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Beacon Senior News

Compassionate Friends in times of grief

May 05, 2020 10:59AM ● By Diana Barnett

“The friendship and understanding provided by those who have walked the same road is the best support one can find.” - Simon Stephens, Compassionate Friends founder

Losing a child is a parent’s worst nightmare. After Alice Monroe lost a teenage son in an automobile accident years ago, she became the lost one. Although she had support from friends and family, it was difficult for her to regain any level of normalcy. 

Margaret and David Palo lost their son in 1978. Church friends and family were supportive but couldn’t relate to the tragic circumstances to offer the help the Palos needed. The couple had heard of an organization that supported grieving parents but no one seemed to know its name.

Two years later, the Palos saw an episode of the Phil Donahue Show featuring an interview with an Illinois chapter of Compassionate Friends. Margaret solicited help from friends and acquaintances who’d lost children and formed a chapter locally. The first meeting was held at her house in the fall of 1980. 

“The group planned for our first meeting, and took information letters to doctors, ministers and morticians in our community to gather support,” said Margaret. “We were surprised at the turnout.”

It was the 200th chapter in the U.S. to be chartered and is currently in its 40th year of supporting families who have lost children.

Silver linings

Sometimes positive things come from difficult circumstances. Margaret was able to use her “grief energy” to form the local chapter.

“Often, grieving parents may decide to return to college and pursue degrees in counseling to help others in a professional setting,” said Margaret.

After being introduced to Compassionate Friends, Monroe and her husband, Daryl, focused on providing a refuge for other grieving parents.

With help from many volunteers, the Monroes built the “Wing and a Prayer” chapel, located near their home in Glade Park. Members of Compassionate Friends convene there every August to honor their loved ones. Members also attend HopeWest’s annual Light Up a Life ceremony in December in both Grand Junction and Montrose.

Compassionate Friends supports all who’ve been affected by a child’s death (at any age and from any cause) through peer counseling, education and group meetings. This all-volunteer group exists to provide friendship, understanding and hope. Siblings and parents are usually the first line of grief, but grandparents also grieve and can be affected by their own children’s grief. 

Finding support

The local chapter meets monthly from 7-8:30 p.m. the first Tuesday at Unity Church, 3205 N. 12th St. in Grand Junction. But, due to concerns surrounding COVID-19, meetings are temporarily canceled.

“Sometimes a physical connection means a lot, especially if it’s coming from someone you don’t know who understands the trauma you’re in,” said long-time friend Betty Hancock. “I’ve helped so many people over the years, it breaks my heart that I’m unable to be there in person to give them a hug and help them at this time.”

Even though meetings are on hold, you can still reach out for support. Call Alice at 241-6346 or Betty at 434-3822. To learn more, visit www.compassionatefriends.org.