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By Forrest Hershberger
View from the Handlebars 

Filling The Vacuum


August 18, 2021

Some events in life defy reason. They leave us with a handful of parts and no readable directions on how to assemble them.

In 2006, our family changed. Overnight, actually in seconds, we went from encouraging our daughter’s future to hearing the news no parents want to receive.Our daughter went on a drive and didn’t make it home.

It was one of the longest nights in my life. To learn that she did what most teens her age do, but the script for her night was different. It didn’t include returning to her friends all bubbly and excited about the motorcycle ride. It came to a sudden stop with me receiving a phone call. It was the phone call no parent wants to answer, and is so heart-wrenching it is a common thread in police shows.

The only thing that might, might, be as challenging is to look around and try to identify my network, my support system. No, I wasn’t depressed; at least not more than any other father who buried his only daughter. I was feeling the emptiness that comes early in the process of recovery. Now and then during the process I have heard the question “I don’t know how you do it.”

The statement is as complicated as it is simple. The few words How do “I” do it. Sometimes barely, sometimes well as expected. I am like most any other father. I would not make it on my own. It takes support. It takes my wife, close friends, and above all a God who invites the brokenness of life. It takes someone who knows the depths of grief, personally, well enough not to depend on cliches as answers. Too many people meet the grieving with no words to offer, or ignorantly hoping a few cliches will make everything better. "He's in a better place." "God needed another angel." "Time will heal."

Not the case. One of the differences between soothing words and cliches is the emotional connection between the friend and the grieving. The grieving needs to know there is someone holding them up without expectation. Ideally, that person is someone who can speak candidly because they understand the path of grief.

That is where our latest adventure comes in. Sometimes even life’s worst events offers a springboard for something new. In this case, we we invited to a group called Compassionate Friends. I made the first move, then my wife joined. Compassionate Friends is just what it sounds like, friends who are compassionate… and have their own story of loss. I found out about the group after meeting a couple generally our age who lost their son.

I learned the program is focused on parents who have lost children. However, if someone is in need of support, they are not turned away. It is deliberately low-key and not clinical. It focuses on one of the biggest parts of the process: you are not alone.

Compassionate Friends has a chapter in Sidney hosting events in remembrance of those we have lost. There are also social events designed as just time those with a shared experience can support each other.

To find out more, see http://www.compassionate, or call 970.580.8998.


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