Sunday, June 8, 2008

Attending bereavement conferences

Do yourself a favor in 5 ½ weeks. Attend the National Compassionate Friends Conference July 17-20 in Nashville, TN, at the Sheraton Music City and Marriott Hotels. It is a conference to help all those who have lost a child. I am a real veteran of these conferences since my daughter died 14 years ago. I believe in them, and I would certainly urge others to attend if at all possible.

This year I will be speaking at the conference on “Coping Techniques for the Now Childless.” There are around 100 different types of sessions for different needs, enough of a variety to please everyone under any circumstance, in addition to well-known speakers on the topics.

I am in a period of my life where I feel the need to help others in my situation, so each year I speak in hopes of showing others how to deal with the death of a child. Because I speak doesn’t mean I am not still grieving. I will always grieve for my child. Most times it is hard to even get through any speech given without tearing up when her name is mentioned. It is a normal reaction that does not embarrass me. I believe I’ll always reveal that part of me. I do want others to understand I still hurt; I still feel the greatest loss of all in my heart and mind. But I have moved on and this is what I choose to do.

I have met many new friends at these conferences, friends I feel comfortable talking to, listening to and even giving suggestions to. I have seen bereaved parents walk into the conference with no hope and come out smiling with a new reason to live after having attended many of the workshops and listening to nationally known speakers. One of my earlier blogs last September talks about one of those parents who had lost 3 children in three years, all in car accidents. When I saw him at this last conference, he was a different person, filled with plans for the future to help others in his hometown by starting a chapter of Compassionate Friends there. I hope I was one small part of getting him to that point in his life.

There are over 600 chapters of Compassionate Friends around the country and more than one in most states. Some parents travel many miles once or twice a month to attend meetings of these chapters. They want to be with people who understand what they are going through and there is no one who does more than another bereaved parent.

I urge those who have lost a child to do something for yourself and attend this conference. I’m telling you about this 6 weeks out, so that you can make plans. If you can’t go, then look up the closest Compassionate Friends chapter in your area or call the national office and talk to them about attending a meeting. The web site with all the information is

There is another national conference being held in St. Louis, MO, July 11-13, at the Crown Plaza Hotel from the group Bereaved Parents USA with similar workshop and speakers. More information is at . If you are able to choose one of these to go to, you will never regret it.

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