VIRGINIA

Group for Grieving Parents Expands

For several years after Glen and Linda Nielsen's only child, 22-year-old Lisa, died of a brain tumor, the couple went to support groups for parents whose children had died. But they felt they didn't quite fit in when other parents talked about their surviving children.

So seven years ago, the Reston couple started their own organization, In Loving Memory, especially for parents who had lost an only child or all their children. They began holding conferences every two years that attracted hundreds of parents from across the country and around the world to grieve along with other parents who knew only too well the life-shattering event they had gone through.

A story in The Post about the Nielsens and their conference, held in late May, struck a chord both locally and nationally. The Nielsens said they got more than 200 telephone calls from across the country from grieving parents as well as concerned relatives and friends.

The Nielsens said the magnitude of the response persuaded them to make their conference an annual event, and they are preparing for the next one, which will be next May in the Washington area. They also have restarted a support group for parents with no surviving children and have an e-mail address: InLvMemory@aol.com.

The group meets in the Washington area, but it isn't just for parents here. One man flies in from Chicago for the monthly meetings, Linda Nielsen said. His pregnant wife and two children were killed by a drunk driver in 1995.

One of the most poignant phone calls they got was from a woman who donated $100 in memory of an elderly sister-in-law who had died recently. When the caller was cleaning out her sister-in-law's room at a nursing home, she told the Nielsens, she came across a scrapbook at her bedside. In it were mementos of the woman's only child, who had died in infancy in 1936.

The 2-day-old boy, the woman told the Nielsens, "lived such a short time on Earth and such a long lifetime in his mother's heart."

"It goes to show you," Linda Nielsen said, "that grief is lifelong."