GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- The holiday season is the time most of us look forward to spending with the people we love the most. But there are many families who won't get to hug their children on Christmas morning.
Sunday night, grieving parents came together In East Grand Rapids for the Worldwide Candle Lighting Ceremony to remember children lost.
The ceremony was sponsored by Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital and Bill and Barb Venema and brought together loved ones to honor children who have passed away. The third annual ceremony was held in conjunction with The Compassionate Friends Worldwide Candle Lighting® Ceremony, which takes place across the globe at the same local hour.
Families were encouraged to submit a note and pictures of their children which is compiled into a video for the families to view.
"Imagine holding your kids in your arms alive like this. Never in a million years do you think your kid is going to die and your going to burry them," said Rita Graham, who lost her two twins in 2012 after she delivered them three months early.
Rita and Eric only got to hold their twins, Lydia and Henry, for a very short time.
"Lydia lived for 32 hours, and Henry lived for 10 1/2 hours," said Rita.
Lydia and Henry weighed only a little over one pound. Their organs began to fail, and the babies were extremely fragile.
"Henry's heart stopped in front of us, and we were holding Lydia before we took her off life support," said Rita.
The thought of moving on looked impossible at the time.
"People don't understand, when you lose your child it's a lifetime journey," said Rita, something Lorie Shier, a bereavement counselor for Spectrum Health sees everyday.
"The thing about grief is it goes on for a long time. It's like running an emotional marathon every single day," said Shier.
Events like the candle lighting ceremony is something that helps the Grahams' grief, especially around the holidays.
"I get the chance to see my son and daughter up on the big screen and remember them," said Eric Graham, Lydia and Henry's father.
For Rita and Eric, remembering and talking about Henry and Lydia is their biggest comfort.
"If they were alive we would be saying their names, and in their death we want to remember their names," said Rita.