Group offers empathy to parents grieving loss of a child

Special service planned for Sunday to comfort those struggling to make sense of death

Sam Lucier of the Penticton and District Bereavement Resource Centre talks with Cheryl Vandervaart at the centre Thursday. Cheryl’s son Brandon (photo) passed away at age 39 earlier this year. This Sunday the centre is hosting its annual Ended Beginnings session at the Shatford Centre for parents who have lost a child. It starts at 2 p.m.

Sam Lucier of the Penticton and District Bereavement Resource Centre talks with Cheryl Vandervaart at the centre Thursday. Cheryl’s son Brandon (photo) passed away at age 39 earlier this year. This Sunday the centre is hosting its annual Ended Beginnings session at the Shatford Centre for parents who have lost a child. It starts at 2 p.m.

The loss of a child, no matter how old, will forever be a parent’s worst nightmare.

Cheryl Vandervaart is still coming to terms with the passing of her son Brandon who died last January at the age of 39 from a heart condition.

Helping Cheryl along through this difficult time has been Sam (Sandra) Lucier from Penticton’s Bereavement Resource Centre.

“She’s (Cheryl) just kind of finding her way through it right now,” said Lucier, speaking on her client’s behalf.

“No one can ever be prepared for that. People don’t know what to do with that kind of pain, it’s so profound that it’s hard to get near.

“It changes people a lot and I think it takes a while for them to trust life again, it just seems like there is such a huge breach.”

She hopes part of the healing for Cheryl will come at this Sunday’s Ended Beginnings memorial service which takes place each year between Mother’s and Father’s days for parents who have lost children.

“It’s basically an opportunity for people to gather around the memory of their own child, to know that life continues to exist somewhere, and in the quiet of your own thoughts you can connect there,” said Lucier.

“It’s not just the loss of that life, but for the hopes and the dreams that you had for that life.

“I think it’s an opportunity for healing for some, and validates and is a reaffirmation of that life.”

Proceedings this year are at the Shatford Centre on Main Street.

It was during her time in Victoria the counsellor got involved with a similar program and found it gave participants “permission” to enjoy the memory of their child.

She added people who have not experienced this kind of loss would be surprised at how much a part of a parent’s life the departed son or daughter remains even over the passage of time.

According to Lucier, Cheryl now understands that relationship is not a bad thing.

“Before, Cheryl was trying to figure out what to say when people asked how many children she had and she said she finally realized she could say, ‘I have four sons and one is in heaven,’” recalled Lucier.

“What I realized after spending time with her is that it really doesn’t matter the age of your child, infant or adult, the truth of it is the mom is still the mom.

“When children die, the hopes the dreams, the expectations that will never be realized are grieved as well as the memory. In any case when a parent outlives a child it just upsets the order of the universe.”

Because parents usually deal with their loss in a very private way, the services are very quiet with music and guided meditation. It includes the lighting of a candle which participants are asked to bring.

“To people who first come out it seems it’s a painful thing to gather around, the loss of a child, but I think it can be very profound,” said Lucier.

“It’s just an opportunity to not be alone in it.”

Those attending Sunday’s service which begins at 2 p.m. and is co-sponsored by the Penticton and District Hospice Society  are asked to bring a candle, piece of paper, pen and envelope.


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