Coming together to cope ...

Support group helps those who’ve lost a child

Sometimes, it is more than one can handle, life is not the same and reality is a harsh blow.

The experience of losing a child is heartwrenching, and one may not know how to deal with the pain, said Freddie Saye, the facilitator of a local support group for those who’ve suffered this type of loss.

A local chapter of The Compassionate Friends, a non-profit support organization, is geared for families who are grieving the death of a child or grandchild of any age, from any cause, he said. The organization meets every second Tuesday of the month at 7:30 p.m., in room 141, at Salem Baptist Church, 1724 Highway 155 North in McDonough.

“The purpose is to minister to parents who have lost children,” he said. “It’s nationwide. We talk about how bad we hurt, how deep we hurt.”

He said the group lets parents share what is deep in their hearts with others who are undergoing the same grief.

The organization serves people in the Southern Crescent area and has more than 50 couples who participate, according to the facilitator. About 12 to 18 couples, at a time, can participate in the support group, he said.

The local chapter in McDonough has been active for about three years, he said, adding that there was a Jonesboro chapter that was active for 18 years, but was dissolved due to little participation.

Saye said he lost his son, Kevin Saye, 29 years ago. His then-17-year-old son was killed by a drunk driver in October of 1982, while driving home. “He was just starting his senior year at Riverdale High School,” said Saye.

He and his wife joined the organization about a year later, in the fall of 1983.

“We joined to help us cope with the hurt we were going through,” said Saye. “In reality, the loss of a child is the worst loss you will ever experience.” He said he has lost other loved ones, but the loss of a child is incomparable and a far worse feeling.

For Saye, the organization has assisted him and his wife in dealing with the unexpected death of their son. When such losses occur, parents may lose communication with their family members and friends because most don’t know how to deal with people experiencing this loss, he said.

“It’s almost like a leper going down the street ... ‘I am unclean because I have lost a child,’” he explained.

Saye said the meetings helped him realize he wasn’t crazy, and that his reactions and feelings toward the loss of his son were normal. “We are as normal as normal can be for a parent who has lost a child,” he added.

Ruth Roberts said she joined the organization about four years ago. “It’s been four years, it feels like it was yesterday,” she said.

She is still trying to get through her own son’s death, but the organization has helped her tremendously. “I don’t know what I would do without [The] Compassionate Friends,” she said.

She became aware of the organization 12 years ago, she said, when an acquaintance joined. “Soon after my child died, it reminded me of it,” she said.

Roberts said that when she first joined, she couldn’t share her experience with others participating in the support group. All she could do was cry the pain away, but with time and support, things got better.

She said her son, Richard Cox, was 29 years old when he passed away on Aug. 9, 2007, and was buried on what would have been his 30th birthday.

She said she didn’t want to share details of Cox’s death, only that he died of cirrhosis of the liver. “It has been the hardest thing,” she said in tears. “I feel that losing a child is the hardest thing you can go through.”

Roberts said she couldn’t believe how sick her young son was. While he was at a hospice, he never had his eyes open, said Roberts. She said her other son came into a room she was resting at the hospice. He advised her that Cox opened his eyes. She said she rushed to him and caressed the right side of his face. That’s when he took his last breath, she said sadly.

“I was there when he was born, and there when he died,” she said, as she sobbed.

For more information about The Compassionate Friends, call Freddie Saye at (678) 925-4027.