The support group Life Without My Child has been meeting every month since 2019. It is made up of 24 mothers and one father who have suffered the loss of children from such tragedies as illness, automobile crashes or violence.
On Sunday, July 24, they met at the Gibbs-Morrison Cultural Center with their surviving children. “I wanted to get the kids involved,” said founder Jamie Lynn Harris. “Now we can open a different channel to see what their feelings and thoughts are.”
Harris’ 4-year-old son, Jaylyn Deandres Harris, died in 2008 of a heart condition called myocarditis. There was no warning. After falling sick, she took him to their doctor in Skokie, who told her to rush Jaylyn to the hospital. They walked in on their own. Three hours later, he went into a seizure and died.
“When I was looking for support, it was costly to sit on a couch and explain what I needed. This doesn’t cost anything,” said Harris. Her organization works with a grief counselor. But most of the mothers and father depend on each other. They call when they are having a difficult day. “Grief comes in waves, and it hits you when you least expect it,” she said. “I can just be walking to my car and a cloud just comes over me.”
Harris sees the effect of community at their monthly meeting. “Some moms have never told their story,” she said. “I don’t push it. I wait for them to come to me.”
Harris expects she and many members will likely be together for life. She runs most of the programs out of pocket. Her organization is not yet a registered non-profit group. She welcomes support in any way.
Meeting on Sundays was essential to the group because it links the parents to their surviving children. “Kids want to know where their mom or dad goes for support. We wanted a nice welcome space so they will want to come back.”
Most group members are African American, but Harris said she tries to reach out to anybody in and around Evanston who has suffered a loss.
Angel Marshall, whose 10-year-old son Aquan Lewis died in 2009, has been a member since the start.
“It helps me understand that I’m not alone,” she said.
For more information about the support group, email email@example.com.