When Gwen Linski lost both of her children in a house fire in 1972 there was nowhere for her to turn for support.
In the years following the accident, she thought that her grief set her apart from all of her peers. It took her 15 years before she and learned that wasn’t true after joining The Compassionate Friends Canada, a support group run by parents who have suffered the loss of a child.
“Once I did get involved, I realized just how normal I was,” said Linski, now the president of the organization.
TCF was founded in England in 1969 by two people who had both lost their children and were introduced by a chaplain who believed that if they could support one another, they could support masses of grieving people. Chapters now exist in every province, where groups meet monthly and host sharing sessions for siblings of the lost child or parents of someone who has taken their own life.
Linski is now in the midst of a move from Saanich to Nanaimo where she will continue to steer the Canadian branch of Compassionate Friends. Since the ’80s, she has seen monthly meeting after meeting of bereaved parents experience very similar emotions to her own when she first found the support available through TCF.
“When I went to the first meeting, what I discovered was that being among people who had a similar experience, I was able to relax and go into my grief in a way that had not been possible within the well-meaning communities that I was already in,” Victoria chapter leader Susan Lawrence said. “All of the people who knew me were supportive of my grief journey, but they weren’t able to relate to my loss.”
Lawrence will be on hand at the Saanich Centennial library this weekend (May 14) when Cathy Sosnowsky, author and leader of a Vancouver TCF chapter, reads from her memoir of Snapshots: a Story of Love, Loss and Life. The book deals with the sudden death of Sosnowsky’s son Alex and the subsequent loss of two adopted children to hard drugs and life on the street.
The reading starts at 3 p.m., at the Centennial Library, 3110 Tillicum Rd. Sosnowsky, a former English professor, hosts a workshop on writing to heal, May 15 at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church’s Kirk Hall, 680 Courtney St. Tickets to the workshop – which Lawrence has taken and benefited from – are $30 and available through firstname.lastname@example.org.
To join the Victoria chapter of TCF Canada, contact Lawrence at 250-474-1246.