Sunday, July 29, 2012
TCF's International Bereavement Conference
I just returned from the International Conference of Compassionate Friends in Costa Mesa, July 19-22, where I gave two workshops and a sharing session. Each year I find the conference just as good as the previous year. There are always new workshops and presenters and the keynote speakers have much to say to all of us. Approximately 1,500 bereaved parents, grandparents and siblings attended from not only the U.S. but also from the following countries: England, Scotland, Germany, Australia, South Africa, Canada, Mexico and a few others.
For those of you who couldn’t attend, let me summarize some of the highlights for you. Perhaps you will be able to attend next year in Boston, July 5-7.
Besides over 100 workshops to choose from, Centering Corp had hundreds of different books for people to buy both for themselves and their individual chapters across the U.S. A silent auction, raffle, butterfly boutique (with a variety of gifts and conference mementos), a reflection room of peace and serenity where you can go to relax and reflect, an outdoor barbeque buffet, a yoga session and remembrance love boards with pictures of children who were remembered during the weekend added much to the conference.
The Walk to Remember, held on the last morning, gathers almost everyone together and they walk together for a mile as a symbolic way to celebrate and honor the lives of thousands of children who have died but will always be remembered.
Keynote speakers included: Lois Duncan, whose daughter was murdered. She was chased down in her car and shot to death. It remains an unsolved case to this day. Duncan wrote “Who Killed My Daughter?” along with over 50 suspense novels, many of which were made into movies; Kathy Eldon, whose photographer son was killed while trying to help the starving men, women and children in Somalia; Michelle Lynn-Gust, whose youngest sister committed suicide and she has written many books on suicide grief; and Darcie Sims, bereaved parent, internationally recognized speaker, a grief management specialist and nationally certified thanatologist and licensed psychotherapist, with many books under her wing including “Why are the Casseroles Always Tuna?”
Workshop sessions included: Poetry-Language of the Heart; Not Using Food, Alcohol or Drugs Through the Grieving Process; Bears, Quilts and Projects in memory of our children; Do Women and Men Really Grieve Differently?; Loss of a Child Under 10; Lessons from the Knitting Circle (with author Ann Hood); Death of a Teenage Child; Who Am I Now?; Making Peace With suicide, Taking Care of Your Health While Grieving; Men Only Panel, Writing Towards Healing and Forgiving. Many, many other topics were also included. My two sessions were Dealing With Difficult Situations as a Bereaved Parent and Hope for Parents with No surviving Children Panel. I also did a Now Childless Sharing Session.
At the last banquet we light candles and say the name of our child, who we will never forget. After each conference I go to, I always wish more people could attend because I know they will get so much out of it by being with people who share what no one else in the world can truly understand unless they, too, have gone through it.