Grief looms large in this season of birth and love

Column 136


You can just feel the energy of the Christmas season in the air. Christmas music concerts. Beefed up TV commercials, the suggestion to a child that asking Santa for one gift would be enough, discussions about who’s going where on ‘the day.’ A few friends gathering to make cookies. Others celebrating over lunch. Moms and daughters out for a visit. Dads and sons texting re gifts.

It’s that time of year.

And if you no longer have that daughter, or that son, this is the most horrible time of year. Children aren’t supposed to die before their parents. And when they do, there’s a tear in the family fabric, an enormous, unhealable hole!

When Christine Tucker’s daughter, Ariel, died at age 21, suddenly and without warning, the lifeblood of her existence just fell away. Yes, she has other children, but one doesn’t take the place of another. And yes, brothers Kyle and Maurice lost a sister and father, also Maurice, lost a daughter.

The journey of living with death since Ariel’s leaving has given Christine a new purpose as she moves ahead. She found the Season’s Centre’s Empty Arms program for parents who have lost children. She calls it a ‘grief like no other.’

“I think it’s the same, no matter what the age of your children, no matter what your age is,” says Christine. “Ariel was the only girl in a house full of boys. I didn’t feel I could fall apart on the men who are trying to be strong. There was a lot of hiding around corners at our place. At one point every single one of us was out of work.

“I didn’t want to be strong. I wanted to be brave with dignity and grace,” says Christine.

And out of her grief has come Barrie Bereaved Mothers, Vilohmamas, Learning to Laugh Again. Vilo is a sanskrit word for a bereaved parent. Christine continues: “There’s a poem that there is no name for someone who’s lost a child because the pain is indescribable. There is a name. It’s vilohma. And right from the beginning of this group, I knew it was important to find a way to comfort each other.”

The Vilohmamas have met three times now, with a fourth meeting in a couple of weeks. The first meetings centred on stories of their children, descriptions that represent them, art therapy with Claudia McKnight. The first meeting drew three mothers; the second meeting drew four. As people draw comfort, the numbers will grow, but what matters is learning to live with loss, memorializing and celebrating the child who is no longer present.

“We all have losses in our lives… jobs, friends, self esteem, but when you lose a child there’s horrible guilt that you couldn’t stop it,” says Christine. It is her plan to continue to hold meetings that bring together vilohmamas, to share, to grieve, and to learn to laugh again. “We still have to be on this planet and find ways to keep our child present.”

Next meeting for the Vilohmamas is Wednesday, January 14, from 7 to 9 pm. It will be held at Liaison College, corner of Dunlop and Toronto streets.

Check out the Facebook group: or email Christine directly at

Thanks, Christine! And thanks to the parents with the courage to turn their faces to the sun, even though it hurts.