Sunday, July 20, 2008

A weekend to remember

I spent this weekend remembering Marcy at the National Compassionate Friends Conference in Nashville, TN. It was a wonderful conference attended by more than 1,400 people from across the U.S. We came together to not only remember our children but also to talk about different issues we comfront on a daily basis.

I was in charge of three workshops: Coping Techniques for the Now Childless, A Panel Discussion for those who lost their only child or all their children and a sharing session. I met wonderful mothers and fathers and got reaquainted with those I knew from former conferences. Besides childless sessions there were many sessions for those with surviving children such as grief stress, multiple loss, sudden death, moving from loss to legacy, what to do with a child's belongings, marriage and communication after a child's death, organ donation, healthy and unhealthy grief, signs from our children, anger and guilt, humor grief and scrapbooking, just to name a few...over 100 in all to choose from.

In addition to sessions, there were guest speakers like author Ann Hood (The Kniting Circle), who also lost a child and Darrell Scott, whose daughter Rachel was the first killed in the Columbine school shootings. Both of these were emotionally charged sessions that held your attention for the full time alloted.

Sharing sessions at night, where we all got in large circle and discussed our situations was probably the most popular time. Only there can you shed your mask and be yourself, cry, laugh or do whatever you need to do as you tell your own story while others listen attentively.

I spent time in the bookstore selling my book, but also meeting very warm, interesting parents who couldn't stop telling me how much they loved my title and agreed with it!

The crying, the laughter, the squeals of delight to see long ago friends kept assulting my ears, but it was seeing the hugs (much longer than a normal hug) of both men and women who understood what the others were feeling touched me deeply. In some cases I was one of those people.

On display throughout the lobby of the conference area were boards and boards of children's pictures labeled with poems or some information about them...beautiful children from infancy to adults who died way too young, some of whom would never know marriage and children of their own. It was hard to believe these beautiful children were all gone, more than 1,600 of them...some families losing two and three.

Siblings also attended, 270 of them, and at the closing session sang for the entire group. Siblings are sometimes forgotten during those first dark days. In addition they held sessions to help them cope and also made lifelong friends in the process.

We all make lifelong friends at these conferences because no one understands like another bereaved parent that can identify with you. This is only one of many held throughout the U.S. during the year. Think about attending one. It is truly an experience of a lifetime and one you will not soon forget. Next year's TCF conference is in Portland, OR, the first week in August. Check the TCF website later in the year for more information on it: . And send me a email for other conferences during the year.


  1. My wife and I also attended the conference in Nashville. We lost our son to suicide on October 17, 2007. This was our first time to attend a conference. We attended Sandy's workshop Coping Strategies for surviving Parents of Only/All Children and a Panel discussion hosted Marie Levine. Both these workshops gave us encouragement and inspiration as we continue our difficult journey.

  2. We attended the conference with our 17 year old daughter, who is just beginning to grieve the loss of her older sister, now almost 4 years ago. It was our conference; we found it quite powerful. Although some workshops were better than others, as one would expect at a gathering like this, just being with others in like circumstance was reassuring and healthy. I expect that we will be traveling to Portland next year.

  3. oops.... how do I find out about regional conferences? We are in Ohio.


  4. Hi
    I attended the conference as well and saw that there is another group Alive Alone and i will check that out...I too think a "holiday retreat" for bereaved parents is a wonderful idea. My son, Todd, just died in March and I will be alone this year....have rented an ocean front condo in Florida to "get away" and will seak out the Compassionate Friends group and candle lighting down there I guess.