When Chris Hardwicke lost his youngest daughter four years ago, the grief was understandably almost too much to bear.
So when he found the Goulburn chapter of The Compassionate Friends, the effect it had on him couldn't be overstated.
The Compassionate Friends is a worldwide organisation that helps support families whose children have died.
Facilitator of Goulburn and President of the NSW branch of the organisation, Mr Hardwicke said shared grief was a powerful tool in coping with such a devastating event.
"I think that most people who come along would tell you quite openly that losing a child is probably the worst life experience that any of us could imagine," he told the Goulburn Post.
"Knowing that other people, who have actually experienced that grief, have been able to hold their lives together has been a huge advantage to me.
"It's not for everyone, I appreciate that, but for me it's been a lifesaver. Just spending time with people who accept the sadness that occurs when you lose a child."
The group meet monthly in Goulburn for a cuppa and to share memories, grief and everything in between. They also meet annually for Candle Lighting Day on December 12 for a ceremony to remember loved ones.
Far from being a counselling service, Mr Hardwicke explained that there was no expectation for people to share and that the group sought to look after those experiencing an unimageable pain.
"For a lot of people they come along initially and they don't necessarily want to share anything they just want to be with people who understand," he said.
"One of the sad realities is that other family members or friends don't know how to deal with it and we end up losing a lot of these people because they find it too difficult.
"If people come along and don't want to say anything, that's fine. Whatever people want to contribute and share in their feelings and emotions, we're happy to do that."
Mr Hardwicke said creating a protective environment was key and despite the grief, had seen happy memories emerge in the gloom.
"There's obviously a big difference between males and females as well," he explained.
"The guys struggle to share their emotions while the ladies are often more forthcoming but that protective environment is something that allows space for that to develop.
"I've seen some great opening up of families in our little group in Goulburn and not always sadness. By sharing memories sometimes the good times rise to the top. That's such a huge thing to be able to remember as a grieving parent."
The lighting ceremony on Sunday, December 12 will begin at 6:30 next to the Goulburn Historic Waterworks.
Parents, grandparents and siblings that would like to come along and remember their own loved ones, are very welcome in joining members of the Goulburn Compassionate Friends Chapter. Attendees are also encouraged to bring along a photograph of their loved ones.
For further information, please contact Chris on 0418488791.
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