Bluffton, SC (WSAV) – They call it the club that nobody wants to join.
But two Bluffton mothers are welcoming parents like them with open arms to a group called Helping Parents Heal. It designed to bring comfort and hope to parents who’ve lost a child.
Irene Vouvalides of Hilton Head started the only South Carolina chapter last October. It’s one way she copes with the loss of her daughter, Carly, who died just days before her 24th birthday after being diagnosed in October of 2012 with a rare form of stomach cancer. “She was the kind of person that when you walked into a room you were drawn to her. She was so kind. Very funny,” Vouvalides said.Irene hangs on to every memory of Carly and shares them with anyone who listens.
“So many people when they find out that you’ve lost a child, they don’t want to talk about it. They think that you don’t want to talk about it and that’s completely the opposite of what we want,” Vouvalides said. It was February of 2013 when after a four month fight against gastric cancer Carly died.
That’s when Irene entered a kind of grief that only those who’ve lost a child can understand.“I would wake up every day and thinking I was waking up from a nightmare when I realized my life was this nightmare,” she said.
Nannette Manning, owner of the Just Be Centre in Bluffton, understands that feeling.“It was a traumatic accident. He was here one minute and gone the next,” Manning said of her 19-year-old son. It’s been 14 years now since his death, but time doesn’t lessen the pain of losing him.
“It takes you to the bowels of hell,” Manning said of coping with losing a child.
But the two mothers find comfort and purpose in their time together…and with the group Helping Parents Heal. About 40 people strong, the parents gather monthly for a time of sharing and caring.“We offer hope. We offer hope and healing,” Vouvalides said.
The parents get to know each other’s children. Many share their child’s dreams that Mom, Dad and friends now carryout.“The school was very important to her,” Vouvalides said of an African American Catholic school her daughter’s foundation Carly’s Kids now supports.
Helping Parents Heal is a place where everyone means it when they say, ‘I know how you feel,’ and ‘we’re in this together.’ “And it’s all about love,” Manning added.
Helping Parents Heal meets on the second Sunday of every month from 1-3pm at Seaquins Ballroom at 1300 Fording Island Road in Bluffton. For more information contact Irene at 201-233-6015.
Helping Parents Heal is a world-wide organization with more than 7,000 members. There are 15 groups in the United States.