Learning to cope

‘Compassionate Friends’
lends support to those
who have lost loved ones

By Ruth Wright
Staff Writer

MADISON, Ind. (December 2002) – They come from all walks of life with a pure and simple mission – to offer hope and understanding to those who grieve. They are the Compassionate Friends, a self-help group for families who have lost a child of any age, from any cause.
The organization, which first began in Coventry, England, in 1969, now has chapters around the globe, including nearly 600 chapters in the United States. There are no membership dues and no religious affiliation. Members simply gather monthly to share their feelings and help one another heal.

Bernard and Nancy Fishers

Bernard and Nancy Fishers

Linda Kramer, leader of the Madison, Ind., chapter, lost her 30-year-old daughter, Candy Southworth, just two years ago. Kramer vividly recalled the Sunday morning, Sept. 3, 2000, when Candy called her on the phone and complained that she was having trouble breathing.
Just three hours later Candy died in the hospital of a blood clot to the lung, said Kramer. She left behind a husband and two young children.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through in my life, and that’s why I wanted to reach out and help others,” Kramer explained. In September, Kramer started the Rivertown Chapter of Compassionate Friends in Madison with the goal of helping others in the community who shared her sense of loss. One of the organization’s principles is that bereaved parents can help each other toward a positive resolution of their grief.
Having others to share with is one of the best ways to cope, according to Bernard and Nancy Fisher of Madison. The Fishers started attending Compassionate Friends meetings with the Scottsburg chapter after the loss of their son, Christopher, 33, on April 20, 1997.
Christopher, a husband and father of two, was killed when a car he was working under fell and crushed him. The Fishers, like many who have experienced the loss of a child, still get emotional when they talk about their son.
You never forget, said Bernard Fisher, but having a support group like Compassionate Friends helps you to cope. The Fishers said they were introduced to the organization by a friend, Lloyd Roberts, who began attending meetings of the group after the loss of a grandson.
Nancy Fisher admitted that she was unsure about attending her first meeting. “I felt like I just can’t do this.” But after attending meetings for the past five years, both Nancy and Bernard said that the group has been helpful.
“I found it helped me deal with the loss of Chris much better than I was dealing with it without the organization,” Bernard said.
The couple said that having a group to which they can relate has been a blessing.
At meetings, members are welcome to talk about their children openly and share their personal experiences. “You don’t hesitate to cry or express your feelings because you know that everyone there knows exactly what you’re feeling,” Bernard Fisher said.
The Fishers said that people in the group come from all walks of life. Some have lost more than one child. Some, like the Fishers, have lost adult children; others have lost young sons or daughters. But no matter the loss, said the Fishers, the group is ready to offer understanding and support.
“We all have different needs,” said Nancy, but we all help each other.
The group’s intervention extends beyond meetings. Members often call or send cards to one another on holidays and birthdays to help each other get through. Nancy said she had received cards from group members and couldn’t express how much it helped her. She has also done the same for others in the group.
“If you’re feeling really bad, then someone in the group will talk with you,” said Fisher.
During the holidays, a difficult time for many, the group gathers to share a special candlelight memorial. On Dec. 12, the Scottsburg and Madison chapters will hold a joint service. Kramer has asked members to bring a framed picture of their child, a candle and votive cup, and a snack to share. The candles will be lit and music will be played. Members can also share poems.
“As sad as it is, it’s beautiful,” said Nancy, who has attended the candlelight service in past years. All family and friends are welcome to attend the service, which will be held at Calvary Baptist Church, 2632 Michigan Rd. in Madison. New members are also welcome.

• Individuals in the Madison area can contact Linda Kramer at (812) 866-4447 for more information. To find a chapter near you, visit the Compassionate Friends website at: www.compassionatefriends.org.

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