The Healing Center in Eau Claire helping parents bond through loss, understanding

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - For nearly 25 years, The Healing Place in Eau Claire has been considered a center for life's journeys. Sometimes those journeys are difficult.

One aspect of The Healing Place has allowed area parents to help each other through tough times in a unique group setting.

People from near and far gather two to three times a month, in an Eau Claire basement at 1010 Oakridge Drive, where a circle of chairs surround silence, tears, laughter and pain .

The cost to join this club is much greater than any other. Everyone who attends has lost a child or grandchild and comes to The Healing Place to find peace.

“It's a club that if you join, you really don't want to be a part of,” Glen Mercier, whose 17-year-old daughter Rosalynn died in a swimming accident in 1998 said.

Glen Mercier started attending the meetings when the group first formed about 11 years ago.

“I still needed help, I needed someone to talk to, somewhere to go and people that have been through the same things I had and over the years, I transpired from needing to help to wanting to help,” Mercier said.

He later became a facilitator in the group, to help other parents who are going through the healing process, like Peggy Maves of Menomonie, who lost her daughter, Stacey Martenson to leukemia in 2010, along with her grandson, Henry.

“We actually had to decide on letting her go. That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, was letting her go,” Maves said. “The night I came here, I felt an instant connection with everybody around me. And I don't know what I'd do without this group.”

Ann Smith lost her 18-year-old son, Joel Pardun in a car accident seven years ago and started attending the group soon after.

“First few months, people are there, and then all of a sudden they're gone. That's the hardest part,” Smith said. “We've had people come to this group now that I’ve seen, since I started coming right afterwards, some of us are farther into it and I think that helps people maybe have a little hope, that it does get better.”

Ruth Erickson, whose 21-year-old son Michael Erickson died in a Lake Hallie crash in 2012, said she is finding comfort by sharing her story, with others who are traveling down the same road.

“Being in this group has helped me, and I’m not as sad as i was before i walked through the door tonight,” Erickson said.

“New people come in, and I see the pain that they're going through it does make you realize, yeah I've come a long way and this group has been a big part of my journey,” Maves said.

The Healing Place group sponsored by Sacred Heart Hospital is free and open to anyone who has lost a child. It meets every first, third and fifth (if applicable) Monday night each month, at 6:30, at 1010 Oakridge Drive in Eau Claire.