In August 2012, Jill Flingos’s daughter, Pamela Nicole Flingos, lost her life in a car accident.
To cope with the pain, Jill began attending meetings held by The Compassionate Friends, a support group of men and women who have also lost a child.
On Dec. 13, more than 135 people united at the Miami-Dade County Fair and Expo Center, for the Compassionate Friends candle lighting ceremony to remember the sons or daughters that they lost.
“I feel it’s a huge support, to assist the group, to continue and support new people as they come,” said Flingos, 55, who has been attending the monthly meetings for more than three years. “People here have unfortunately experienced the same thing that I have, and they get it on a level that other people who have not experienced this tragedy don’t get it at.”
The Compassionate Friends is a non-religious international organization created to help families that are dealing with the loss of a child. Five women initiated the Miami Chapter, 13 years ago — the first in the United States.
Shelly Ellis and Cindy Baum are two of the remaining active co-leaders who started the group. They get together on the second Thursday of every month with a group of people, and they all talk and listen to each other’s stories.
“I think what it does is give people hope,” said Ellis, 69, who lost her son, Jason after he was hit by a tram in Amsterdam in 2000. “By seeing other people who are further down the road, you see that they’re still surviving; still trying to do something.”
The annual candle lighting ceremony began in New Zealand, and lasted 24 hours. It is held for families around the world to unite through the light in their candle. For the Miami event, The Compassionate Friends invited members to spend time together for an evening that included poetry, singing, looking at pictures and having dinner.
During the lighting, family members passed a candle from one person to the other saying short prayers and words of love to the ones they lost.
Being a co-leader in the monthly meetings and organizing the candle lighting event has given Cindy Baum a new purpose in life.
She believes that through The Compassionate Friends, she has been able to grieve the loss of her daughter and son.
“It wasn’t until I became active in Compassionate Friends that I realized how important grieve is,” said Baum, 72, who lost her infant daughter, Lisa Ellen, in 1969, and her 30-year-old son, Evan Howard, in 2001. “It has given me a way to honor my two children that have died and help other people. There is no job that I’ve ever had in my life that is as rewarding.”
If You Go:
What: The Compassionate Friends meetings
Where: Temple Beth Am, 5950 N. Kendall Dr.
When: Every second Thursday of the month; Next meeting is on Jan. 14 at 7:15 p.m.
Information: Call 305-460-5762