Thousands of parents, shattered by the loss of a child, have found solace through The Compassionate Friends (TCF).
The group, which operates Canada-wide and with a Vernon chapter, has made the world a brighter place during the darkest days for grieving parents.
But the light is fading in the group and new organizers are needed to help TCF continue.
“It’s breaking my heart,” said Kelli Rose, chapter leader, who has held the role for the last 12 years along with fellow leaders Carol and Petra. Unfortunately, personal circumstances have led to not one but all three of the leaders needing to step away. They are hoping that a few parents are able to step up and fulfill this important role.
“Otherwise, by the end of February our chapter will be closing in Vernon,” said Rose.
The role is not for everyone, in fact there is one major prerequisite.
“You have to have walked the walk,” said Rose – meaning only those who have lost a child can take on the leadership.
Hosting monthly meetings and taking over the chapter might also not be suitable for parents who have lost children very recently.
“In the first year or two I know there’s no way I could have,” said Rose, of her experience after her daughter Tiffany died in 2005.
Victims Services had given her a pamphlet for TCF and Rose attended her first meeting after speaking to former leader Darlene. She remembered the organizer telling her attend at least three meetings, as they are all different.
In 2010 Rose stepped up as chapter leader and now she tells the parents the same thing. She also encourages those dealing with the loss of a child, whether it’s a grown adult or a baby, to reach out.
“Probably less than 10 per cent of parents reach out for help,” she said, adding that she was overjoyed to see six dads at one meeing as men don’t usually reach out at all.”
Rose has grown TCF to include the Whatshan Lake Retreat over the last five years (prior to that, the closest retreat was in Washington). The group used to also go to Kelowna every year for the Worldwide Candle Lighting, but Rose helped establish a lighting in Vernon, which takes place Dec. 11 at 6 p.m. at Paddlewheel Hall.
The group still meets on the last Thursday of every month at People Place at 6 p.m., thanks to sponsorship by Nixon Wenger.
The latest startling statistic Rose has noticed is the type of deaths that are occuring.
“The first year or two of COVID I was seeing so many suicides and overdoses. But I think a lot of the overdoses were suicides.”
With COVID causing fewer doctor visits, more phone consults and fewer diagnosis’ taking place, Rose has noticed more parents showing up at meetings whose children (ages 18-30) have died of cancer.
“Now, the past six or seven months the cancer rates have been really high.”
Rose doesn’t want to give up on these parents and is willing to help out for the first few months if some new parents can step up to lead the group.
Anyone interested in helping the Vernon chapter (which serves Salmon Arm, Armstrong, Enderby and Sorrento, can call 250-558-5026 or 250-308-8489 or email Vernon@TCFCanada.net.