Archived Story

Group welcomes musical therapy

Published 10:54pm Wednesday, October 2, 2013

For his mother, how 15-year-old Michael Seal died is less important than who he was and — in her heart — still is.

“Over the years, people don’t ask who your child was; they really just ask you what happened,” Patricia Seal said.

On Nov. 20, 1988, Michael and friend Jim Wood died after venturing into North Suffolk waters to retrieve a fishing net as a storm threatened.

This photo of Michael Seal was taken 10 days before his death on Nov. 20, 1988. His mother, Patricia Seal, leads the Suffolk Eclipse Chapter of The Compassionate Friends, which is hosting a special concert Oct. 17 for those who, like her, have experienced loss.
This photo of Michael Seal was taken 10 days before his death on Nov. 20, 1988. His mother, Patricia Seal, leads the Suffolk Eclipse Chapter of The Compassionate Friends, which is hosting a special concert Oct. 17 for those who, like her, have experienced loss.

In the wake of the tragedy, Patricia Seal said she tried different bereavement groups to help deal with the grief, but they “just didn’t work for me.”

Then a hospital chaplain told her about a group specifically for family members who have lost a child, The Compassionate Friends.

The chapter that met in Virginia Beach had about 15 members, Seal said, and after the first visit she knew she had found something special.

“When you sit there and you start hearing the stories of others who have lost their child, you understand that they know exactly what you are feeling, and you are not alone,” she said.

“It doesn’t matter how old your child was, or the circumstances of their death — the heartache is still the same.”

Seal had attended the Virginia Beach chapter with the mother of her son’s friend, Kay Wood, who died in 2011.

Together, they decided to start a Suffolk-Eclipse chapter, which meets the second Thursday every month at 7 p.m. in the Ebenezer United Methodist Church Family Life Center on Steeple Drive.

On Oct. 17, it will be the setting of a special meeting of the group that is open to the public: Alan and Denise Pedersen will bring music and hope with their Angels Across the USA tour.

Alan Pedersen’s only daughter Ashley Marie Pedersen, and Denise Pedersen’s son, Sean Patrick Sullivan, died in a separate car accidents in 2001 and 2004.

Alan Pedersen, a former Nashville songwriter, turned his grief into a collection of powerful songs that speak personally to anyone dealing with loss.

Over the past few years, the couple has toured the country, performing the music and delivering its message.

Seal says this month’s will be the Pedersen’s final visit to Suffolk, as it is their last year of the tour.

“Last year we had about 65 people come,” she said. “He (Alan Pedersen) said that was the largest gathering he’s seen for a chapter.”

For a $100 donation, folks at the meeting can have a butterfly decal featuring the name of someone taken too soon added to the Pedersen’s tour van.

The chapter is growing, Seal said, adding, “It’s a group you don’t want to grow, but unfortunately there is a need.

“Knowing that others understand how you are feeling gives you hope and encouragement.”

Stories told at meetings help keep fond memories alive, according to Seal.

“We are able to talk about our child, who they were and how they are still in our lives today,” she said.

“Doing Compassionate Friends has kept my son alive in my heart.”

Visit www.angelsacrosstheusa.com for more information on the Pedersens, and www.compassionatefriends.org to learn more about the group.

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