2023 Children's Remembrance Service at Springvale Botanical Cemetery

19 December 2023
A young boy and his dad peg a note to a string of lights.
Personal tributes at the 2023 Children’s Remembrance Service held at Springvale Botanical Cemetery.

More than 200 family members, children, friends and loved ones gathered at Springvale Botanical Cemetery on Sunday 3 December to honour and remember children who are no longer with us, as part of an emotional Children’s Remembrance Service.

Hosted by the Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust (SMCT), our 2023 Children's Remembrance Service brought families, special guests and community together to reflect and share their memories under the summer sky.

Personal messages to remember little loved ones were shared on our floral tribute wall, a beautiful visual reminder of the ongoing connection between families and their children. Families also took part in a range of activities from lighting a remembrance candle, music, gentle games and wishes upon a star as part of the deeply moving service.

A shared mission to support each other

The unique grief experienced in times of losing a child is profoundly emotional, often leaving families feeling alone in their grief. Mayor of the City of Greater Dandenong Cr Lana Formoso attended the event to support families navigating the grief of losing a child.

Her ongoing work with community organisations such as Monash Children's Hospital and MyRoom Children’s Cancer Charity has given her heartfelt insights into the challenges faced by children patients and their families.

Three women standing in front of a wall of memorial notes pinned to stringed lights.
Mayor of City of Greater Dandenong Cr Lana Formoso (left), SMCT’s Senior Partnerships and Programs Lead Leah Grier (centre) and the CEO of MyRoom Children’s Cancer Charity Margaret Zita OAM (right) united in solidarity standing in front of the floral tribute wall.

CEO of MyRoom Children’s Cancer Charity Margaret Zita OAM also attended the event, which offered families a warm and supportive community during a time of profound loss.

“We have witnessed how this event provides families with the opportunity to feel connected, understood, and embraced by a community that truly cares. We would love to extend this out to childhood cancer families who have lost a child,” Margaret said.

The Children’s Remembrance Service holds immense significance in both of our shared missions to offer solace and support to families affected by the loss of a child.

Shining moments under a starlit sky

Whether it be a child of the heart that was never met or a child that was held as a newborn or embraced as they grew - losing a child of any age is painful. Understanding the emotional weight of this profound loss, we dedicated this heartfelt event to families seeking a meaningful way to remember their babies and children.

A woman picking up a lantern from a stand.
Families were invited on stage to collect the lanterns of their children to honour and remember them.

A special moment in the service was the lighting of the Remembrance Candle, which was conducted by our Trust Chair Dr Vanda Fortunato and Senior Partnerships and Program Lead Leah Grier. The softly flickering candle commemorated the event as a beacon of collective memory and community unity.

At the heart of the service was the ‘Recalling of the Star’. Our CEO Laz Cotsios introduced the significance of a real star that we named Eternal Light to honour all the babies and children who have gone before us.

“The Eternal Light star is our symbol of enduring love, care, and hope. It reflects the eternal nature of our beautiful relationships and memories with the children who are no longer with us today,” he said.

A man presenting from a lecturn.
SMCT’s CEO Laz Cotsios warmly welcomed families and community members.

The service ended with a poignant reading of Sweet Child by our Senior Partnerships and Programs Lead Grier. It was a gentle reminder of the strength and resilience of our community coming together in remembrance and support.

Sweet Child

When a light is as bright
as the light you shone
there’s no such thing
as truly gone

When a smile is as precious
as the one you wore
you nestle in hearts

When one so loved
is taken too soon
the love that is left
could outshine the moon

So much love with no place
to be truly at peace
so we love you more
bittersweet release

Sweet child
you were here
for so little in time
but the hole that you left
grows ever wide.

- Donna Ashworth

The service, marked by these shining moments under ‘a sky full of stars’, and the heartfelt musical performances by Something Higher Duo, provided a comforting sense of unity – a safe space where the memories of our children no longer with us continue to shine forever in our hearts.

A woman helps a young child.
SMCT’s Trust Chair Dr Vanda Fortunato was honoured to take part in lighting the Remembrance Candle at this emotional event.

Sharing from the heart

Master of Ceremonies Veronica Lees-Amato shared her personal experience of having lost her six-week-old child. She recognised that most people do not know what to say to someone who has lost a child.

“Did you know there is not one word in the English language that says, ‘I have lost a child’? I can say I am an orphan or a widow, and people immediately understand. However, because people don’t talk about losing a child, there has never been a word created for it,” Veronica said.

The attendance of special guests, families and community at the service was a touching reminder of our shared human experience in the face of adversity. Parents and family members should know that they are not alone. It is okay to break the silence and talk about their grief.

A photo looking down the isle of a ceremony under a pavillion.
Masters of Ceremonies Veronica Lees-Amato shared her personal experience of losing a child with families and community members.

Community care, connection and wellbeing

Following the one-hour service, families and community members were invited to enjoy some light refreshments and a colourful dessert buffet spread. The post-service gathering allowed for the sharing of experiences and mutual support, reinforcing the importance of community and connection.

“For those seeking ongoing connection and support, SMCT’s Community Care and Wellbeing program offers a safe space where those grieving can share experiences and comfort one another,” our Senior Partnerships and Programs Lead Leah Grier said.

Children attending the service had the opportunity to participate in some colouring activities and lawn games such as ring toss and bocce, offering a lighter moment for families within the reflective space.

SMCT’s Children's Remembrance Service at Springvale Botanical Cemetery is a much-loved event, providing a meaningful space for remembrance and community support. We extend our gratitude to all families and community guests who joined us to reflect and share their lived experiences and precious memories.

For more information about our future events, please visit our SMCT Events page. You can also subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date. We continue to be inspired by the stories and memories shared by our community.

A collage of four images. Top left, a woman holding a lantern. Top right, a lantern in front of two people. Bottom left, brightly coloured balloons and cupcakes. Bottom right, a band entertains a young child.
Families and community members enjoyed a colourful selection of sweets and savoury dishes while connecting with each other.

Additional support

Our Community Care and Wellbeing program offers resources to help you connect and explore your wellbeing and self-care following the death of a loved one.

However, we are not a counselling or crisis support service. If you are feeling distressed or in need of extra counselling, we strongly recommend that you reach out to our partner organisation, the Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement on 1800 642 066 or 9265 2100.

If you need additional grief counselling or support, you can contact the following organisations:

  • Lifeline: For 24-hour phone support contact Lifeline, call 13 11 14.
  • Beyond Blue: For mental health and wellbeing support, phone 1300 22 46 36.
  • Kids Helpline: For children and young people (up to 25 years of age), call 1800 551 800.
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