New support group for bereaved parents, families

The death of a child can turn the whole family upside down.

Bob and Chris Kirlin learned that in January 2016, when they lost their son, Chuck, to a brain tumor. He was 36.

Talking about it helps, Bob Kirlin said.

The couple has founded a local chapter of The Compassionate Friends, a national self-help organization for families that have experienced the death of a child.

The first meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 19 at Nashville United Methodist Church, and will continue on third Tuesdays.

The South Central Indiana Chapter of The Compassionate Friends will serve Brown, Bartholomew, Morgan and Monroe counties, the group reported in a press release.

“After your child dies, no one wants to talk with you about your child, probably because they are afraid of making you feel bad,” Bob Kirlin said.

“The irony is that talking about your child helps you. No one wants their child forgotten. And studies have proven that tears are an emotional release that help you to feel better.”

The Compassionate Friends was founded more than 40 years ago in England when a hospital chaplain brought two sets of grieving parents together, and realized that the support they gave each other was better than what he could provide, the group’s website says.

“This area has long needed a bereavement organization where families could talk about their loss publicly without feeling out of place,” Kirlin said.

Chapters welcome all family members to attend meetings.

Meetings are for all families regardless of the cause of death or age of the child at death, including miscarriages.

There are no fees or dues charged to attend, although “love gifts” are accepted in memory of the children of the chapter and will be used to publish a chapter newsletter, further outreach in the community, and cover other expenses, Kirlin said.

“The Compassionate Friends welcomes the South Central Indiana chapter,” said TCF Executive Director Alan Pedersen in a press release.

“When a child dies, at any age, the family suffers intense pain and may feel hopeless and isolated. The Compassionate Friends provides highly personal comfort, hope, and support to every family experiencing the death of a son or a daughter, a brother or a sister, or a grandchild, and helps others better assist the grieving family. This chapter will help us toward that mission.”

Learn more

For more information about local chapter meetings, or to make a donation, call Bob Kirlin at 812-720-0222.

For information about the national organization, call toll-free 877-969-0010, or visit and

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Sara Clifford has been raising a family in Brown County since 2005 and leading the Brown County Democrat since late 2009. In addition to editor, she is the beat reporter for town government and writes columns, features and general news stories.