Halloween Without

By guest writer Diana Doyle

Yesterday, while driving home from Dempsey’s school, a little voice from the back seat screamed, “Look Mommy!”

It appears as if overnight, the houses in our neighborhood have been transformed into grave yards for Halloween.  “Please can we take a look Mommy, PLEASE!”  My daughter Dempsey begged. We took a small detour and I was amazed at what I saw (note: we don’t celebrate Halloween in my home country, Australia).

Front yards have had extreme makeovers, looking more like something from the Twilight movie than suburban dwellings. Lawns have been blanketed with creepy grey headstones, skeletons are hanging from garage doors and fake spider webs float in the breeze. Dempsey loved it!

I know it’s all make-believe stuff, however, it does make me wonder how people who are in the thick of their grief must feel when they drive past these haunted houses?

I’m sure it must rattle them as it did me, as it’s a reminder of death. I’m curious if they have to hide their shadow of sadness or if they can see it for what it is?  Just a holiday…to some an excuse to dress up and suffer from another case of a sick stomach from eating too much gooey candy.

Holidays can be tough, you can’t just check a box, ‘choose’ option number one “Be Happy!”  Sometimes the multiple choices can be limited on special days.

I remember Savannah’s first and only Halloween.  She only got to enjoy one during her time with us in America.  Her nurse Marlene happily provided her with a witches black cloak, a massive hat and straw broom.  Demspey was only a baby, but we squeezed her into the cutest orange giraffe outfit.

Savannah was so sick, in the terminal stages of her disease, but I still remember the gracious smile on her face as we carefully dressed her frail body in the costume.  She was grateful to be just like one of the other kids that knocked on our door that night.  I have that one memory, and I find now memories can bring comfort at this time of year.  Sometimes, that’s all we have…

The temptation is there, to give in and wallow, and sometimes it can’t be helped.  But if ready for it, for the emotions, you can try to embrace the day, or whatever comes with it and not be afraid…

I can try to shift my thoughts to positive ones, and hope I will get an injection of appreciation, inspiration and smiles through the sparkle in my 8 year old daughter’s green eyes.  And not wonder what my missing child would’ve chosen as her Halloween outfit.

So on the 31st, I’ll actually look at the headstones in the yards as reminders to celebrate that I am alive, and so is Dempsey.  That we get to carve a design on a bright orange pumpkin, scoop out the sweet sticky seeds and focus on the happy smiling faces that will be parading down our street in different attire.

I think I’ll decorate our front door with flowers instead of skeletons, in hope of welcoming some familiar spirits into our house instead of scaring them away. Maybe my mom, or my sister, or Savannah will be around, watching to see I’m surviving and living life the way they would want me to if they were here.

I’ll raid Dempsey’s plastic pumpkin head that will be full of treats and eat too much chocolate to make me feel good!

This year I won’t wear a costume, I think I’ll just scare everyone and just ‘be me.’  Happy, sad, glad or wherever the mood takes me… holidays can be like that!

By guest writer Diana Doyle. Read more from Diana at her blog, www.sunshineinabluecup.blogspot.com.


  1. April said on October 21, 2010 at 5:30 pm ... #


    I’m so sorry for your loss….your story breaks my heart yet reminds me that we need to live for ourselves and for those who are no longer here. Life is beautiful, frustrating, happy, sad and so many other adjectives rolled into one. In the end it is a journey, length and content unknown.

    May you find a bit of happiness this Halloween in possibly adopting a new tradition with Dempsey.

  2. Erin said on October 21, 2010 at 6:15 pm ... #

    My son was superman for his first and only Halloween. He died of brain cancer. Every Halloween, I wonder what he would be. This year, maybe he would be lightening McQueen, or a Transformer. He would be 5 now. Your story hits home with me. Halloween is difficult. It is difficult to decorate, so mostly I don’t. It is difficult to choose costumes with my other two daughters. As much as I want to experience the excitement with them, there is a sadness that hangs over me. God Bless you and may He be with with you this Halloween and all of your days. Thank you for sharing you story.

  3. Tina Vigorito said on October 21, 2010 at 6:55 pm ... #

    I have found our culture’s fascination or obsession with skulls or skeletons incredibly painful since my son died. I want to scream at people when they wear clothing depicting one. As Halloween approaches I am finding it harder and harder to maintain. I hate it. It is not fun or funny. The thought of my son being buried and no longer here puts a totally different perspective on this for me.

  4. shanna caputo said on October 21, 2010 at 7:25 pm ... #

    I have never lost a child but the loss of my friends daughter leads me to your page. I want you to know I cry when I read your stories. I dont know how all of you make it thru some days but your words make it a little comforting to others. Please keep up your posts and love to everyone. Thank you for all of the beautiful and, very personal stories you share.

  5. Diana Doyle said on October 21, 2010 at 9:43 pm ... #

    Thank you, to all of you, your comments have given me comfort and made me cry. My heart goes out to all of you, April, Erin and Tina, that are missing a loved little one who should be alive to enjoy any day, not just Halloween.

    I do however understand your pain and I hope my post brings you comfort to know you aren’t alone.

    To Shanna, Thank you as someone who hasn’t been to the depths of sadness over losing a child….your compassion is heartfelt. You must be a special friend, thank you for your encouraegment.
    With love
    Diana Doyle x

  6. Donnetta Reese said on October 29, 2010 at 1:27 pm ... #

    Your words hit home. I lost my 13 year old three years ago. She was a drama kid and loved dressing up for any occasion. I thought I was alone with problems around Halloween. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Diana Doyle said on November 6, 2010 at 12:31 pm ... #

    Dear Donnetta,

    I hope you can find comfort in knowing you aren’t alone. This time of year is terribly hard for people who have lost loved ones.

    Thank you for sharing and leaving a comment.
    Diana Doyle x

  8. nicole said on October 23, 2012 at 3:51 pm ... #

    Thank your for sharing your story. I think we have the same out look. I lost my 2yr old son and 7yrold nephew this past June 30th in a violent storm while we were camping.. I also have a 6yr old son and 16yr old daughter. I miss my little man so much that some times I feel as though I can’t breath right. But I continue on for my surviving children and try to show them that yes we miss the boys terribly, but we can still laugh and celebrate. Hopfully the boys are with us in sprirt. So as I experience our many of firsts this holiday season, I will try to get thru them with a smile and send love and kisses to them in heaven.

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