By CRISTINA JANNEY
Neal Younger is trying to spread the word about a resources he said made all the difference to he and his wife when they lost their 16-year-old son, Cody.
Younger and his wife have been longtime members of the the Healing Hearts support group.
The Youngers joined Healing Hearts nine years ago when they lost their son, Cody, in a tragic car crash. Another teen in the car also died in the crash.
“Without this support group, I don’t know where my wife and I would be,” he said.
He said his faith, talking about Cody and talking to other people helped him get through the grief.
The Youngers joined the support group within a month of Cody’s death and have never left.
“We got to talk to people who have been in the group before us,” he said, “and it was soothing. We asked what they did — what they did in their grief as they went through the healing process. That helped us a lot and just talking about our son — not just forgetting and going on. …
“They are helping us, and now we are at the point where we are helping other people in the group who come in.”
Younger said being able to connect with other people who were experiencing the same type of loss was important. He said friends and family often have a difficult time approaching someone who has lost a child. They don’t know what to say or how to help.
When his son died, Younger said he and his wife talked to other support group members about what they wanted people to say to them as they grieved. They talked about things they did not want people to say.
“You are going to have people who are your best friends who are probably not going to be your best friends,” he said. “There will be strangers who will come up and say, ‘Did you not lose?’ … To us that was soothing. To have a stranger come (up to us), it felt like they do care.”
Younger said talking about his son really helped him and his wife through the grieving process.
Neal said his son was an ornery teenager. He loved to be outdoors and go hunting with his dad or go to the lake. In the last year before his death, Cody was following in his dad’s footsteps and becoming more involved in the farm.
“He was a good all-around kid,” he said. “I miss him … always.”
Younger acknowledged not everyone may feel comfortable talking about their deceased child.
“Everybody heals differently,” he said. “Everybody grieves differently.”
The Center for Life Experience sponsors three grief support groups — Healing Hearts for parents who have lost children, Healing After Loss of Suicide (HALOS) and Healing After Loss, which is a general grief support group.
The CLFE groups are true support groups. They are not facilitated by clinicians, but are made up of people with similar experiences.
Younger said he and his wife, who is on the CFLE board, both strongly believe the support groups need to stay in the community.
“(I want them to know) if they are struggling and not grieving to come to these groups. It would be very soothing. Everybody who is in there is in the same situation, so we can talk amongst each other and help them get through this.”
The Center for Life Experience was launched 18 years ago in the Hays First Presbyterian Church, with donor funds specified to benefit the community, not the church.
Last May, the Session of First Presbyterian determined it could no longer financially support CFLE.
In November CFLE became a stand-alone, community-based not-for-profit 501(c)(3) and in late December, CFLE moved to the second floor of the Hadley Center in downtown Hays.
Younger along with the CFLE board are seeking donations toward the long-term sustainability of the CFLE and its mission. Any donation amount is appreciated.
“All the merchants in Hays have been excellent,” Younger said. “I can’t believe it. I am just amazed how our community can kick in when needed.”
The CFLE support groups also provide an important resource for NCK Tech and FHSU students who observe the support groups as part of the their nursing or social work programs.
You can send donations to the CLFE at 205 E. Seventh, Ste. 251, Hays, KS 67601.
You can learn more about CFLE and its programs on its website.
Graphic courtesy CanStockPhoto.com