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The death of a child is every parent's worst nightmare
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The death of a child is every parent's worst nightmare

The writer is a former member of the Worldwide Church of God who lost her 2-year-old daughter Candice in 1993. She lives in Tyler with her 16-year-old daughter Erin, where she works as a Web-site designer. Mrs. Lingle, the sister of Journal publisher Dixon Cartwright, receives E-mail at Visit the Tyler chapter of The Compassionate Friends at

By Mary Lingle

TYLER, Texas--The death of a child is every parent's worst nightmare. We push the possibility to the backs of our minds. But what happens when that nightmare becomes reality? How do parents cope?

The Tyler chapter of The Compassionate Friends is a group of parents each of whom is coming to grips with losing a child and helping others in the process. Each is at a different stage in his or her journey, but they are all connected through a common bond.

The Compassionate Friends, a national nonprofit support group not affiliated with any religious group or social program, holds meetings open to anyone in need. They offer support and understanding to those recently bereaved as well as continuing support during stressful times such as holidays, birthdays and anniversaries.

The support is there whether you lost your child to miscarriage or if your child was 40 years old.

Circle of friends

It takes a lot of courage to walk through the door. Each individual thinks at first that he is alone in his grief and often feels isolated. But The Compassionate Friends is an accepting, nonjudgmental group of people who have all been there. A person who loses a child needs to communicate with other people who have had that experience.

The Compassionate Friends of Tyler holds a monthly meeting and sends out a monthly newsletter and cards to bereaved families. They have a resource library and other printed materials.

Meetings are informal and on any given night are attended by husbands and wives, single parents, siblings and grandparents from all walks of life--gathered in a circle.

The Compassionate Friends' credo is read aloud, and all tell as much as they are comfortable with about themselves and their loss. If a parent wishes, he or she may sit in silence.

Though experiences are tragic and often difficult to tell, each person's story, like a link in a chain, binds the group together as only a common experience can.

Parents talk about their pain, their happy memories, their guilt and anger. Many need to be reassured that they aren't losing their minds. They learn from each other, the newly bereaved realizing they are not the first parent to lose a child, and they won't be the last.

Inadequate and unnecessary

We quickly find there are no words to describe the experience of losing a child. For those who have not lost a child, no explanation will do. For those who have, no explanation is necessary.

Frequently the topic turns to what parents wish family, friends and coworkers would and would not say after the death of their child.

One of the most important things parents want them to remember is to mention their child's name.

Don't forget birthdays and anniversaries and even the death date.

What not to say

Likewise, don't make well-meaning comments like:

o God must have needed another angel in heaven.

o You are so strong. You've handled her death really well.

o You have to get on with your life.

Just being supportive and asking the parent what you can do means so much. There is no other familial bond that resembles the relationship between parent and child, so no other experience with death can prepare a parent for that loss.

While there are other counseling services available to help people who have lost family members, The Compassionate Friends is unique in that it deals with the specific needs of parents who have lost children.

The Compassionate Friends wants the community to know that, if you lose a child, you need not walk alone.

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