The Compassionate Friends

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The Compassionate Friends
Founded28 January 1969 (1969-01-28)
TypeSupport Group
Registration no.England and Wales Charity number 1082335
FocusSupporting bereaved parents & their families after a child dies
  • Kilburn Grange, Priory Park Road, London NW6 7UJ
Area served
(National) 0345 123 2304
(NI) 0288 77 88 016
MethodVoluntary mutual assistance
Key people
Co-founder: Revd Canon Dr Simon Stephens, OBE RN
President: The Countess Mountbatten of Burma
£459,980 (2022).[1]
9 (2022)[1]
ca 250 (2022)[1]

Compassionate Friends UK (TCF) is a peer support group[2] operating in the United Kingdom. It is a registered charity formed by and for parents whose children have died, irrespective of the child's age at death and the cause of death,[3] and is independent of any religious, philosophical or government body.[4]

It has a national helpline and area coordinators, holds local and national meetings (including residential retreats), and operates information services including advice leaflets,[5] a web site and a postal lending library. All TCF volunteers and most of the small permanent staff are themselves bereaved parents or siblings.[6] TCF works to improve the treatment of bereaved parents in society by educating mental health professionals and informing the public through the publication of books, creation of news reports and dissemination of stories of individual experiences through local media.,[7][8]. It also co-operates with many charities and other organisations that operate within the sphere of bereavement.[1]

Traditionally, TCF volunteers organise and facilitate local groups that hold regular, free, open meetings in neutral premises. Each group follows TCF's creed, which mandates that bereaved parents, grandparents and siblings attending these meetings need not speak but are free to express their feelings.[4]

More recently TCF has also developed numerous online resources including 11 moderated Facebook groups and many Zoom meetings, for constituencies such as fathers, siblings, and members bereaved by suicide. These remote services expanded greatly during the Covid-19 pandemic, and enable a much wider coverage that can reach isolated individuals wherever they are. Like all TCF's work, the online services are run by volunteers, with operational and administrative support from the office staff, and coordinate with in-person work in a hybrid support model.[1]


TCF was founded in 1969 by the families of Billy Henderson and Kenneth Lawley, who both died in the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital (now University Hospital Coventry) in May 1968. One grieving mother sent flowers to the other via the hospital chaplain, the Rev (later Canon) Simon Stephens, and the parents decided to meet to find ways to help each other survive their loss. After meeting informally they arranged a meeting with other bereaved parents in a room at the same hospital on 28 January 1969, at which the organisation was founded as The Society of the Compassionate Friends, with the help of Stephens who had by then become chaplain aboard HMS Ark Royal.[9][10]

The organization expanded across the UK and abroad during the following years. The Compassionate Friends in the US developed following the publication of a story in Time Magazine in 1971 under the title "Therapeutic Friendship", describing the experience of a mother whose daughter had died from cancer.[11] In 2012 there were about 600 chapters[10] around the country.[12][13][14]

Stephens was also instrumental in promoting the organisation abroad,[15] and sister organisations were founded in Canada, Australia.[16] and South Africa by 1990, and later on in European countries including France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e [1] TCF Annual Report 2021-2022
  2. ^ Ellen Mitchell (1 February 2005). Beyond Tears: Living After Losing a Child. St. Martin's Press. pp. 166–. ISBN 978-0-312-32829-0.
  3. ^ Collenberg, Joe. "National Children's Memorial Day"Congressional Record, V. 146, Pt. 16, October 13, 2000 to October 24, 2000. Government Printing Office. May 2005. pp. 23720–. ISBN 978-0-16-074953-7.
  4. ^ a b Lawrence R. Frey; Dennis Gouran; Marshall Scott Poole (8 July 1999). The Handbook of Group Communication Theory and Research. SAGE Publications. pp. 522–. ISBN 978-0-7619-1027-5.
  5. ^ Celia Hindmarch (2009). On the Death of a Child. Radcliffe Publishing. pp. 159–. ISBN 978-1-84619-403-0.
  6. ^ Catherine Sanders (17 August 2011). How to Survive the Loss of a Child: Filling the Emptiness and Rebuilding Your Life. Potter/TenSpeed/Harmony. pp. 214–. ISBN 978-0-307-57475-6.
  7. ^ "Say their Name, say Stroud couple behind award-winning films inspired by son Joshua's death". Retrieved 12 March 2014.
  8. ^ "My son died. Today it's been a whole year and I still can't think of three sadder words". Retrieved 12 March 2014.
  9. ^ Today's Parish. Twenty-Third Publications. 1988. p. 15.
  10. ^ a b Simon Shimshon Rubin; Ruth Malkinson; Eliezer Witztum (27 April 2012). Working With the Bereaved: Multiple Lenses on Loss and Mourning. Taylor & Francis. pp. 221–. ISBN 978-1-136-94790-2.
  11. ^ "Behavior: Therapeutic Friendship". Time Inc., New York, NY. Retrieved 11 March 2014.
  12. ^ "Compassionate Friends helps those who have lost a child". Mesabi News.
  13. ^ Alan D. Wolfelt (1 May 2014). Healing a Grandparent's Grieving Heart: 100 Practical Ideas After Your Grandchild Dies. Companion Press. pp. 34–. ISBN 978-1-61722-197-2.
  14. ^ "Compassionate Friends dedicates Children's Memorial". Savannah Morning News. May 17, 2015
  15. ^ "The Compassionate Friends: Understanding and support for grieving parents and families". 702 ABC Sydney By Linda Mottram and Matthew Bevan, 11 May 2015,
  16. ^ Bertola, Vera (2 June 2015). "Friends supports parents suffering the trauma of losing a child". The Daily Telegraph (Sydney). News Corp Australia. Retrieved 13 June 2015.

External links[edit]