A new chapter of The Compassionate Friends (TCF) is coming to the Meramec area. The group provides grief support for families that suffer the death of a child. Trina and Scott Fitch and Mike and Marsha Brinker are working to bring a local chapter to this area for those needing to heal during their time of grief.
“We are creating a 4 Rivers chapter. There are over 650 chapters around the world. It is a regional outreach to provide grief support,” Scott Fitch said.
Scott Fitch and his wife lost their first child due to complications at birth after only one and half days of life. Marsha and Mike Brinker lost their daughter, Jessica, in a school bus crash in 2010. The Fitchs discovered the program and, hoping to bring it to this area, reached out to the Brinkers. They have now teamed up to organize the local chapter, which will begin offering monthly meetings starting this month.
“No one’s allowed in unless they have lost a child. It is parents helping parents through their grief. You have to have lost a child, grandchild, or sibling. We hope to help those in the area that are dealing with these situations,” Scott Fitch said.
The hope is to eventually be able to have a library of resources and information to both help with personal situations as well as educate people about helping others in these situations.
“For us, we had tremendous support from the community. We had people at our door through the whole thing,” Marsha Brinker said. The Fitchs also had help through their church community during their time of loss.
A Minister in England named Simon Stephens started The Compassionate Friends. Outreach quickly spread to the United States with chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Guam. The national office is located in Illinois and the organization is a 501c3 non-profit. Chapters provide support and response to those who contact them and help those grieving with personal connections with those who have experienced the same sort of loss.
“Two chapters opened in Missouri this year. We pay a yearly fee and hope to develop resources to help those in the chapter. Richard Jones will be offering refreshments at our meetings. When someone joins, we would like to give them anniversary cards for things like the child’s birthday and other anniversaries. We hope to get hospitals and funeral homes in the area to refer those in these situations to us so we can help,” Scott Fitch said.
In its 35-year following incorporation, all chapter leaders are volunteers and are bereaved parents, siblings, or grandparents, as are the 55 regional coordinators who serve as liaisons between chapters and the national organization. Local chapters hold regular meetings to provide a caring environment to the bereaved in the area, holding regional conferences, walks to remember, making phone calls, sending letters and emails, and making personal visits. Those facing the loss of a child know there is very little that can help, but knowing there are others facing the same pain can be helpful.
“There is a time where nothing matters. All the things you worry about every day don’t matter,” Trina Fitch said. With the help of TCF members, there is a community of assistance for those families.
All contributions from individual members are voluntary. TCF’s 2014 budget is more than $1 million, with 85 percent allocated to local chapters and the public. The rest is used for administrative and fundraising. TCF has been awarded The Independent Charities Seal of Excellence for its work.
The local chapter of TCF will hold its first meeting on August 12 in the St. James Christian Church beginning at 6:30 p.m. All subsequent meetings will be held on the second Tuesday of every month at the same time and place.