A new effort is underway that will bring mothers and fathers together who have experienced the loss of a child.
The group, The Angel Over My Garage, hopes to provide a forum where parents can tell their stories, meet others in similar circumstances, and share personal advice.
"Telling your story is the first step in the healing process," said Lauren Kirby, founder and eight-year hospice volunteer. "The second step is being able to accept your own situation, listen to the situation of others and share your advice."
As parents attend the monthly meetings, they will share, be comforted by others, make life-long friendships and learn how others cope.
Initially, there will be one type of meeting each month, then based on the level of participation, it may break into three separate meetings. This will give the long-term illness, accidental/sudden and suicidal loss meeting categories their own forums. Participants will be encouraged to invite others who have also experienced the loss of a child so the effort can grow and take root. While the meetings are occurring, stories will be captured with a keen focus on the advice that is shared. A grief counselor will be invited to help facilitate the meetings.
Kirby formulated the plans for the effort and shared them with friend Meg Crossett, whose 6-year-old daughter Rachel died after a three-year battle with cancer.
Kirby coined the name of the effort from the holiday angel that sits over Meg's garage, which has been there since Rachel's last Christmas. The angel helps Rachel see her house from heaven.
Kirby worked with local Web page designer, Paul Olenick, to build a Web site to capture parents' input. Through the Web site, participants can tell their stories and share the specific pieces of advice that helped them cope with their loss.
"My hope is that this group can help each other and help countless others through the book when it is published," said Kirby. "If one parent can find a piece of advice that helps them survive in the midst of their circumstance and pain, the entire effort will be well worth it."