Compassionate Friends: Supporting Families after a Child Dies

- HAGERSTOWN, Md. - Snowflakes adorn Wendy Crossland's home in Hagerstown, but they're more than just holiday decorations.

"Anais's nickname was snowflake," she said. "Her best friend Alyssa nicknamed her snowflake."

The snowflakes are a way to keep her daughter's memory alive. At only 14, her daughter Anais Fournier passed away in 2011 after drinking two large cans of Monster Energy.

"When the death certificate came back it said cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity," said Crossland.

It's been a difficult journey for Crossland since she lost her daughter. When she went looking for support, she realized they weren't nearby.

"I noticed there weren't any close by," she said. "The closest one was in Frederick or in Martinsburg. There wasn't really any in Hagerstown."

So she decided to start her own Compassionate Friends chapter in Hagerstown. It's a national peer support group for families who have lost a child.

There are more than 600 chapters within the US, and in more than 30 countries. The group provides support, comfort and hope to parents, grandparents and siblings who have lost a child at any age, from any cause.

"We're there to listen, we're there to cry, we're there to feel with you," said Crossland. "We're there to understand because we have all been there. We are the ones that can actually say 'we understand how you feel.' No one else can say that."

The Hagerstown group meets once a month on Wednesdays at St. Mark's Lutheran Church from 7:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.

Crossland is also still fighting for her daughter. Most recently, she is working on a bill that bans teens from purchasing energy drinks in Maryland.

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