Sunday, July 24, 2011

Highlights of the TCF Conference

Friendship, understanding, workshops, banquets, speakers, sharing sessions, the walk to remember, and getting key information to take home with you, made up the 34th 2011 Compassionate Friends National Conference that I attended this past week in Minneapolis. I also spoke at two of the workshops.

The conference started Friday morning with keynote speaker Mitch Carmody, bereaved parent and author of Letters to My Son. He lost his son Kelly to a cancerous brain tumor and is a twice bereaved sibling to a brother with cerebal palsy and a twin sister and her two young boys in a car accident. He is the popular workshop presenter of “Whispers of Love, Signs from Our Children.” Mitch also performs interpretive sign language.

Other keynoters included: psychologist Carol Kearns, author of Sugar Cookies and a Nightmare at the Friday luncheon. Her daughter was swept out to sea by a rogue wave. Saturday evening speaker was David Morrell, author of the poignant Fireflies and best known for creating Rambo. His son died of a rare bone cancer. Finally at the closing ceremony on Sunday was Mary Westra, who recently published her memoir After the Murder of My Son, following the senseless and brutally violent death of her son in 2001.

Over 100 workshops for parents, siblings, and grandparents covered most topics related to the death of a child. This includes many workshops for parents with no surviving children. A butterfly boutique, silent auction and raffle, reflection room (providing a peaceful atmosphere to withdraw into private reflection), a remembrance candle lighting Saturday evening and a special Friday evening performance of “Best of How to Talk Minnesotan The Musical” that has played to over 1 million visitors highlighted the conference.

Each evening sharing sessions in small groups divided into types of deaths were held so that those who wanted to share feelings and ideas could speak to others with the same loss.

A complete bookstore was provided by Centering Corporation, who only deals with grief books brings audio and video CDs and DVDs, books and other items of interest to the bereaved.

On the last morning a two-mile Walk to Remember was held for all conference attendees. Everyone participating wears the special t-shirts designed from this year’s logo and theme, “Shining Stars, Guiding Hope”.

Said one attendee in relationship to the logo, “We look at our children as shining stars who remain for us beacons of light and hope in the darkness.”

My two workshops I gave were “Dealing With Difficult Situations As a Bereaved Parent” and a panel discussion with those more than 7 years into their grief journey. Some other workshops offered included such topics as finding hope after a loss, sudden death, dealing with a suicide or drug overdose, loss of an infant or adult child, communication issues within bereaved families, surviving the first year, what do I do now, the bereaved parent five years later, scrapbooking: remembering our children, finding healing by telling your story, humor and grief, journaling as a healing tool, writing and publishing your book, anger, guilt, holidays and grief, what to do with child’s possessions and many many more.

I also tried to attend other workshops when possible and enjoyed them all. I reunited with parents I met at other conferences as well as meeting new attendees. I found the conference to be informative, and I could see how others were able to find help in dealing with their grief journey.

If you couldn’t make it this year, plan to attend next year’s conference in Costa Mesa, California, at the Hilton Hotel, Orange County/Costa Mesa, July 20-22. You will not be sorry.

1 comment:

  1. I wanted to go sooooooo bad but there was no way I could come up with the funds. I can only dream about next year but maybe?

    Thanks for sharing...