South Florida Children and Families Remember Loved Ones Over the Holidays At Candle Lighting Memorials


Children sit on the floor in a semicircle as an adult reads a book aloud

Above: During the Candle Lighting Memorial at Belen Jesuit Preparatory School on Dec. 7, 2016, children participated in a therapeutic group-reading session to help bring out their smiles while remembering fond memories of loved ones who have passed away. 

Helping Families and Children Cope

VITAS Healthcare, the nation’s leading provider of end-of-life care, in collaboration with the Children’s Bereavement Center (CBC), recently hosted candle lighting memorials across Miami-Dade and Broward counties for children and their families to honor loved ones who have passed away. More than 450 grieving families along with VITAS and CBC group facilitators participated in reflective candle lighting ceremonies, filled with live music and onsite activities.

“Children need special guidance after losing loved ones, and the holidays can be an especially difficult time,” said VITAS Vice President of Operations Maureen Knips. “VITAS is proud to be a long-standing partner of the Children’s Bereavement Center and to be part of these memorials to support grieving children and families.”

VITAS facilitators, certified under CBC’s grief-support model to comfort grieving children, lead peer support groups that help children and families cope with their loss and relieve the sense of isolation they may be feeling by enabling them to share their personal experiences in an environment where they feel most comfortable. VITAS provides onsite support in Miami Shores, Fort Lauderdale and Doral at the following three CBC South Florida locations: Miami Country Day School, NSU Mailman Segal Center and Belen Jesuit Preparatory School. The CBC has an additional family site in Coconut Grove at Ransom Everglades Middle School.

“Our partnership with VITAS has allowed us to grow and meet the needs of grieving families throughout South Florida, with the hope that no child should have to grieve alone,” said CBC Clinical Director Peter Willig. “Last year our programs in Doral, Miami Shores and Davie supported nearly 1500 participants.”

The CBC offers free support groups in English and Spanish that provide support, education and resources to children, teens, young adults and their families. The organization also offers support groups to parents and/or caregivers who play a significant role in a child's life and adults dealing with personal loss, available at several convenient locations.

VITAS social workers, chaplains and bereavement specialists host free grief support groups throughout South Florida. For more information about VITAS Healthcare or its bereavement services call (800) 93-VITAS and for more information about children’s grief counseling resources call the CBC at (305) 668-4902 or visit

The group poses together

Above: VITAS Healthcare is proud to be a long-standing partner of the Children’s Bereavement Center. From left to right, CBC Director of Operations & Marketing Peter Willig, VITAS Senior Vice President of Operations Mary Zalaznik, VITAS of Palm Beach General Manager Diana Smith, CBC Co-Founder & Senior Clinical Advisor Mindy Cassel, VITAS of Broward General Manager Susan Acocella, VITAS Vice President of Operations Maureen Knips, VITAS of Broward General Manager Donna Borland and CBC CEO Claude Grubair.

A child lights a votive candle

Above: Led by VITAS and CBC facilitators, children were encouraged to share their personal experiences and lit candles in honor of those close to them who have passed away in the belief that no child should be left alone to grieve, during the annual Candle Lighting Memorial.

A girl holds up a memory book with photos for the group to see

Above: Children and families who have lost loved ones gathered for the annual Candle Lighting Memorial hosted by VITAS Healthcare and the CBC. Attendees participated in reflective candle lighting ceremonies and activities promoting healthy grieving.


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