The Compassionate Friends began in Coventry, England, in 1969, following the deaths of two young boys, Billy Henderson and Kenneth Lawley. Billy and Kenneth had died just three days apart in the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital. One grieving mother sent flowers to the other via the hospital chaplain. Bill and Joan then invited the Lawleys over for tea, and a bond was formed as the two couples spoke freely about their boys, sharing the memories and the dreams that had died with Billy and Kenneth. They continued to get together regularly, and in 1969, another grieving mother accepted their invitation to meet with them.
It was the beginning of a self-help group that actively began reaching out to newly bereaved parents in their community. Because the word “compassionate” kept coming up, this new organization was called “The Society of the Compassionate Friends.”
Compassionate Friends expanded across the U.K. and abroad during the following years. Today we have 50 registered chapters across Canada. Our own Sunshine Coast Compassionate Friends has been meeting monthly. A few years ago the Sunshine Coast Hospice Society generously offered space to bereaved parents to hold monthly meetings. Until then it had been word of mouth, and one-on-one meetings in a living room or coffee shop.
Recovery from the death of a child may take a lifetime, but the most crucial period of the grieving process is in those first years after loss. Support of friends and extended family may be relatively short term when compared to the needs of a bereaved parent. Meeting with other bereaved parents may provide the much needed “mutual support and understanding” that we need. Grief is not a condition that can be “treated.” It is a healing process that takes time and on-going support, understanding, and friendship. Those who have “been there” are the best support for many of us who have lost a child. Most of all, they offer hope that recovery is possible.
The Compassionate Friends are here to journey alongside newly bereaved parents until they can make their own choice to reinvest in life once again. We do this in memory of our children who were, still are, and always will be a part of who we are and what we do – today, tomorrow, and forever.
Monthly meetings are held on the third Tuesday of each month (with the exception of July and August) at 7 p.m. at the Sunshine Coast Hospice Centre, 4602 Simpkins Road, Davis Bay. For further information (or to request a ride) please contact me at 604-886-7334.
Judy Lynne, Gibsons