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story.lead_photo.caption West Point Senior Center is located at 2701 W. Main St. in Jefferson City. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.

Each month, a group of women gather in a large open room in the second floor of the West Point Senior Center to share and grieve together.

They've got unique stories, but they share common grief — the loss of a child.

Women who attend meetings of the Steel Magnolias Mommas Group have lost children before they were born. Others have lost children who had grown to middle age. Their children died of illnesses, suicide, homicide, accidents and other tragedies.

Peggy Talken, one of the originators of the group, lost a daughter, Corrie, in a boating accident on the Gasconade River in 2014.

Talken was depressed and had little outlet. She began publishing her thoughts on Facebook.

Sheila Singer and Edith Verslues had each lost a child, too. Singer lost a 10-year-old son, Travis, to cancer about 30 years ago. Verslues' 16-year-old son, Brad, died in a car accident in 2001. They approached Talken about her grief, Singer said.

Talken's Facebook posts touched the women. All three attend the same church in Taos.

"It's kind of that feeling that comes over you when you see someone struggling," Singer said. "You want to do what you can to help."

All the things the women had never said, Talken was writing.

"She was saying — 'You're connected.' Even though your stories are different, you're connected," Singer said. "You learn to live with it, and it never goes away. It's always there."

Like the others, Talken struggled with depression.

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"I was never mad at God because of Corrie's accident," she said. "I was (mad) at him because he let me live."

One bad night, she was thinking about how she could end all the pain.

She got a message from Teala Sindt, someone she'd never heard of. And she helped.

Shortly afterward, Talken introduced Sindt to the other women, and they began the group.

Unless you've been through it, you really can't imagine losing a child, said Sindt, whose 16-year-old daughter, Jennie, died in a car accident.

Sindt said she was surprised at how difficult it was to just hold a normal conversation, while the tragedy played over and over and over — like it was on a loop in the back of her head.

And a parent goes a little numb following a tragedy.

"After two or three weeks that numbness begins to wear off," Sindt said. "And that's when things start to really get bad. That's about the time the cards and food stop coming. People are going on with their lives — and they should be."

But, not a mom.

"There you are — just stuck there," Sindt said.

A difficulty is that people think they should leave a woman alone to deal with her grief, Talken said. When they are gone, the quiet is deafening, she continued.

A grieving mother has to come to grips with her new normal, the women said.

They anticipate the bad days — usually holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving and birthdays.

However, the days that get to them are the "two-by-four" days, when they're just waltzing along, minding their own business, thinking they've got a handle on the grief, and something triggers it.

It could be a sound, a smell or another trigger.

"Out of the blue, something comes along and just snaps you," Sindt said. "And you have to start over."

Like being hit by a two-by-four.

"Going into the holiday season, the mommas who have been here for years, have been in this life for years — we've figured out ways to survive in anticipation of the holiday or that birthday," Talken said.

Part of the survival is being able to speak with people with similar experiences. The group meets every month (but won't be meeting in December) at 9 a.m., on the third Saturday of the month, on the second floor of the West Point Senior Center, 2701 W. Main St.

"We want moms to be able to come here and (know) it's going to be a safe space," Sindt said. "Where they can say anything they want. Nobody's going to think anything bad. Chances are high that someone at the table's had the same thought."

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