JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – Hundreds of people have expressed their condolences to the family of a teenage boy that died Wednesday night after Jonesboro police say he accidentally shot himself.
When tragedies like this happen, it's hard for family members and friends to talk to those who have lost a loved one.
A mother that knows what that's like firsthand offered some advice to the people now grieving like she did not too long ago.
"My heart goes out to the parents so much because there's no loss, there is no loss like the loss of a child," Dora Edings said.
Hearing that another family has lost a child took Edings back to the moment when she lost her own daughter, Angie.
"We lost our daughter on December 7, 1977," Edings said. "She was six years old, and she was in a tragic automobile accident. The day that we lost her, everything in my life changed."
Edings says it took her 18 years before she could ever really talk about what happened. Then, in 2004, she started a nonprofit organization called Mothers of Angels, which now provides support to other mothers coping with their child's death.
"I had the love of my family and friends, but I needed something more," Edings said. "I needed people that had been where I had been because you do feel alone. You feel like the only one that's been there."
"Whenever we have a support group meeting, we have a bond there that nobody can break," she added. "The good thing about going to a support group meeting is you can talk about your child and you can cry and nobody will say don't do that [or] that's too hard or change the subject. We'll cry with you because we've all been there, so we understand."
After this latest tragedy, she says one of the toughest jobs now will be for the family members and friends of those that have lost their loved one.
"One of the toughest jobs you're ever going to have is being a family member or friend of these parents because you're walking on eggshells," Edings said. "You don't know what to say, and everything you say can be wrong. We never know, and the thing about it [too] when you lose a child, you don't know what's right or wrong either because this is all so brand new for you that all you know is you want your child back."
She also says that people should remember that sometimes it's better to show you care without words.
"The biggest thing is listen, listen, listen," she said. "We mothers have gotten together, and every mother that I have talked to has come up with the same ones is that don't tell us our child's in a better place. We know spiritually the child is in a better place, but what we miss is the physical part – touching their hair, holding their hands, getting a hug from them."
"What you need to do is just be there," she added. "Love them, comfort, hold their hand, pat them – but don't over-talk them."
She says above all else, avoid asking parents that have lost a child one dreaded question – how are you doing?
"Go up to them, pat them on the hand or give them a hug and say it's great to see you," she said. "Don't ask them how they're doing because when you ask that question, we know what you're wanting to know and what we really want to do is just feel your encouragement that you're glad to see us."
Edings also has some advice for the parents that have now lost their son.
"Pray, give it to the Lord," she said. "The Lord's going to carry them through – I promise He will. I didn't think I would survive it. As time goes on, they will learn to live with this. This will always be a part of their life, but they will learn to live with this and they will start to have happy memories again."
Edings would like to invite anyone affected by this recent tragedy to her group's annual Walk to Remember on Saturday, September 28. The event starts at 9 a.m. and will be held at the recently completed Mothers of Angels memorial garden at Craighead Forest Park.
To find out more about the Mothers of Angels nonprofit, visit this link.