CHAMPAIGN — The happy holiday season can be rough for grieving parents who have lost a child.
But some mutual support will be available in time for this holiday season.
Two local couples who have lost children of their own are starting a new Champaign-Urbana chapter of Bereaved Parents of the USA, a national non-profit organization that offers support to grieving parents, grandparents and siblings after a loss.
The first meeting will be at 4:30 p.m. Sunday at the Champaign Public Library, 200 W. Green St., in Robeson Room C.
Any adults who have lost a child, grandchild or sibling are welcome to come, says Jane Pica, the chapter leader.
Pica and her husband, Jerry, are starting the group with Linda and the Rev. James Ellison.
The Picas' 21-year-old son, Nicholas, suffered a sudden cardiac death in 2006 while he was out on a summer run. The Ellisons' 31-year-daughter, Resa became ill with the H1N1 flu virus and died in early 2010.
Jane Pica of Champaign said she has been to Bereaved Parents of the USA  national gatherings but wasn't going to be able to make the one next summer. So she and Linda Ellison decided it would be a good time to start the local group to help support other bereaved parents.
Parents share many common reactions after the loss of a child, such as anxiety, difficulty sleeping, a tightness in the chest, a loss of appetite, wandering aimlessly and neglecting to finish tasks, Pica says.
Oftentimes, even longtime friendships change because people just don't know what to say to you, she says.
"We all experience it, and having the support for the holidays, I thought it was really important to get this up and running," she said.
Linda Ellison, perinatal bereavement coordinator at Carle, says she's had her family and church to help her through the loss of her daughter — plus she and her friend, Jane Pica, have been primary support people for one another.
"I've reached a point in my grieving that I feel stronger and hope that I have things I can offer to others to help them through their initial grieving," she said.
And for herself, she adds, "I also feel like I'm to the point that I need contact with people who are going through a similar experience and people who are further along in their grief process than I am."
Ellison says she and her husband have experienced loss on many levels: They've also lost a son-in-law and three grandchildren along with their daughter.
The first two meetings of the new group will focus on coping with the holidays, Ellison said. Topics have been mapped out for year but will be flexible, she said.
Any adults who have lost a child, grandchild or sibling are welcome to come to the meetings, Pica says. No fees or dues are required.
Meetings will be held on the second Sunday of each month at 4:30 p.m. at the library.
For more information, contact Jane Pica at 373-1321.
More information about Bereaved Parents of the USA: http://www.bereavedparentsusa.org/