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Parents in pain over loss of children find compassion in Vernon group

The Compassionate Friends reveal overdose and suicide as top cause of deaths

Overdose and suicide continue to be the leading reason grieving parents gather in Vernon.

The Compassionate Friends (TCF) is a group for bereaved parents who meet on the last Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. at People Place.

Whether it’s a crash, physical or mental disease or the growing number of lives lost to drugs or alcohol, the group provides a place for suffering parents.

On top of the monthly meetings, the local group takes part in The Compassionate Friends Worldwide Candle Lighting on Sunday, Dec. 10 at 5:30 p.m. at Paddlewheel Hall.

It’s an opportunity to reflect and recognize the pain these parents feel at a time when the world becomes festive and prepares for the holiday season.

Candles are provided and lit, joining a procession of light that starts in New Zealand at 7 p.m. their local time. The light continues around the world for 24 hours from the tens of thousands of TCF members, relatives and supporters.

Along with bringing their candle home to light in remembrance over the holidays, Vernon is offering butterflies and angels for those attending, a sharing of goodies, poems, words and photos. Anyone wanting a picture of their child to be included in the slideshow can email it to

For Lainey Vescarelli it was overdose that stole her 31-year-old son Darcy on May 2, 2022.

Darcy lived in a hotel with a roommate, had a steady job and was Lainey’s best friend.

But he had his fair share of challenges with drugs, his mom explained.

That morning he went to 711 for a Slurpee, he was supposed to go to work that day. But that changed when someone outside the store handed him a bag of drugs.

What Lainey later learned from the police and coroner is that three grains of fentanyl is fatal but 50 grains is lethal. The baggie Darcy took had the later.

“He didn’t stand a hope in hell,” said Lainey, who was shattered by the loss.

About three weeks later, Lainey was looking through her Victim Services package provided by the RCMP and saw a notice from TCF.

Despite her fears, she went to a meeting.

“I almost turned around and left when a gentleman grabbed my hand and said, ‘you’re in a safe place.’”

While scary at first, the group of parents who had been through similar tragedies of losing their children became a place of comfort and understanding for Lainey.

The meeting became a crutch that she relied on to work through her grief and gave her something to look forward to.

Now Lainey is the Vernon chapter leader, not even two years since her son’s death.

“For me it’s healing. All their stories help me and maybe I can start to help back.”

Carol Owen is secretary of TCF but has been a member for almost 10 years since the loss of her 26-year-old to cancer.

“My son had been gone for a year,” said Carol of Richard, who died February 2013.

Full of cancer “from head to toe,” Richard’s diagnosis prompted a a proposal to his girlfriend, who four weeks later she found out she was pregnant.

Their daughter was born in June, just months after Richard passed away.

“My first meeting I cried the whole meeting and couldn’t stop,” said Carol.

The tears continued to fall, but less and less until two years later she was asked if she would facilitate the meeting.

Her first time facilitating, she did not cry.

“I knew Richard would be proud of me.”

For Lainey and Carol, the pain is still there, but having each other, having the other group members, meeting new members and holding events like the Worldwide Candle Lighting provide some comfort as the heart aches.

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Jennifer Smith

About the Author: Jennifer Smith

Vernon has always been my home, and I've been working at The Morning Star since 2004.
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