Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Meaning Behind the TCF Conference

The National Compassionate Friends Conference has just concluded, and I have made some observations I'd like to share with all of you. Three groups of people attend this specific conference for a variety of reasons and get more meaning and understanding from it than one can imagine.

The first group is the bereaved parents. This group can be broken up into three main categories: the newly bereaved, those who are working through their grief journey and the seasoned griever, whose goal it is to help others.

The newly bereaved made up the largest group. Over 500 of the 1,500 people who came were newly bereaved (from 1 month to 3 years). We knew who they were because they wore red hearts on their name tags. More than half the sessions and workshops are for them and rightly so. They ask questions to which there are no answers. “Why me?” “Why my child?” “I have no future.” “I have no reason to live.” These are some of the comments I hear. Hopefully, by the end of the conference, some of their questions will have an assortment of answers they can deal with.

Another third of the group are working through their grief and looking for ways to help themselves move on with their lives. They have accepted what has happened, but don’t like it one bit. We don’t blame them; none of us do. No child should die before their parents. They understand there will be hard times ahead, and they will never forget what happened. Their future is still not clear to them, but they have chosen to try. Sharing ideas with others helps.

For myself, I am in the third group, a seasoned griever. There are many sessions given that don’t even apply to me any longer. I’ve already been down that road. I come to these conferences to see how I can help others through workshops I give for the newly bereaved and through meeting as many as I can. I can see the pain on their faces, and I know what they are going through. Perhaps, I tell myself, there is something I can say or do to help them along. I hope so. At the end of the conference, when they come up to me and tell me how much they have gotten out of my workshop and others, I am happy for them and hopeful. One father said to me a few years ago, “I wouldn’t have survived my child’s horrible death without Compassionate Friends.” He went home and started a chapter in the area where he lives.

The second group are the siblings. Compassionate Friends saw the need a number of years ago to have special workshops for siblings, given by siblings who also had a loss. Listening to someone in the same circumstance as your own can be very comforting. Siblings also have a different set of circumstances and problems, dealing with not only reacting to their bereaved parents, but also with the emotional state of their loss in addition to sometimes not getting the attention they need because of the parent’s emotional state. The siblings also do fun things at the conference: go on excursions, to a show, a movie, or just bring in pizza for dinner…anything that will bring them closer and help them cope. The siblings, like the parents make up the same three groups from newly bereaved to seasoned grievers, and there are about 250 of them.

The last group is the grandparents, a much smaller number but growing. Compassionate Friends found a need to have some sessions specifically designed for them. Grandparents must deal with their own loss of a grandchild, their child’s loss and the sibling’s loss. It becomes clear in these workshops that their task is not an easy one, so with the help of those who have gone through this before, they find their way has become easier.

All of us will never forget our children, nor do we want to. The grief journey is a lifelong one with many obstacles and paths to choose along the way. With the help of others, all of us eventually find our way and in the process make our children proud of us because they know we have survived the worst thing that can ever happen to us.

NOTE: Next week I plan to review the conference for those who couldn't attend.

No comments:

Post a Comment