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Holidays can be tough for grieving parents
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FLOWERY BRANCH — For most people, the holidays are a time for family gatherings and relaxation, but for those who have lost a child, the season can be unbearable.

Bill Patterson knows all too well the emotional toll the season can take on grieving parents.

The Winder resident’s 17-year-old son, Christopher, died 10 years ago on Dec. 22, 1999, in a car accident in Gwinnett County.

“This time of year’s tough for everybody,” he said last week. “I think part of the thing with it is the anticipation of that event, whether it’s a birthday, anniversary or holiday, coming up to that time is probably more stressful and more emotional.”

But talking with someone can help a person deal with that grief both during the holiday season and beyond, said Patterson, leader of the Northeast Georgia Chapter of the Bereaved Parents of the USA.

“Don’t be hesitant to find someone that’s been where you are because trying to sit down with a psychologist and counselor that have never experienced a loss is a lot different than sitting down with me,” he said.

As a way to deal with his own loss, Patterson now helps other parents deal with the death of a child.

In 2006, he founded the Northeast Georgia Chapter of the Bereaved Parents of the USA, a national nonprofit organization that helps families deal with the death of their child, grandchild or sibling.

Following his son’s death, Patterson said he attended several meetings at a Gwinnett County chapter, but when he moved to Barrow County in 2005, no support group existed.

“There was nothing going on up here in Hall (or) Barrow that I could find, you know, for parents, grandparents and siblings,” he said. “So I decided to start a chapter.”

The Northeast Georgia Chapter now meets at 4 p.m. on the third Saturday of each month at Zion Hill Baptist Church in Flowery Branch.

During last Saturday’s meeting, the Chapter’s annual special candlelight memorial was held for families to remember their children who have died.

Patterson said anyone is invited to attend the monthly meetings, even if they are not current members of the group.

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