The last thing Linda Hutto wanted to do after her son Nathan died in a car accident Dec. 22, 2002, was join a support group - but it became her lifeline.
"When new parents come in, I tell them this is how I made it," said Mrs. Hutto, of Graniteville, who is a member of the area chapter of Bereaved Parents, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary.
The chapter's members will gather in memory of their children Tuesday, Dec. 19, for a candlelight ceremony at Augusta's Aldersgate United Methodist Church.
The organization has two meetings each month - one at Millbrook Baptist Church in Aiken and the other at Aldersgate.
Mrs. Hutto said her emotions ran the full range after her son died.
"I did not feel normal," she said.
Joining with other parents who had lost children made her realize she was normal and helped her through the grieving process, she said.
"You want to be with other people like you," Mrs. Hutto said.
People who haven't lost children don't understand what other parents go through, she said.
Mrs. Hutto remembers leaving work one day about three months after her 25-year-old son had died. She hadn't said anything to co-workers, and as she left a few tears came to her eyes.
A co-worker went up to her and asked, "Don't you think you should be over it by now?"
At the candlelight ceremony and at meetings, however, Mrs. Hutto said, she can remember her son, say his name and cry if she wants.
"Nobody can stop me," she said.
Though the pain is still there - and Mrs. Hutto said there is never anything such as closure - she's able to go on with her life.
She wants to use the group to help others make it through their own grieving.
"Some people get stuck in their grief. They stay there. This is a way not to, but to move on and live with it," she said.
Reach Charmain Z. Brackett at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 19, the area chapter of Bereaved Parents will hold a candlelight ceremony at Aldersgate United Methodist Church, 3185 Wheeler Road, Augusta.
The organization holds two meetings each month - at 7:30 p.m. the first Thursday at Millbrook Baptist Church, 176 E. Pine Log Road, Aiken, and at 7:30 p.m. the third Tuesday at Aldersgate Methodist. For more information, call Cathy McNitt at (803) 279-8179.