CHRISTMAS is a time for families - but for those who have lost a child it's a very painful reminder that the family is no longer complete.

Two Bridport woman, Janette Knight and Debra Bates, both bereaved parents, have been running the West Dorset support group for the charity, The Compassionate Friends, for nearly two years.

This year for the first time they are holding a candle memorial ceremony to help bereaved families at this very difficult time of year.

Janette, who lost her son 16 years ago when he was 10, said: "Christmas is such a hard time because everywhere it is happy families and you just feel your family is not complete. Everybody else's happiness just intensifies your own loss."

Last year the group was too new she felt to run such an event but with more and more families needing support - there are between 12 and 15 families in west Dorset they have contact with - this year it seemed right.

They approached the Chapel in the Garden in East Street and it was agreed to hold the Candlelight Remembrance ceremony there on Sunday (Dec 11) at 6.45pm.

Janette added: "It is totally non religious. We'll have a few poems and readings of names and everybody lights a candle for their child or brother or sister. There will be music for reflection and there will be a remembrance table and families are invited to bring a photograph of their loved one if they want."

She said the group meets for mutual support and a chance just to share what they are going through.

Janette said: "It is such a hard thing to do to come along and meet other bereaved parents - people fear it is going to be like America.

"We just get together and have a coffee or a glass of wine and talk about what we are going through and support particularly newly bereaved because it is so painful and raw. It makes people feel they are not so alone.

"There is a need and it just felt right to do it this year and hopefully this will be an annual event.

"You don't want your child to be forgotten. Other people don't like to mention them and you kind of want them to."

Janette lost her son 16 years ago, when he was 10. He had a brain haemorrhage and went from a normal, healthy boy to being desperately ill overnight.

He had brain surgery and it was discovered he had a brain tumour that had ‘burst’. He survived for a little more than a year.

She found Compassionate Friends and it was a lifeline. She got so much out of it she deiced to start her own group in Bridport.

She was joined by Debra Bates, who lost her son Daniel in a car accident in 2007. Her pain was compounded by the fact that he and his friend were killed by a driver who fell asleep behind the wheel of a 6.5-tonne delivery van.

Anybody who wants to contact the group can ring Janette on 01308 455626 or the national group's website on