The most wonderful time of the year can be painful for those who have had to experience one of the most painful hardships imaginable: the loss of a child. Along with the child's birthday and the anniversary of the death, it can be one of the most difficult times of the year.
This is why the Compassionate Friends, a nonprofit support group for families who have a lost a child, are especially busy around this time.
It's something Karen Staker has a lot of experience in. Her 16-year-old son died in a car accident 19 years ago. She found her way to Compassionate Friends after struggling with one-on-one counseling. For her, comfort and healing meant being with others who could relate to her because they were struggling with the same issues themselves. She now leads the Waukesha chapter as the group's facilitator.
“It's been a lot of years and I am at peace with it,” Staker said. “You never, ever, ever, will get over it, you just learn how to live with it.”
In a society where death and grief are often taboo subjects, she found an enormous freedom in being able to speaking open and honestly.
“Anything can be asked there, anything can be said, nobody judges you, nobody is going to look at you funny if you start crying,” said Staker.
It was something that was badly needed. Often, even the closest and most well-meaning family and friends don't know what do or how to provide comfort during the inevitable scenes of pain and tears. This often leaves grieving parents feeling isolated at their moment of greatest vulnerability.
“The best thing to do is be a listener, and all you have to do is say, 'I'm sorry;' that's all it takes. And not to be afraid of them,” Staker said. “People want to hear the child's name and want to know they're not forgotten. When people shy away from you, it hurts. You feel like you have a disease.”
A worldwide candle lighting for all those who have lost a child was held Sunday at the Prairie Home Cemetery in Waukesha. For more information or to make a donation go to http://www.compassionatefriends.org/home.aspx.