When a child dies, parents mourn and begin the long process of bereavement.
Those who have had a child die often immediately experience shock, numbness, denial and disbelief, all of which act as a cushion against the full impact of the loss.
As time passes and these emotions wear off, others emerge, often including guilt, anger, loneliness, despair, sadness and regret. These feelings are all part of the emotional reaction called "grief" and may be so overwhelming that parents often do not understand what they are experiencing.
Parents will approach this emotional process in different ways. Some express their grief easily and openly, while others keep their feelings locked inside. While there is no "right" way in which to grieve, many bereaved parents have found it helpful to have some guidance along the way.
That's where The Compassionate Friends (TCF) comes in. The group provides a safe place for parents to get together and talk about their children with others who understand.
The Rim Country TCF Chapter was founded in May of 2007 by two couples whose children died. Bill and Marilyn Knauss lost their son Dalton 9 years ago to an accidental hanging. Chuck and Robbin Clark's son Cory died in an automobile accident in 2000. The Knauss family and the Clark family met at a TCF Chapter meeting in Mesa one week after Cory died.
"We connected with them immediately. We hurt for them so deeply because we were exactly where they were 10 months earlier," said Bill. Both couples moved to Payson in 2004.
"After we moved to Payson, we found that there was no such support group available here," said Bill.
The couples discussed starting a local chapter. Bill and Robbin attended facilitator training sessions and received certification.
"It took a while for everything to happen. We were both a bit intimidated about facilitating a meeting even though we had regularly attended them in the Valley. But then we kept seeing articles, reading notices and meeting other local people who had lost children and it was obvious that we just had to do this. We had to create a safe place for hurting parents to talk about their kids."
"Your whole world changes when your child dies," said Robbin.
"The biggest fear for parents whose child dies is that people will forget -- forget the child lived and forget the child died. The group allows everyone to talk about our children with other people who understand the intense grief of losing a child. Many people around you don't want to talk about it. It's so personal, many no longer talk about your child, yet you want so much for him to be part of the conversation. It's as if your child never existed, and that's not true," she said.
Meetings are held at 6:30 p.m., the second Tuesday of every month at The Ponderosa Baptist Church, 1800 N. Beeline Highway, Payson (just south of The Home Depot and the roundabout). Contact Bill Knauss at (928) 978-1492 or visit the Rim Country Chapter Web site for information, www.RimCountryTCF.org. Meetings are open to anyone who has lost a child.
TCF is a national nonprofit, self-help support organization, offering friendship, understanding and hope to families grieving the death of a child of any age, from any cause. There is no religious affiliation and no individual membership fees or dues are charged.
All bereaved family members are welcome. TCF reports that 19 percent of the adult population has experienced the death of a child and 22 percent the death of a sibling.