Sunday, August 1, 2010

Workshop Memories at TCF

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth and final article in a series that talks about some of the 100 different workshops presented at The Compassionate Friends National Conference July 2-4, 2010. I hope by reading some of the descriptions of these workshops plus the ones written about in previous weeks, you will be encouraged to attend the next Compassionate Friends conference July 15-17, 2011, in Minneapolis. Keep in mind some workshops will change next year, while the most popular ones will be retained. No matter; there is something for everyone. The conference is a wonderful experience and one you will never forget. Best of all, it will help you as you continue in your lifelong grief journey.


When your child dies, one is immediately and unwillingly thrust into a new life. You may become angry, confused, despondent, untrusting. You are forced to deal with emotions and situations that are completely new to you. Who am I now that I have become childless? I am torn, lost and unavailable to be a grandparent unless my child was older and had children of his/her own. I am no longer able to see a future. I am no longer free to be the parent I had been. I am a prisoner of my own deep and unending pain. BUT, I am the mother or father of a child in heaven. I am a parent with beautiful memories to fill my broken heart. I am the mother or father of a child who was loved and adored. Participants explored these ideas.


Discussion included stigmatization, self-blame, anger, confusion and wondering why the death occurred, accompanied by the more common feelings associated with loss: shock, longing and profound sadness. They also delved into the question of how parents eventually absorb these losses and where they find the most help: in support groups, with counselors, clergy, psychics and Internet support groups.


The impact of the sudden, unexpected death of a child of any age, due to accident, murder or undiagnosed medical conditions are explored in this workshop. With no chance to say good-bye, survivors are faced with a range of emotions and factors that can complicate the grieving process. Participants were encouraged to share their personal grief journey.


This workshop takes yoga beyond the physical body and brings it into your daily life. The ancient, yet relevant philosophies and practices of yoga encourage a non-judgmental, compassionate, self-inquiry that aids in releasing that which blocks you from connecting with your source energy. Through the use of breath, movement and experiential exercises, you will stay present for your emotions as they arise, experience them fully as they shift and change and learn to trust that it is safe to feel whatever is present. No mater what stage of healing you are in, self-compassion and loving kindness provide you with the tools for healing the wounds that prevent you from experiencing the joys that life has to offer.


Showing you how meaningful and important making the commitment to survive is for grieving individuals and families was the goal of this workshop. One mother lacked the energy, the desire, and the hope to survive the death of her son. She shares how she went from just existing with the grueling task of grief to choosing the unexpected and eventual relief of surviving. Clients of one bereavement counselor have accomplished this daunting task creating a strategy for successful grieving. The commitment to survive is as life-changing as the loss itself; it requires love, determination and fortitude. Participants learned how to work with the love for your child, add in the love for yourself and survive this incredible loss.


No matter when or how our loved one died, there is compelling evidence that supports the belief we can still feel their presence through signs. This notion uphold the theory that somehow our soul survives beyond the physical restraints of the body, that in some way the essence of life, personality, the vitality and energy that we are as human beings somehow survives death. This workshop explored this phenomenon in detail and provided a slide show of extraordinary anecdotal evidence coming in from all over the world.


This workshop described how we can find creative ways to keep our children close to us by using their clothing or blankets to make special items. Some of the items discussed were the making of a bear from the child’s clothing with a pattern (or you can have do it for you with or without a picture of your child); a memory t-shirt, again with words or both words and a picture of the child; making a quilt from pieces of your child’s clothing; and making purses designed with memories. Also included were an angle pin, bookmark, a sun-catcher and a memory box with your child’s picture on top or inside and what to include in the box.

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