York City resident Cheryl Peterson, shown with her son Christopher, started a support group for grieving parents after Christopher, 20, died of meningitis
York City resident Cheryl Peterson, shown with her son Christopher, started a support group for grieving parents after Christopher, 20, died of meningitis in November 2012. (Submitted)

When Cheryl Peterson of York City lost her 20-year-old son Christopher to meningitis in 2012, she didn't know where to turn.

She started by researching support groups specific to the needs of grieving parents — but she found only one in York.

"Unfortunately, there are too many parents in need of help," Peterson said. "I just don't feel like one is enough for the area."

So she started Mending the Spirit, a support group for grieving parents that will open its doors to the public from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 13.

The group: The support group will be based around discussion — a healing aura comes from people who understand, Peterson said.

There's no money involved in the group, and everything — from reading materials to videos to time — is donated, she said.

"That's the whole concept: Just to give back, help to make a difference, bring each other some compassion and healing," Peterson said.

At the open house, attendees can socialize, borrow reading materials and enjoy light refreshments while learning about Mending the Spirit. York-based holistic health coach Joanna Rose will also offer energy healing.

Members of the group can include step-parents and any variation of a traditional parent, Peterson said.

"They don't have to be blood to be a parent," she said.

Starting Tuesday, May 27, group sessions will be held from 7 to 8 p.m. on second and fourth Tuesdays at 54 N. Duke St., on the second floor above Rich Reilly's York City office. The attorney donated the space, Peterson said.

In memory: Initiating the group is part of Peterson's own healing journey. To lose Christopher, an energetic third-year student at Drexel University, was senseless, she said.

"I'm choosing to celebrate my son's life instead of mourn his death," she said.

Peterson said losing a child is unlike any other type of grief.

"It's something that doesn't make sense," she said. "It's someone you gave life to. It's just a totally different type of grieving."

As Peterson went through her own healing process, she didn't want to wash her son's clothing and get rid of his smell.

"I didn't think anybody could understand," she said.

But after reading books and joining Facebook groups, she realized that her grieving process was completely normal.

Now she wants to help others heal — and she wants to be the hero that Christopher wrote about on his SATs.

"Even though he's not here physically, he's not gone," she said. "He's my angel of inspiration. He keeps inspiring me every day."

— Reach Mollie Durkin at mdurkin@yorkdispatch.com.

Help for parents

Mending the Spirit, a new support group for grieving parents, will host an open house from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at 54 N. Duke St., on the second floor above attorney Rich Reilly's York City office.

The free event will include socializing and light refreshments, and York-based holistic health coach Joanna Rose will offer energy healing to attendees.

To get involved in the group or learn more, contact founder Cheryl Peterson at mendingthespirit12@gmail.com or (717) 668-6685.