by Alice Renolds
When a child dies, at any age, the family suffers intense pain and may feel hopeless and isolated. The death of a child is probably the most traumatic, life-changing event that you will ever experience. That is why we are here to help and support. The Compassionate Friends of Santa Clarita is a self-help organization made up of bereaved parents who have experienced that deep searing pain. We provide highly personal comfort, hope, and support to every family experiencing the death of a son or a daughter, a brother or a sister, or a grandchild and help others assist the grieving family.
The Compassionate Friends was first established in England more than 40 years ago by two sets of bereaved parents. It quickly spread to the United States and was incorporated in 1978 in Illinois. There are now over 700 chapters serving all 50 states. The Compassionate Friends is the world’s largest self-help bereavement organization with a presence in at least 30 countries. The Santa Clarita chapter has been supporting bereaved families here locally for 18 years. Diane Briones started the chapter after her 20-year-old daughter was killed in a horrific car crash and needed a support group and there was none here in Santa Clarita. Alice Renolds started attending the group following the tragic death of her two sons in a reckless driving incident and has been the Co-leader now for 16 years.
Our Chapter meets the first Thursday of every month here locally in Santa Clarita. Our monthly support group meetings are the heart of TCF. These gatherings provide a caring environment in which bereaved parents, adult siblings, and grandparents can talk freely about the emotions in which they are going through and receive the understanding support of others who have “been there.” We usually have between 20 and 30 members attend our meetings. The meeting may also include a brief program, panel or speaker. As we meet together, we learn from each other through our shared experiences. The bereaved members not only obtain support through our monthly meetings, but also from our newsletter, our website, Facebook, telephone of friends, and our library of books.
The death of a child is devastating and it’s important to the family and their friends that the child always be remembered. That is why we have two events yearly: a balloon release in the spring and the Candle Light Remembrance Program. The Compassionate Friends of Santa Clarita will participate in an annual worldwide event designed to honor the memories of all children, regardless of age, who have died. On Sunday, December 10, the local chapter is joining hundreds of organized memorial services around the world for the 21st Annual Worldwide Candle Lighting, an event now believed to be the largest mass candle lighting in the world.
The local candle lighting will be part of a special service held at 6:30 p.m. at La Mesa Jr. High School, 26623 May Way in Santa Clarita. It will feature poems, selected readings, music, a slide show and performances with featured singers. Annually, tens of thousands of families, united in loss, light candles for one hour during the Worldwide Candle Lighting. As candles burn down in one time zone, they are lit in the next, creating a 24-hour wave of light, which continues the observance around the world. With the theme “that their light may always shine,” the Worldwide Candle Lighting has grown larger every year.
To contact The Compassionate Friends of Santa Clarita, call Diane Briones at 661-252-4654 or Alice Renolds at 661-252-4374, or visit www.compassionatefriends-scv.org.
HERO OF THE WEEK Carol Costin
by Alice Renolds and Dianoe Briones
Fourteen years ago, Carol Costin lost her 28-year-old son Jeffrey in a horrible car crash in Texas. She moved to California shortly afterwards, because her only surviving daughter had moved here and she needed to be close to her. She left her family, friends, job, house and everything she knew. Carol, her husband and daughter attended support meetings of The Compassionate Friends of Santa Clarita and still do today!
In fact, Carol is a hero to our chapter. She is a member of our steering committee and took over the job of treasurer without hesitation when the job became suddenly vacant. Now with her years through this journey of grief she contributes so much to our local meetings. Carol is able to share her loss, but can show families that there is hope for healing, although it’s a loss we never fully get over. Carol is one of three different facilitators for our meetings. She gives so much love, understanding and support to all the grieving families.
Our local chapter will participate in the annual Worldwide Candle Lighting Program to be held at a new location this year, La Mesa Jr. High School, located at 26623 May Way in Santa Clarita on December 10 at 6:30 p.m. It is open to the public and we would love to share this evening with all of you.
For more information on The Compassionate Friends of Santa Clarita visit www.compassionatefriends-scv.org