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A place to grieve, a place to heal

"It's not a club you want to belong to," is how a Gibsons' woman describes the organization, Compassionate Friends of Canada (CFC). For Judy Lynne, the April day in 2002 she qualified as a member was one of the saddest of her life.

"It's not a club you want to belong to," is how a Gibsons' woman describes the organization, Compassionate Friends of Canada (CFC). For Judy Lynne, the April day in 2002 she qualified as a member was one of the saddest of her life.

Until that day Lynne had been the mother of three children. But whiteout conditions on a mountain in the Alberta Rockies on April 12, 2002 claimed the life of her middle son, Neil Falkner.

At first the shock was overwhelming. When she first got the news from her oldest son, Scott, Lynne couldn't take it in. Later disbelief set in.

"I couldn't believe he was gone. I would think 'why hasn't he called'," she said. Then the reality and the sorrow would set in.

"God, he's gone. I'm never going to see him again," was how she recalled her anguish when she would pass the gas station where he had worked. At first Lynne stayed "busy, busy, busy." A scholarship fund in Falkner's memory was established by Outward Bound Canada in 2003 to honour the avid outdoorsman.

"I was desperate to keep him alive in some way. [I thought] I would be the only one to keep him alive. At the end of the year, I went into a depression and stayed there for a long time," she said.

After her son's death, a friend gave Lynne a book of poems, Holding On: Poems For Alex. The woman who had written the book in memory of her own son's death was Cathy Sosnowsky.

Ironically, Lynne had met the woman before when her daughter had received an award eight years previously from Langara College.

At the time, Lynne recalled Sosnowsky had said something about her son Alex to Lynne.

"I remember thinking how unusual that a perfect stranger would tell me something so intimate about her son," Lynne said -a fact Lynne no longer finds difficult to understand.

Through Lynne's contact at Langara College, the grieving mother found out about CFC.

CFC is an organization started in England in 1968 for parents whose children have died. It began when a hospital chaplain, Rev. Simon Stephens, connected two families who had each lost a son. When the four parents came together after the boys' deaths, they discovered they had a powerful bond.

One of the fathers, Joe Lawley, describes what happened.

"Together, midst free-flowing tears, the four of us were able for the first time to speak openly of our children, without feelings of guilt that we were endlessly repeating the virtues of our children, and of our vanished hopes for the future."

The pastor was the first to realize the parents were helping each other in ways that people who had not dealt with the loss of a child could not.

Stephens then suggested a meeting of a number of recently bereaved parents. The initial meeting took place Jan. 28, 1969.Since then CFC has become international in scope. The organization has kept its focus on bereaved parents. Its primary purpose is to "assist bereaved parents in the positive reconciliation of the grief experienced upon the death of a child and to support their efforts to achieve physical and emotional health."

For parents who are experiencing such profound grief in a world that expects them to just get on with their lives, CFC is a lifeline.

"Over time people expect you to move on, and you do, but you never get over it. When you can get together with people who have had a similar experience and talk about your child, you can still keep [the child] with you," Lynne explained.

Anyone who has lost a child, regardless of the child's or the parent's age, is welcome to attend a CFC meeting. Right now Lynne is in the midst of setting up regular meetings. She's looking for a free or low-cost meeting place in a central location on the Coast.

CFC charges no fees to belong. Everything is on a strictly volunteer donation basis.

"The price to join our club is already too high," Lynne said.

The only thing required of people attending the meetings is a willingness to listen. Each person is encouraged to talk about their loss only when they feel comfortable doing so. The meetings are structured so that each person who speaks must indicate they're done by touching the arm of the person sitting next to them. Because each person grieves differently, the rest of the group is discouraged from offering comments or comfort to the person speaking. "Touching will discourage the speaker from continuing," says the group's literature. Visit CFC's website at if you want more information about the organization.

If you are grieving the loss of a beloved child, want to help Lynne find a venue for meetings or would like more information about the Neil Falkner Memorial Scholarship fund, contact her at 604-886-7334.

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