Losing a loved one to a drug overdose, illness or other cause — especially a child — is one of the most painful things a person can experience, but no one has to face it alone.
That is the message a local group is trying to get out to the public ahead of an “Over the Rainbow” observance scheduled Saturday in Mount Airy.
“This is the first year we are holding it,” said Caroline Hanlon, a member of the Bereaved Parents Support Group, who described “Over the Rainbow” as an outreach event for the entire community. Along with remembering those who have passed, it is billed as an occasion in which those attending “can come together to celebrate life.”
The gathering is planned from 3 to 8 p.m. Saturday at the upper picnic shelter in Riverside Park.
“There’s so many deaths in Surry County,” Hanlon, a Mount Airy resident who is one of the organizers of the event, added Monday. The Bereaved Parents Support Group exists to help survivors “understand that there are others out there like them,” she said. “There is a group out there to help them.”
While it is planned by an organization named for parents who have lost children, the Over the Rainbow observance is open to anyone who has suffered the death of a loved one.
“I lost a child to an overdose,” Hanlon said of her own experience. Her daughter, Colleen Payne, was only 21 when she died.
However, Saturday’s event is not designed to be a somber occasion, Hanlon said. “We’re going to try to make it an upbeat thing for people.”
The gathering is to include music, games, food and prizes, with community helpers such as firefighters and police expected to be involved.
Its highlight will be a balloon release that offers participants the opportunity to send a message to a loved one “who has crossed over the rainbow.”
Balloons with glow sticks will be provided for attendees to write messages. Then at dusk the balloons will be sent up to light the sky with their words, organizers say.
Saturday’s event will be a one-day affair, but Hanlon said ongoing assistance is available from the Bereaved Parents Support Group.
It was formed around eight years ago and now has about 12 regular members. That goes up around Christmastime, which can be a particularly difficult period for persons who are grieving. “Sometimes during the holidays, it’s tough,” Hanlon said.
Being involved with the organization has helped her cope with the loss of Colleen, she confided.
“The group has helped me tremendously,” Hanlon said. “If it was not for this group, I don’t know where I would be.”
Hanlon acknowledged that people can be reluctant to attend group meetings or take part in activities and open up about the loss of loved ones, but it is highly beneficial in the long run.
The Bereaved Parents Support Group meets on the second Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. at Dobson First Baptist Church in a downstairs classroom. The church is near the town’s splash pad.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.