p.m. Candles will be lit at 7 p.m. local time and burn for one hour. The candles will go out in that time zone as they are being lit in the next, causing a 24 hour flow of light worldwide in honor of the children remembered.
TCF/USA Executive Director, Patricia Loder invites everyone to join this year’s service held in Sullivan.
“Here throughout the United States, members of our 650 chapters observe this day in different ways: some alone, some with friends and family, and many in organized candle lighting ceremonies like the service planned by the East Central Illinois Chapter,” says Loder. “We invite everyone, whether or not they have suffered the personal loss of a child, to join this moving tribute.”