Like a Warm Blanket

I was fortunate to attend and present at the 45th Compassionate Friends National Conference in Houston, TX, at the beginning of August 2022. Being with others in grief, especially others who had lost siblings, felt like coming home and being hugged by a warm blanket.

Many emotions bubbled to the surface that I had kept dormant for decades. For silenced years about my beloved sisters Margie and Jane, the freedom and security to be open about my grief, and hearing my thoughts articulated and validated by my fellow bereaved siblings felt like a butterfly, the symbol of transformation and hope.

At the close of the conference on Saturday evening, there is the candle lighting ceremony, an event I was unable to partake in the past. This year I participated in this moving, remarkable, and empowering remembrance. It reminded me of the Jewish Yizkor Memorial Service. I lit a candle for my beloved sisters Margie and Jane, and another for my fellow bereaved sibling who lost two brothers.

Remembering Sisters

With an illuminated candle in each shaking hand, along with eight hundred individuals in the darkened room grasping candles high above our heads, the power of light, reflecting all our lost loved ones. Tears seeped down my cheeks, and a warm arm surrounded my shoulders from my fellow TCF sibling, I envisioned Jane and Margie vividly for the first time in years. A breakthrough in my ongoing grief journey after forty years for Jane and thirty-two years for Margie. I was given a precious gift by being with others in grief.

The words haunted in my brain spoken to me when Jane died by an individual who stated, “someday you will forget your sister.” I will never forget my sisters. Unable to verbalize or share my feelings, I found a safe space to let down the wall I had been holding like a fortress.

For years of being solo with my grief, I cannot communicate into words the sentiment of not feeling alone and suppressing my thoughts. The fear I harbored of losing the memories of Margie and Jane a falsehood. They will remain with me always.

Candlelight Ceremony

The Compassionate Friends lit five symbolic candles as a group. As TCF States:

The First Candle represents our grief.

The Second Candle represents the courage to confront our sorrow, to comfort each other and to change our lives.

The Third Candle we light in your memory; the times we laughed, the times we cried, the times we were angry towards each other, the silly things you did, and the caring and joy you gave us.

The Fourth Candle we light for our love.

The Fifth Candle we light for Hope; that you, will live on through us, never to be erased from our memory, that your lives continue to make a difference in the world. We love you. We remember you.

Purchase Judy Lipson’s book at

Read more from Judy Lipson on Open to Hope:…honor-loved-ones/

Judy Lipson

I am a sister who sadly lost both my sisters. I lost my younger beloved sister Jane died at age 22 in an automobile accident in 1981, and my older beloved sister Margie passed away at age 35 after a 20-year battle with anorexia and bulimia in 1990. I am the sole surviving sibling. As the Founder and Chair of “Celebration of Sisters,” this annual ice skating fundraiser honors and commemorates the lives and memories of my beloved sisters to benefit Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, MA. The event is scheduled the first Sunday in November as Jane’s birthday was November 6th and Margie’s November 8th. We celebrate all lost siblings, their legacies as they live on in all of us. Since the inception of Celebration of Sisters in 2011, I have embarked on the journey to mourn the losses of my beloved sisters that had been suppressed for 30 years. The process unmistakably the greatest challenging time in my life proved to be the most empowering, enlightening and freeing. Now that I am allowing my sisters and their memories to return to my heart where they truly belong, I am re-discovering myself, happier and more at peace. Ice skating is a sport shared by me and my sisters and a chord throughout my life. It has brought me full circle to pay tribute to my sisters and bring me joy, peace, healing and the recipient of the US Figure Skating 2020 Get Up Award. My memoir Celebration of Sisters: It is Never Too Late To Grieve will be published in December 2021. It is my goal to advocate for sibling loss to insure surviving siblings are neither alone nor forgotten.

More Articles Written by Judy