Irene & her beautiful daughter, Carly

I met Irene Vouvalides last year at an Afterlife Symposium and was struck by her positivity and the sense of joy that surrounded her. So I was surprised when I heard that her beautiful daughter, Carly, had passed from cancer. Losing a child is excruciating, as I knew only too well from my ex-husband’s loss of his 19-year old daughter. I understood more about Irene’s positivity when she told me about the group she was involved in, Helping Parents Heal, and her own work providing support to grieving parents. I was certain that this bigger purpose for her life was part of the reason she had come through such a heartbreaking experience. 

Helping Parents Heal is an amazing support group that anyone whose child has passed should know about. What’s different is that many members wouldn’t refer to losing a child because they believe their child isn’t lost at all. But let Irene tell you a little about Helping Parents Heal.

People often say that losing a child is perhaps the hardest grief of all. How would you respond to that?

Having experienced the passing of many family members including my parents I can honestly say nothing compares or can prepare you for the passing of your child. It is out of what we consider the normal order of life: you expect to outlive your parents but no one expects to outlive their children. The shock and trauma that follows are unthinkable. A line has been drawn in the sand so to speak, the before and after. Life as we have known it has changed forever.

What is Helping Parents Heal & how might grieving parents benefit from the group?

Helping Parents Heal  (HPH) is a support group founded by Elizabeth Boisson and Mark Ireland after the passing of Elizabeth’s son Morgan at the base camp of Mt Everest in November of 2009. We differ from other support groups by allowing the open discussion of spiritual experiences and evidence for the afterlife in a non-dogmatic way. We believe that healing is possible.

How does a parent find the group?

HPH has two FB groups one of which is the online group where bi-weekly meetings are available to members via ZOOM. Our website is www.helpingparentsheal.org where a wealth of information is available. You can enter your children’s birth and angel date, as well as a picture and they, will be posted on those days. You can sign up for our monthly newsletter on the website as well. We have over 50 chapters worldwide now where you can attend a meeting, many chapters are doing online meetings that anyone can attend.
We just had our first conference this past April where almost 500 parents were in attendance, it was a huge success. We are now planning our next conference in Charleston, South Carolina in April 2020.

How might loved ones best support grieving parents?

Loved ones honestly can support parents by just being there, showing up and offering love. Even if they say ” I have no words but please know I am here for you “. Don’t be afraid to say their names we want nothing more than to hear their names and listen to stories about them. They still exist, they just no longer walk this earth. Please don’t expect us to “get over our grief;”  we learn to live with it.

Are there any words of support you could give parents who are going through the loss of a child?

Please know that in time, with hard work and perhaps a change in your current belief system healing is possible. Our children are very much alive they just no longer have physical bodies. It is possible to connect with our children in the afterlife and knowing that we will be reunited with them when it is our time to leave this earth brings comfort to us all. There are currently over 11,000 members in HPH who are willing to reach out and show you that you aren’t alone on this road– that makes all the difference in the world.

A little about Irene:

My journey began on February 17, 2013, when my only child, my beautiful 24-year-old daughter Carly Elizabeth Hughes lost her brief but heroic battle with esophageal-gastric cancer. I did not think I could survive without her but with the help of many, including finding the organization HPH,  I now lead a joy-filled life helping others find their way from bereaved to Shining Light Parents. I am the vice president of HPH, chapter leader of the Bluffton/Hilton Head chapter of HPH, conference chair but most importantly mother to Carly Elizabeth Hughes. Our story is part of Suzanne Giesemann’s latest book titled Still Right Here.

A little about supporting grieving parents from Carol:

At A Healing Spirit, I work with grieving parents and I can say with certainty that some parents are simply not ready to let go of deep grief for a long time.  Sometimes, that can be frustrating to their loved ones. What Irene said about “getting over it” is true: Do not expect grieving parents (or anyone who grieves) to “get over it” because we never really get over grief. We get through it and, as Irene says, we learn to live with it.  For a parent, that hole the heart is never going to go away. And yes, in most cases grief will dull and transform over time. But in their own time, not ours. I love the way Irene suggests we support grieving parents–just be there and offer love. You can’t fix it, so don’t try to. This is the best advice anyone can give about providing support to those who grieve.

If you’d like to share your thoughts in the Comments section, we’d love to hear them.

This is another in our every-so-often 5 Questions series. I hope you’ll share this post so other parents may know about this group. Thank you.

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