The Compassionate Friends Fairfax Chapter

Supporting Families After the Death of a Child

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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. I've never been to a support group, what's a meeting like and what can I take out of it? Might it be too emotional for me?

    Losing a child, grandchild, or brother or sister is a uniquely painful, often traumatic experience. Our meetings provide a safe space where members can openly discuss in confidence their reactions, feelings, emotions, challenges, and joys with other members who, as bereaved members themselves, can truly understand and relate. Our children have died from all manner of causes and at all ages, from infant to middle age, but our focus is on the loss itself and working through our grief. Members respect each other's unique circumstances, and there is no judgement or prescribing; we learn from listening and relating to each other. Our goal is to provide understanding, comfort, support, and encouragement to each other, and to help members start the healing process with hope for the future, even in the midst of their tragic loss.

    The monthly meeting lasts about 90 minutes. It begins with member introductions and then transitions to the discussion of a given topic pertaining to grief, which varies month to month. If the group is large enough, we may break down into two groups, each led by a trained facilitator from our chapter leadership. During discussion members can share their experiences and feelings, and are free to raise any topic pertinent to their grief that they care to share. Members may also remain silent if they so choose and simply listen. While this can be an emotional experience, members find much support, comfort, and encouragement from each other. After the discussion, we read the Compassionate Friends Creed (see tab), and then members whose child's loss or birth was in the current month may bring in photos or other memorabilia of their child and talk for a few minutes to the group about the life of their child. This celebration of their child's life is often a lighthearted and happy end to the meeting. Afterward, some members may want to stay to socialize with others and enjoy light snacks as provided.

  2. Do you meet in person, virtually, or both?

    Our meetings are in person only. Some chapters around the nation do offer virtual meetings open to all, and they can be found through the national website,

  3. Do I need to bring anything or pay anything?

    There is no need to bring anything, unless you'd like to add a 5x7 or smaller photo of your child to our memory table. There is no cost involved.

  4. Do men attend the meetings, or is it primarily women? And what is the composition of the group like?

    Both men and women regularly attend the meetings, some come as couples, others individually. Our chapter leadership includes men and women. We recognize that men in particular are sometimes reluctant to join a support group, but by attending our chapter meetings they will find much company with other men. Our members are all ages, from 20-something to seniors, and have lost a child anywhere from infant to middle age. Many of our members are newly bereaved, within the first two or three years of their loss, but others have attended regularly for years and come primarily to help the newly bereaved.

  5. May I bring a friend or extended family member to a meeting?

    All members share a unique, common bond of the grief of losing a child, grandchild, or sibling. As we want our members to know that they can speak comfortably and in confidence with others who can fully relate, we limit participation to parents, grandparents, and adult siblings. We recognize, however, that some may feel the need for a close friend or relative to accompany them to the first meeting. In that case, the prospective member should contact the chapter leadership in advance to discuss.

  6. Do siblings meet separately from parents?

    We all meet together, there is no separate sibling meeting in our chapter. However, at the TCF National conference, held annually in the summer, there is a separate program for siblings who attend that has been quite popular.

  7. Do the meetings focus on specific causes of death, or ages at death?

    In the introductions, we may comment on the cause of death and age of our loved one, but we do not further breakout by those categories, we remain one group focused on grief and healing regardless of the circumstances.

  8. Could someone meet privately with me, outside the monthly chapter meetings?

    The focus of our chapter is on the monthly group meeting, and we generally do not meet separately one-on-one, as none of us are therapists or mental health professionals and do not want to be perceived as such. We are available to take calls on our chapter cell phone (see Contact tab), primarily to discuss the chapter and answer questions of prospective members. If someone feels a deep need to talk alone prior to a meeting, however, they should call us and we will consider an exception.

  9. Are there any activities outside the meetings?

    We have two informal sub-groups, one for moms and one for dads, that meet outside the chapter generally the third Friday or Saturday of each month over coffee in a local establishment. We offer a special remembrance ceremony for Mother's Day, and in June we have a breakout group for dads for Father's Day. Our December meeting is a special remembrance and includes readings, candle lighting, and a light buffet. Our chapter sends members a remembrance card every year on the anniversary of the loss of their child.

  10. How do I become a member, and what does membership involve?

    Prospective members are asked to complete and submit electronically a new member form they are provided, with their contact information and the child's name, date, and cause of death. The information is held in our member database and is accessible solely to the chapter leadership. Members receive our monthly newsletter, email reminders on meetings, and other announcements including from the national TCF organization, as well as an annual remembrance card as noted above. Members attend meetings or other activities as they may desire. We do suggest that new members try at least three consecutive meetings, to become more comfortable and gain a fuller appreciation for what the group can provide.