Support group helps grieving parents deal with loss

“No one can understand losing a child. Right after it happens you can feel so lost and so alone,” said Donna Williamson. “Then you come and look at these parents and can see in their eyes that compassionate understanding.”

On Sept. 12, 2001, Williamson lost her son. To cope with the tragedy, she began a local chapter of Compassionate Friends in 2002. It is a support group for parents and families who have lost a child.

“If I can help one person just a little, then maybe this tragedy would not have been for nothing,” said Williamson. “I truly believe a lot of people could benefit from this.”

The Compassionate Friends meets the second Tuesday of every month at Easthaven Baptist Church on Highway 84. Whether it’s a recent tragedy or something that happened years ago, any family is welcome to sit, talk and give support. Williamson said it is very laid back and if someone doesn’t feel like talking they don’t have to.

“It may not be for everyone. There is no right or wrong path in the grief journey, it’s whatever works for you,” said Williamson.

The Compassionate Friends is an international organization. It was founded over 40 years ago in England when a group of grieving parents gathered around a kitchen table and began to talk and support each other. The group was established to help bereaved parents, siblings or grandparents.

“The Compassionate Friends is about transforming the pain of grief into the elixir of hope. It takes people out of the isolation society imposes on the bereaved and lets them express their grief naturally. With the shedding of tears, healing comes. And the newly bereaved get to see people who have survived and are learning to live and love again,” wrote Simon Stephens, founder of The Compassionate Friends.

The local group is made up of five to eight people. They meet and discuss how they are doing, what they are doing to cope and sometimes have a special speaker to share their story. Williamson usually brings some kind of topic to discuss, such as dealing with the holidays.

“Time does help, it becomes not so in your face every minute of every day,” said Williamson. “There becomes a new normal, and you adjust even though life is changed. Like I tell people, I feeling like I have two lives, a life before and a life after.”

The Compassionate Friends will be holding an international candle light vigil for all children who have died “that their light may always shine.” The local chapter gathers at Williamson’s home, light candles and remember for an hour.

“You will always remember, there is never a way to forget, but for that one hour it is okay to sit and dwell,” said Williamson. “It is a sacred time.”

Anyone is welcome to join The Compassionate Friends. For more information about the group contact Williamson at 601-757-5425 or visit www.compassionatefriends.org.

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