New program designed to assist in healing after death of child

New fund offers help to grieving

Posted: Monday, July 31, 2000

The thought of losing a child is so horrifying that no parent ever really thinks it will happen to them. Losing two is simply unimaginable.

Lisa Best of Soldotna was forced to do more than imagine it when she lost two of her four girls; Jacqueline, 4, in a car accident on Easter day, 1994 and Alexandrea, 5, to meningitis on Feb. 12, 1998.

Two years after Alex's death, Best is using the grief and pain of her experience as inspiration to help other parents forced to imagine the unimaginable.

The Little Lost Angels Relief Fund was formed in October to assist friends and families grieving for the loss of a child.

"There's nothing like this program around here," said Best. "You hear people say 'things happen for a reason.' I feel like losing my girls is one of those things. This is what I decided to do to help my healing."

Best enlisted the aid of her mother-in-law Yvonne Best, the organization's vice president and treasurer, and her best friend Kami Deitrick, who serves as secretary, to help bring about her inspiration.

"I had a very large support network when I lost the girls," said Best. "Through talking with others who have lost children, we've realized there aren't any ongoing programs to help with the healing process."

The first and foremost goal of Little Lost Angels is to build and maintain a Kenai Peninsula memorial park dedicated to the memory of all the children who have passed away in the community. They hope to break ground for the park next spring.

The park is designed to be an alternative to a cemetery where bereaved families and friends can go to remember their children.

"I decided to have the girls cremated," said Best. "And that put up a big obstacle to my healing because I didn't have anywhere to go to grieve."

When completed, the park will offer a variety of ways to honor the community's lost young. Visitors will be able to place a memorial plaque with a child's name and dates, plant a tree or participate in a holiday season candlelight service.

Little Lost Angels will offer two support groups in cooperation with hospice and facilitated by various counselors in the community. The groups, one for parents and one for friends and families of deceased children, will start weekly meetings in September. A surviving siblings group is expected to be added when organizers have a licensed psychologist to oversee it.

"Our group is an alternative to going to a counselor." said Best. "Parents can come to our group, speak if they want to and have a vent if they need one."

The family and friends group, run by Little Lost Angels' secretary Kami Deitrick, will operate on the the same open-forum principal.

"I knew Lisa when she lost her girls," said Deitrick. "A lot of people don't know what to say or do when parents lose a child. In our group, we can enlighten people, answer questions and let them know that it's OK to talk about it."

The organization also is raising money to provide short-term financial relief for grieving parents. And they hope to assist in funeral arrangements that families find too difficult to handle, like drafting obituaries or finding music and poetry for funeral services.

So far, Little Lost Angels has become a registered nonprofit organization, but has yet to achieve the 501(c)(3) status they need to get large grants and donations.

"We still need everything," said Best, "like an office, office supplies and reliable volunteers. The more support we get, the more real this will be."

Little Lost Angels held a carwash on July 8 and 9, plan a spaghetti dinner and auction at the Riverside House in Soldotna in October.

"You can't change what happened to the girls," Deitrick said. "Some people get caught up in the negative. You don't want something like this to happen to you, but if it does it's nice to know there's something you can turn to."

For more information about Little Lost Angels, contact Lisa Best or Kami Deitrick at 260-4709 or Yvonne Best at 262-4490.

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