Months after losing her son, Judy Dove was turning through the pages of her Bible when a highlighted passage caught her eye.
Later that week, while shopping alone at a local home décor store, she came across a garden flag bearing the same words. Dove broke into tears, attracting the attention of the shop owner. Rather than stare or walk away, the woman reached out to comfort her crying customer.
“She didn’t say anything, she just hugged me,” recalls Judy, who was touched by the stranger’s compassion.
In the same spirit of showing love for strangers, Dove and her husband Dale are starting a support group for anyone hurting over the loss of a loved one. The first meeting will be April 25 at the Plains District Community Center in Timberville.
Those who attend may speak about their struggle, share photos or stories about their loved one, or simply stay silent and listen to others. While the group is intended to provide support and sympathy, it will not offer professional help.
“We’re not counselors, we’re just people who care,” says Judy, who personally finds comfort in being around others experiencing similar pain.
Though the Doves have relied on their Christian faith to help them heal, those of all religious backgrounds will be welcome at the event.
“We accept people for who they are,” says Dale, adding that people of all faiths can have the same aching heart.
A Musical Life
The group was created to honor the memory of their oldest son, Dale Junior Dove, who died in April 2012. His parents wish to keep the cause of his death private.
Dale Junior, called a “Thanksgiving baby,” by his mother, was born in November 1981.
According to his parents, he was a gifted musician whose interest in music started at an early age. As a toddler, said his mother, the best way to put him to sleep was by winding up all his musical toys.
The couple’s son started music lessons in grade school, eventually mastering the guitar and the keyboard, and later taught himself to play the mandolin.
“He was really gifted,” says Dale, who said he hates knowing the world has lost his son’s talents.
After graduating from Broadway High School, Dale Junior pursued a career in maintenance, which his father says he enjoyed. But, he always remained devoted to his music, frequently performing at various venues, such as restaurants or churches.
While he was passionate about music, his mother thinks the true “loves of his life” were his three younger brothers. He also had a best friend from grade school with whom he always remained close. Like Judy, a self-described “talker,” the Doves considered Dale Junior their most outgoing child.
“When he was in a room, you noticed!” she says, smiling, and adding that she misses his laugh.
Even as an adult, he still visited or called his parents on a daily basis, and had spent the day of his death at home with his family.
‘Part Of The Struggle’
Judy encourages everyone to “be patient,” with those suffering from the loss of a loved one, pointing out that, although almost a year has passed, the night of her son’s death remains fresh in her mind.
“It’s the most horrible thing to hear a doctor ask if you’re his parents,” she recalls, her voice cracking.
“And then to hear him tell you that your son didn’t make it.”
After months of being numb, Judy says there are now days when the pain feels “unbearable.”
While the Doves agree their faith has ultimately been a source of strength, they also acknowledge there are times when they question God.
“We did not lose our core [religious] values, but it’s just been part of the struggle,” says Dale.
Although the Doves greatly value their family’s privacy, they decided to open up about their grief in the hope it might help someone else.
“We want to give back to the community,” says Judy.
“We don’t want him to have died for no reason.”
Contact Katie King at (540) 574-6271 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grief Support Group
Plains District Community Center in Timberville April 25 from 7-8 p.m. There is no charge to attend and no registration is necessary.
Meeting is open to anyone who has lost a loved one.