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On Aug. 2 2011, a seemingly healthy 21-year-old man never awakened, dying in his sleep from an undetected heart defect.
Melissa Childs isn’t over the loss of her son, Josh Humphreys, and she doesn’t know if she ever will. She does know something that helped her, and she wants to share that blessing in Roane County.
She wants to start a local chapter of Listening Hearts, a support group for bereaved mothers.
“These ladies have helped me tremendously,” she said. “Even if I can help one person, that is my goal.”
Listening Hearts is currently in Knoxville and Morristown, but Childs said it was on her heart to do something locally so she asked if she could start a Listening Hearts chapter here.
“I personally know several people who have lost children,” Childs added.
She plans to have the first meeting from 10 a.m. to noon July 19 in Redeemer Lutheran Church at 1658 Roane State Hwy., Midtown.
It doesn’t matter how the child died, when the death occurred, or how old they were.
“There are ladies, their kids were my age. It doesn’t matter how they died. That was your child,” said Childs.
She found the organization herself when she was looking for others to talk to about something which others could not handle her discussing.
“I learned real quick who I could talk to. I don’t think it is not they don’t want to hear it―they don’t know how to deal with it,” Childs explains.
“With this group, you can talk about anything you want to. You can talk about how mad you are, sad you are, it is not fair. You can talk about anything. These ladies at some point have been through what you have been through,” Childs said.
“It doesn’t take the pain away, but it makes you feel better knowing you are not the only one.”
Just sharing details about the child is uplifting, she said.
“He loved the ocean,” Childs recounted. “It was his favorite place to be. He saw the ocean for the first time when he was 5 years old and he knew he wanted to live at the beach.”
He got his wish for awhile, as a Marine stationed in Jacksonville, N.C., about a 10-minute drive from the beach.
“Their off time, that is where they stayed,” Childs said.
She remembers a sweet child who grew up into a loving young man.
“He had a heart of gold. He’d do anything for anybody,” she said. “He was just very carefree. In his 21 years, he did more than I ever thought about doing.”
One of her more recent favorite memories is shortly before he died when he’d first moved back home.
“The best thing I can remember there toward the end when he moved back home was just sitting and talking to him,” Childs said. “We would talk about everything, and we’d laugh and we’d cry.
“He was the most loving little kid. I still have rocks he gave me when he was little. It didn’t matter. Even when he was little, when he was with me he was very protective of me and his little sister (Miranda Humphreys.)”
The pain from losing a child never goes away, she said.
“It gets easier to the point you don’t cry every day. Not that you don’t feel like you want to cry. That missing part of your heart is always there. Some days are tougher than others. It can hit you right out of the blue,” she said.
It helps to think of memories.
“When it is kind of a rough day I try to remember that laugh. It always makes me smile. Just remember the look on his face and what he was doing to try to make you laugh,” Childs said.
How she got through the initial days following his death is a mystery to her.
“Even now I look back at it―your mind literally shuts down. I know it is a coping mechanism. I don’t remember much about the first couple of months,” Childs said.
His death has changed her perspective.
“You look at things differently. One of the moms said to me ― and she lost her son about a week and a half after I lost Josh ― later on we were talking, and she said after she lost her son it was the first time she’d looked up,” Childs said.
“I know what she’s talking about, because after I lost Josh I noticed the stars and the trees. You are too busy (before), and the things don’t matter and then all of a sudden it does and you see things you never seen before or didn’t pay attention to,” Childs said.
For Childs there was no clue her son was going to die.
“Luckily for us the doctor at UT (Medical Center) that did the autopsy really did an extensive one, and they found a heart defect that hadn’t been detected,” Childs said.
For more information call Childs at 696-7039.