All Marla Kallin and Irene Stuart needed to hear while mourning the loss of their sons was that it would be okay to move on.
It's the same message the moms will be sending to other grieving parents with the New Jersey launch of the national support group Helping Parents Heal, which meets the fourth Tuesday of every month in Fair Lawn's Mad Science building.
The moms had both been to other support groups but often found themselves feeling worse. It wasn't until they found Helping Parents Heal -- and each other -- that they finally found some relief.
"The whole philosophy is different than other groups," said Kallin of Hillsdale, whose son Douglas Kallin died suddenly at 25 years old in 2015.
"It's about moving forward and trying to find some joy in your life despite what happened. It's about healing as best you can, as opposed to wallowing."
"The main gist that I got at other support groups was that the parents couldn't wait to die and be with their child," said Stuart of Westwood, whose son Jono Stuart died last year at 34 years old.
"I miss my son so very much, but I didn't want to live like that. You can grieve a child, but it's not a death sentence for you."
Kallin and Stuart explained that Helping Parents Heal recognizes several factors that contribute to the healing process. Among them support from others, discovering reason for hope and acknowledging spiritual nature by delving into the afterlife in a non-dogmatic way.
Not a day passes that Kallin and Stuart don't think about their late sons. Giving themselves permission to find happiness in their own lives, however, has certainly made things easier.
"What helped me is hearing other parents say 'It's okay to feel better,'" said Kallin, an occupational therapist at the Hubbard School in Ramsey.
"You can grieve and try to make yourself a life."
"You can be happy again," Stuart added. "You can laugh again. You can feel joy again."
HELPING PARENTS HEAL MEETS THE FOURTH TUESDAY OF EVERY MONTH AT 7 P.M., IN THE MAD SCIENCE BUILDING, 24-08 BROADWAY, FAIR LAWN. THE NEXT MEETING WILL BE TUESDAY, OCT. 23.
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