Bristol School and MargaretAnn’s Place collaborate on memorial

Photo by Julia Freeman-Woolpert via stock.xchng

Death is a traumatic experience for anyone who has experienced it. Holidays are an especially difficult time when you have lost someone whether it be a sibling, brother, sister, parent, grandparent, or special friend. The first holidays are definitely the most difficult.

Mary Gedemer-Jensen, Bristol School’s counselor, realized that this year, in particular, seemed to be an especially difficult one for many in the school community. The numbers of families who lost a spouse, child, sibling or grandparent have been very high this year. In an effort to address this special need she contacted MargaretAnn’s Place, which she has referred families to for many years.

In Gedemer-Jensen’s words:

Putting our heads together evolved very quickly into a very warm, pleasant, memorial program. The program started with a circular activity where everyone shared who passed away in their life and what they liked to do in Wisconsin winters. The second activity was making a wreath. A picture could be added as they made it or they could add one at a future date. The significance of a wreath was discussed and a poem about the wreath was passed out. The poem could be added on the back of the wreath at the program or at a future date. Families then decorated a special votive for their person. Next, the lighting of the small votives; the sharing of the light of those who passed before us that would stay with us and light our way in the future. Each family came forward and lit their special candle or received help lighting theirs. Some families chose to take pictures. The room was silent, reflective and special time was given to remember those who have left us. To finish our celebration, one of the parents brought cookies and cupcakes to finish our special time together. Each family was also given a copy of the poem “Christmas in Heaven”, for their personal use.”

The program had 18 students and five parents participate. Special guests that helped out from MargaretAnn’s Place included: Kathy Shetski, therapist, Kiri Thompson, student intern and Loralei Marr, Outreach and Camp Erin Coordinator. They took special care to speak with parents and students and reach out to their special needs.

Gedemer-Jensen shared some comments after the program included: “Can we do that again next year?” A young child. “I was so glad to find out one of my classmates was going to be there. I had no idea.” A child. “It really helped me to understand that I am not alone.” A parent. “This will give me the energy to move forward.” A parent. Thank you again for inviting us. It was wonderful.” A parent. “If you do this again, call me. I’ll be happy to help out.” A parent. “What a wonderful program! My child is still talking about it.” A parent. “I hope you will offer this again.” A parent. If asked will the program be offered again? At this time Bristol School does anticipate this being an annual offering during the holidays.

MargaretAnn’s Place provides peer support, education groups in communities and schools. It was founded in 1998 through the efforts of one family’s experience with the sudden death of their daughter and sister. It is named in honor of 20-month-old MargaretAnn Smith Jones who died in 1997. It has grown from a single site in Kenosha to sites throughout Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine and Kenosha counties. For more information, feel free to contact Gedemer-Jensen, Bristol School counselor at  857-2334 or  Loralei Marr, MargaretAnn’s Place Outreach & Camp Erin Coordinator at (414) 732-2663 / (866) 455-HOPE.

Additional information about MargaretAnn’s Place can be found on their website at


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