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By Wendy Killeen  |  GLOBE CORRESPONDENT   |   SEPTEMBER 19, 2013

Barbara J Hopkinson

HEALING AFTER LOSS: Barbara J. Hopkinson has experienced what few people can fathom: the loss of three children in three different ways, one through a miscarriage, a son who was stillborn, and an adult son killed in a motorcycle accident.

“The death of a child is not normal,” said Hopkinson. “Our children are not supposed to pre-decease us. Our psyche is not prepared for this level of loss. Ripping a child out of a family changes everything.”

While she was grieving her 21-year-old son’s death in 2003, her 30-year marriage fell apart, her remaining son flunked out of college, and her job as an executive at IBM changed dramatically. At age 51, she found herself living alone for the first time.

Her anguish led her to start the Greater Newburyport chapter of Compassionate Friends, an international organization created as a support group for bereaved families.

Simultaneously, Hopkinson began tracking in a journal her own spiritual journey through grief toward healing and happiness.

Eventually, she knew she had to share what she learned from her own experiences and those of other bereaved families she met through the group.

The result is the just-released book, “A Butterfly’s Journey . . . Healing Grief After the Loss of a Child.”

In addition to chronicling Hopkinson’s healing, the book offers insights, tips, and resources to help other bereaved parents and families.

Hopkinson continues to head the local chapter of Compassionate Friends, which just marked its 10th anniversary.

She also has been inspired to help advise workers in hospitals and funeral homes how to console and support families who have lost a child.

With more than 30 years of speaking and writing experience in the corporate world, Hopkinson is also committed to public speaking and the creation of virtual bereavement support groups.

Personally, she has found happiness with her second husband, her son, and three adult stepchildren.

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