FARMINGTON — The most difficult experience parents can endure is, without a doubt, the loss of a child. And a bereaved parent often is isolated by the pain.

A Saturday event is designed to bring together those who have lost a child, with the goal of providing healing and support.

Award-winning songwriter and nationally recognized inspirational speaker Alan Pedersen will present a free concert and workshop at the First Presbyterian Church.

In August of 2001, Pedersen's only daughter, Ashley, was killed in an automobile accident in Colorado. The tragedy led him on a journey to find joy again, and he now travels throughout the country in his van as part of his "Angels Across the USA Tour."

Using a gentle mix of humor and straight-from-the-heart talk, along with songs about love and loss, Pedersen delivers a message of hope and healing to grieving parents.

Pedersen's visit is being organized by the Tres Rios chapter of "Compassionate Friends," a local grief organization that brings together those who have lost a child. The Cortez chapter of the group is also providing support for the event, which is free of charge.

"This isn't only a concert, it's an interactive workshop, and it will be a really healing experience. (Pedersen's) music really plays to the heart," said Virginia Jones, leader of Compassionate Friends. Jones lost a child to a stillbirth 24 years ago.


She said the organization supports parents who lost children of any age, from those who were never born to those who were adults when they died.

"There are elderly people in assisted living centers who have out-lived their children, and that counts, too," said Jones.

Jones said groups like Compassionate Friends that provide support to those who have lost a child are important, because bereaved parents often feel isolated and misunderstood.

"They often feel like they're the only ones going through this experience. Relatives and friends often don't understand what they're experiencing and sometimes stay away for that reason," she said.

Another member of the group, Beverly VanSickle, lost her son, Greg, seventeen years ago. VanSickle agrees that support from others can provide a lifeline to bereaved parents.

"Losing a child is so devastating," she said. "My husband and I felt so alone. But when you get together with other parents, even though their situations may be different, you realize that so many of the symptoms you're going through are the same, and the support and understanding you get helps you realize that you don't have to take that walk alone."

For the newly bereaved, VanSickle said, meeting others who went through such a devastating loss and seeing that they have been able to regain joy and build a new life instills a sense of hope.

"Once you've lost a child, you have to build a new life," she said. "You can't just start from there, and it helps people who've experienced that loss to realize that it is possible to smile again, to have a life again. But it takes time. It takes a lot of time."

Compassionate Friends has produced various informational brochures dealing with losses including those from suicide, homicide, illness and other reasons. This information, along with additional resources and support information, will be available at Saturday's event.

The "Angels Across the USA" event takes place Saturday at 7 p.m. at Ogilvie Hall at the First Presbyterian Church, 865 North Dustin Ave.

Tres Rios Compassionate Friends meets at 6:30 on the second Monday of every month at the PMS/Northwest NM Hospice Building at 608 Riley. For information, call (505) 860-9381, or visit