ABOUT US

Our History

The Compassionate Friends was founded in Coventry, England, in 1969, following the deaths of two young boys, Billy Henderson and Kenneth Lawley, the previous spring. Billy and Kenneth had died just three days apart in the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital where Rev. Simon Stephens was Assistant to the Chaplain. Simon mentioned Billy's death to Iris and Joe Lawley, and the Lawleys decided to send flowers to Billy's funeral. They signed the card simply, "Kenneth's parents," realizing that the Hendersons would know who they were.

Bill and Joan Henderson then invited the Lawleys over for tea, and an immediate bond was formed as the two couples spoke freely about their boys, sharing their memories and the dreams that had died with Billy and Kenneth. They continued to get together regularly, and young Rev. Stephens, then only 23, encouraged them to invite other newly bereaved parents to join them. In 1969, another grieving mother accepted their invitation to meet with Simon and the two couples. They decided to organize as a self-help group and actively begin reaching out to newly bereaved parents in their community. Because the word "compassionate" kept coming up, this new organization was called "The Society of the Compassionate Friends."

Simon became a chaplain in the British Royal Navy in the 70's. He was met by bereaved parents at ports around the world, and he helped them to develop their own chapters. TCF had become well-known through U.K. and U.S.A. editions of such magazines as Time and Good Housekeeping. Paula and Arnold Shamres of Florida read Simon's interview in Time Magazine and invited him to visit them in Florida and speak to bereaved parents there. He did, and the Shamres subsequently founded the first U.S. chapter in 1972. Word of the organization spread rapidly through interest generated by the Phil Donahue Show and the columns of Dear Abby and Ann Landers.

The Compassionate Friends was incorporated in the United States as a non-profit organization in 1978.

In 1989, The Compassionate Friends of Great Britain dedicated a plaque commemorating the founding of the organization, at the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital where TCF had begun. The plaque was unveiled by their patron, Countess Mountbatten, herself a bereaved parent.

Then in November, 1994, Queen Elizabeth presented Iris Lawley with a medal, The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, in recognition of her work on behalf of TCF.

There are now Compassionate Friends chapters in every state in the United States — almost 600 altogether — and hundreds of chapters in Canada, Great Britain and other countries throughout the world. In the United States, chapters are open to all bereaved parents, siblings, grandparents and other family members who are grieving the death of a child of any age, from any cause.

 

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The Mission of
The Compassionate Friends

When a child dies, at any age, the family suffers intense pain and may feel hopeless and isolated. The Compassionate Friends provides highly personal comfort, hope, and support to every family experiencing the death of a son or a daughter, a brother or a sister, or a grandchild, and helps others better assist the grieving family.


The Compassionate Friends Credo

We need not walk alone. We are The Compassionate Friends. We reach out to each other with love, with understanding, and with hope. The children we mourn have died at all ages and from many different causes, but our love for them unites us. Your pain becomes my pain, just as your hope becomes my hope. We come together from all walks of life, from many different circumstances. We are a unique family because we represent many races, creeds, and relationships. We are young, and we are old. Some of us are far along in our grief, but others still feel a grief so fresh and so intensely painful that they feel helpless and see no hope. Some of us have found our faith to be a source of strength, while some of us are struggling to find answers. Some of us are angry, filled with guilt or in deep depression, while others radiate an inner peace. But whatever pain we bring to this gathering of The Compassionate Friends, it is pain we will share, just as we share with each other our love for the children who have died. We are all seeking and struggling to build a future for ourselves, but we are committed to building a future together. We reach out to each other in love to share the pain as well as the joy, share the anger as well as the peace, share the faith as well as the doubts, and help each other to grieve as well as to grow. We Need Not Walk Alone. We Are The Compassionate Friends.

©2007 The Compassionate Friends

 

In memory of a life so beautifully lived ...


 

 

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