Bereavement group helps parents deal with loss at the holidays and year-round
The first time Ron and Carol Nageotte attended a Friends With Compassion meeting in 2004, they were “petrified.”
Friends With Compassion is a support group for families who have lost a child of any age. Ron’s son, Eric Nageotte-Lowe, had died three months earlier in a ski accident in New Zealand. The U.S. Ski Team hopeful was 18 years old.
The Nageottes needed someone to talk to.
“I’ve read books, I’ve listened to psychologists and therapists, and they all have their different views of it,” Ron said. “But no one understands what you go through as do other people who have lost a child.”
The group will hold its annual holiday party Thursday night. Attendants will exchange Christmas tree ornaments with the name of their child written along the bottom and then explain why they chose that particular item.
Group leader Arline Gordon chose a petite, feathered blue bird in honor of her son, David Gordon, who died from cancer at age 44 in 1998. She chose the blue bird because it reminded her of the color of David’s eyes.
“It’s different than any kind of loss because you don’t expect to go before your children,” Gordon said. “When you’re with someone who has lost a child, we understand each other better. You can be there for them. You can empathize for them.”
The Nageottes bring an ornament with a ski theme each year to honor Eric’s love of skiing. This year, they’ll bring a skiing penguin.
“At the Christmas party, we can all grieve and celebrate Christmas in a happy way, and yet do a tribute for our children,” Ron said.
The group formed more than a decade ago as a chapter of The Compassionate Friends, a worldwide support group. Through the years, members came and went, and the group eventually re-formed as Friends With Compassion to avoid paying dues to the international organization.
The group meets monthly, with attendance ranging from five to 20 people per meeting. At the end of every meeting, the members join hands and recite the poem “A Prayer for Survivors,” which begins with the lines, “Lord, I need your help to survive. A part of me is gone, but I’m still alive.”
“A tear comes to my eye every time,” Ron said. “It’s good; it makes us stronger.”
Remembering their first Friends With Compassion meeting, Carol Nageotte said it was a relief to be able to speak openly about their loss.
“Other people feel uncomfortable,” she said. “For (this group), we can say what we want and talk about what we want.”
The members range in age, as well as the age of their deceased children. One member lost her son more than 20 years ago.
“I asked her why she was there,” Ron said. “She said, ‘I’m here to help you.'”
The holiday party and ornament exchange will be Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. Call (530) 544-6892 for location information.
The international group, The Compassionate Friends, will hold its 13th annual Worldwide Candle Lighting Dec. 13. The Reno chapter will host the event at 7 p.m. in the Temple Sinai social hall, 3405 Gulling Road, Reno. For information, contact chapter leader Carol Moss at (775) 813-0828 or (775) 813-0828.
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