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Grieving parents can find support in ‘Compassionate Friends’ group

MONTICELLO — When someone loses a loved one it can be extremelydifficult to cope with the loss, especially if the one lost is achild. A group is forming here to help parents cope with thatloss.

“It can be really hard. It’s just not supposed to happen thatway. Parents should go before their children,” said DonnaWilliamson of New Zion, a member of the Compassionate FriendsMonticello Chapter steering committee.

Williamson lost her 13-year-old son, D.J. Sills, in afour-wheeler accident at her home on Sept. 12, 2001. D.J. was anexperienced rider who had taken the route he was on every day forseveral years, but something went wrong that day. Williamson saidshe had a hard time trying to come to terms with his death.

“Friends can hurt with you, but they can’t sympathize or reallyhelp because they haven’t been there,” she said. “You have to havesomeone to talk to who has been through what you’re goingthrough.”

That’s what Compassionate Friends is all about. CF is a nationalnon-profit, self-help support organization that offers friendshipand understanding to bereaved parents, grandparents and siblings.It’s goal is to help bereaved people work through the feelings ofloss and misplaced guilt to heal emotionally.

“They’re like family to me now. After being with them for solong you even get to believe you knew their children,” said NanJordan of New Zion, president of the new chapter, of herparticipation in the Columbia CF Chapter.

Jordan has been attending CF meetings in Columbia and elsewherefor six years. Her husband, Kenneth Jordan, and two sons, Jonathan,15, and Jason, 10, were killed in an automobile accident Nov. 13,1993.

“I didn’t know about Compassionate Friends, I had never heard ofthem,” she said.

Jordan suffered alone for three long years, she said, beforeseeing a Christmas tree in the Hattiesburg mall hosted by CF withpictures of lost children.

“I thought I was going crazy. I really did,” Jordan said. “Youstart to think of all kind of crazy things.”

Williamson agreed and said that is part of how CF helps parentscope with their loss.

“I can ask Nan something that I think is crazy and she knowsexactly what I’m talking about,” she said. “I don’t know where Iwould be if I didn’t have them to talk to.”

Jordan took a brochure for the tree display and called DottieMcAllister, president of the Columbia Chapter of CF. She beganattending the Columbia meetings, coped with her loss and now helpsothers cope with theirs.

“You never get over it,” Jordan said, “but you can deal withit.”

Williamson said the first meetings can be difficult because thewound is fresh and raw, but they also comfort.

“It was heart-breaking to hear all the stories, but it was socomforting to find out I wasn’t alone and I wasn’t going crazy,”she said.

Jordan and Williamson have joined with Stephanie Dunaway ofBrookhaven to form a CF chapter in Lawrence County to provide amore convenient meeting place for residents of this area. The localchapter is presently a satellite of the Columbia Chapter, but is inthe process of splitting away to be self-governing. They held theirsecond meeting Tuesday night.

CF was founded in Coventry, England, in 1969 by the parents oftwo young boys who died only three days apart. The parents metthrough the chaplain and an immediate bond was formed as theyworked through their grief. The two couples decided to share theirhealing discovery and help others come to terms with theirgroup.

Compassionate Friends was incorporated in the U.S. as anon-profit organization in 1978. There are now more than 600 groupsnationwide and hundreds of chapters in Canada, Great Britain andother countries throughout the world.

Meetings are open to all bereaved parents, grandparents andsiblings who wish to attend and are held the third Tuesday of everymonth at the Lawrence County Regional Library. For moreinformation, call Jordan at 587-2116, Williamson at 587-2055 orDunaway at 823-3378.