NEGLEY - You never get over losing a child. That's one thing Connie Welsh and Missy Woods know from experience.
The two Negley residents are starting a local chapter of The Compassionate Friends, an international non-profit organization geared toward helping parents deal with the grief that can only be felt by the loss of a child.
The local chapter, The Compassionate Friends of Beaver Creek, already has a core group of five local parents and will hold its first meeting May 20.
Welsh and Woods lost their children in the same car accident a little more than a year ago. Welsh's son, Josh Carlin, and Woods' daughter, Ceara Burns, were in a vehicle when it crashed on Dyke Road in December of 2011.
Another passenger, Jon Welsh, the son of Donna Welsh, also was killed in the accident. The three were Beaver Local High School graduates.
"I've lost a lot of family members and it's different when you lose a child. I think that society in general feels that when you suffer a loss you are kind of expected to get over it and that doesn't happen when you lose a child," Woods said.
She and Welsh said they had tremendous support from the community following the accident and they even attended some other groups in the county, including one in East Liverpool, but decided something was needed in their own area.
The Beaver Creek chapter isn't just for Negley residents, however.
Woods said parents in Negley, Rogers, East Palestine, East Fairfield and Columbiana are encouraged to attend the meetings that will be held on a monthly basis. While those are the centrally located areas, parents throughout the county and even elsewhere are welcome to attend, she added.
The group already consists of parents who have lost children to mental and health-related illnesses, Welsh said.
She described the group as self-help and noted they are not professionals, just grieving parents wanting to offer some support, encouragement, an attentive ear and information.
Grandparents and siblings of those who have passed away also are encouraged to attend.
Woods said there is no restriction on how long ago a particular relative passed away for someone to join the group.
"Compassionate Friends is specific to children, but what you need to understand is how you define a child. I lost my 19-year-old daughter, some have lost infants, but I also know people well into their 70s who have lost their 40-plus (year old) children," she said.
Welsh said the group has started generating interest locally.
"I think there really is a need for it. One thing I've learned in all of this is it's something you're never going to get over," she said of losing a child. "You have to just learn to live with it and choose the right way to live with it People who have lost a child understand that. We have so much support from our community and families and churches and so many different things, community fund-raisers. We just want to help people that don't have all that support."
Woods said what has encouraged her during her grieving period is learning the feelings she had - or continues to have - are normal.
For example, the anger is normal. Even feeling "crazy" at times is normal, she explained.
"I think that being around other people and just hearing some of the emotions that they deal with on a daily basis just kind of reiterates that the things that you're feeling are the same," she said.
People who join the group are not obligated to talk if they don't feel comfortable, she added.
The only information required is your name and the name of your child or relative.
Because the group is classified non-profit it will be able to accept donations, which all will remain local, and go toward the costs of literature, refreshments served during meetings and other supplies, Woods said.