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Healing tour to visit Alexandria: Compassionate Friends group, funeral homes sponsor event

Janet Getz of Alexandria points to a butterfly on the Angels Across the USA Tour "Angel Van" when she was at The Compassionate Friends national conference in St. Louis in July. (Contributed)

Three years ago, Janet Getz and two of her friends started a chapter of The Compassionate Friends in Alexandria. The group provides support to families who have lost a child or grandchild.

Getz' daughter Nicole died in a boating accident May 21, 2011. She was 27.

Getz was introduced to The Compassionate Friends organization two years after her daughter's death. A nurse at Alomere Health in Alexandria, she was at an in-service training when she met Alan Pedersen, a grief expert and former executive director of the organization.

After becoming what she called a "seasoned griever," Getz and friends started the local chapter of the group.

"We're a group of parents and grandparents who are there to share stories and support each other," she said. "You'll hear laughter at our meetings and you'll see tears. Everybody grieves differently and there is never any judgement. There truly is no limit on grieving."

The group consists of people who have had recent losses and also those who, like Getz, lost a child or grandchild several years ago.

"It's good to have the seasoned grievers because it shows newcomers there is hope," Getz said. "It shows them that they can laugh again and that it's OK."

She stressed that it doesn't matter when a loved one died, and encouraged people in need of support to attend the meetings, which take place the third Tuesday of every month from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Glenwood State Bank, 2221 S. Broadway St., Alexandria.

The group is for parents who have lost children or grandparents who have lost grandchildren. Siblings are welcome to come, Getz said, as long as they understand why they are there. She said there isn't a specific group for sibling grief, but there might be in the future.

Occasionally, the group will bring in a speaker to talk about different topics, and it is doing so Tuesday, Sept. 18. Along with Lind Family Funeral Home and Anderson Funeral Home, the organization is sponsoring an event featuring Pedersen and his "Angels Across the USA Tour."

Getz said he will be bringing the "Angel Van," which features butterflies with names of children who have died. There are several butterflies with names of children from the Douglas County area, including Nicole, Getz said.

For more information on the local chapter of The Compassionate Friends, go to Facebook and search Alexandria Area Chapter of The Compassionate Friends.

Angels Across the USA Tour

The Angels Across the USA Tour features music and a message of hope from Alan Pedersen. Pedersen, an award-winning speaker, songwriter and recording artist, has a personal experience with grief. His daughter, Ashley, died in a car accident in 2001.

After her death, he began recording songs about his journey through grief. He also began studying grief and was mentored by leading experts in the field. Through his tour, this year Pedersen expects to visit more than 100 cities in the U.S.

For four years, Pedersen served as executive director of The Compassionate Friends, a world-wide organization dedicated to helping grieving parents. The Compassionate Friends, according to its website, provides comfort, hope and support to families experiencing the death of a son or daughter, a brother or sister, or a grandchild.

The Angels Across the USA Tour is supported by hundreds of families and organizations who sponsor butterfly decals bearing the names and hometowns of loved ones who have died. The decals are placed on the outside of the van, which travels across the nation.

For more information, visit the Angels Across the USA Tour website at

class='pullout'>If you go

WHAT: Angels Across the USA Tour featuring Alan Pedersen

WHERE: Calvary Lutheran Church, 605 Douglas St., Alexandria

WHEN: Tuesday, Sept. 18, from 6-8:30 p.m.

INFO: The event is free and open to the public. Free-will donations are accepted and will go to the Alexandria Chapter of The Compassionate Friends to help with printing brochures for families. For questions, call Janet Getz at 320-760-7107.

Celeste Edenloff

Celeste is a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press and has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in June 2016 to report on the community she calls home. Besides writing articles for the Echo Press, she has a blog, “Newspaper Girl on the Run.” Celeste is on a continuous healthy living journey and loves to teach bootcamp fitness classes and run. She has participated in more than 200 races with her husband, Al, covering the 5K, 10K, 10-mile and half-marathon (13.1 mile) distances.

(320) 763-1242