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Sharing the burden of grief

Published 11:03pm Friday, October 5, 2012

Losing a child is a nightmare with which any parent can identify. Children are supposed to outlive their parents, after all. That’s just the way the world is supposed to work. But as anyone who has reached the age of adulthood has learned, the world often doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to work.

Sometimes that means that parents outlive their children, and the nightmare that every parent has had at some time becomes crushing reality. All humans eventually come to grips with the fact that life is too short. But parents who lose their children have a special burden, the weight of which can seem to be renewed with each passing day.

Rather than easing with the passage of time, the pain can be refreshed with the passing of each milestone in the lives of their friends with living children. Christmases, birthdays, marriages and births all present new circumstances through which to experience the loss afresh.

Finding a way to share the burden with others who understand it from personal experience is one excellent way for such parents to cope with their loss. One group in Suffolk, the Suffolk Eclipse Chapter of The Compassionate Friends, was founded to provide just such a network.

The nonprofit organization has 600 chapters in the United States and beyond, each devoted to helping grief-stricken parents deal with the pain of their great loss. The Suffolk chapter was started by a couple of mothers who lost their sons to drowning during a storm in 1988.

Talking with other bereaved parents can be the best therapy of all, said Patricia Seal, whose son was one of the two boys lost on that terrible November evening. “You never stop missing your child, you just learn to get on with life,” she said recently. “We are just there for those who need the support and to help them understand they are not going crazy.”

On Thursday, the Suffolk group will host Nashville songwriter Alan Pedersen, who lost his daughter in a traffic accident in 2001. Pedersen, who helped form another grief-support group, Angels Across the USA, will be in Suffolk to encourage and inspire other bereaved parents through his music and message. The event is set for 7 p.m. Thursday at the Ebenezer United Methodist Church Family Life Center on Steeple Drive in Eclipse.

There’s no reason parents who have lost their children should have to carry the burden alone. Compassionate Friends is there to help. For more information, visit www.compassionatefriends.org.

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