Editor’s note: This story initially ran in the Roaring Fork Weekly Journal, our sister paper covering the midvalley. For more, visit www.rfweeklyjournal.com.
Grief has no expiration date, nor do any two people experience the loss of someone they love in the same way.
The deep, dark sadness that is all-enveloping can also be triggered by deaths of community members — whether they were friends, familiar faces or just people whose name you recognize from the greater Roaring Fork Valley.
For the past three years, the local chapter of The Compassionate Friends has met in the warm comfort of The Orchard in Carbondale on the first Tuesday of each month to remember a child or sibling who has died. Maybe that person passed this year, three years ago, 30 years ago or more.
The Compassionate Friends gather next on Tuesday, Nov. 5, at 6:30 p.m. All are welcome, refreshments are served, confidentiality is respected and the meeting is free.
“The valley needs this as much as ever,” said Kim Baillargeon, who serves on the board of The Compassionate Friends. Baillargeon, who was reflecting on the spate of deaths of local residents, lost her only son Raymond Vieira, about five years ago.
Uplifting and necessary
It’s not all sadness when The Compassionate Friends meet, and laughs come from surprising places sometimes. Laughter is a great release for anguish and a helpful step to recovery.
Those who partake in the informal group meeting may hear of lives well lived and people well loved. It’s enriching and soothing for anyone who misses a child or a sibling who was taken too soon.
Sometimes there are guest speakers; they may bring coping methods to the table, including a woman mourning her own family member, who led the group in a meditation break.
At one meeting, attendees made a collage to honor a person they were missing. At another, hand-crafted candles were the honorarium of choice. A member started a foundation to honor her loved one and recently hosted a tennis tournament in Glenwood Springs as its financial support.
“People have been going on through the pain to do other things. I find that’s really encouraging for other people,” Baillargeon said.
With the holiday season approaching, the group hopes to attract more people to its meetings, as this can be a time of year when people feel vulnerable.
“We’ll let you talk the whole time if you need to,” Baillargeon said. “We’ve all been there.”
Before the Roaring Fork chapter was formed in November 2017, people seeking a meeting of The Compassionate Friends traveled to either Grand Junction or Eagle. Baillargeon credits Vivian Williams with forming this local group. She was soon assisted by Tina Olson and later Baillargeon joined the steering committee.
During the October meeting, a plate of cookies was passed around while the small but friendly group took turns sharing what was on their mind.
There’s no judgment in the shares, no pressure to speak if you don’t feel like it. Also absent are any judgment calls such as “it’s time to move on,” or “haven’t you moved past your grief by now,” as some people may clumsily say to a friend who has suffered a devastating loss.
When it comes to condolences, “I’m sorry” is the best, all-occasion statement.
How the loved one died doesn’t matter. What does matter is, they are gone but there are people left behind on Earth doing their best to cope.
Baillargeon said the Nov. 5 meeting, which is Election Day, could include a discussion about the recent rash of suicides in the valley.
“It seems when these happen it’s a trigger,” she said. “We will be making sure we’re checking in with everybody.”
The shares and remembrances will take place by the warmth of the fireplace at The Orchard and among a supportive group of people who quickly become more than strangers.
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