Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Time for Weeping, A Time for Laughter

This past weekend was the 36th annual conference of the Compassionate Friends. This year it was held in Boston, Massachusetts July 5-7. Many keynote speakers and over 100 workshops were held to help all bereaved parents, grandparents and siblings, one of which I did on Dealing With Difficult Situations As a Bereaved Parent. In between all that was going on, I was determined to get to some of the newer workshops that I had never been to before. In the following month each Sunday I will detail some of them for you if you could not attend.

This first one was called “…A Time for Weeping and a Time for Laughter.” Doug and BJ Jensen firmly believe that laughter can be a healer and that you can find joy again after losing a child. It was designed for those further down the grief journey road who are ready to smile and laugh again. They demonstrated this belief through song, sketches, videos and words of wisdom, they conveyed how they got through the death of their 30 year old son, whose depression subsequently led to suicide.

The couple started the now internationally renowned Love In Motion, a 100 hand sign language choir who travel to inspire audiences with their presentations.

With good memories of fun times and extraordinary love they had for their son, they told funny stories of Jay and the family’s life together. The audience roared with laughter at some of Jay’s antics as a young boy, and BJ invited the audience to think of funny stories about their child and share. It was amazing how many stood up and without hesitation told beautiful stories of children who never got to do many of the things they wanted to. One of BJ's stories I enjoyed was the one about Jay at a baseball game wanted a players autograph. The player was signing and Jay stood in line; the signing was cut off right at Jay. His parents were furious. Jay, in his young innocence said to his mom, "What is an autograph?" When BJ told him, he said, "Oh, that's okay. I already know his name."

The couple also did a sketch about being joyful in spite of the circumstances of the death of Jay, who jumped off a bridge to his death. They emphasized that, of course, there were always sad moments but they said, “We choose to remember our loved one’s legacy with laughter.”

Members of the Love In Motion choir then sang the song “Before the Morning” in sign language, expressing that there can be a brighter tomorrow after grief. The couple learned to focus on what they had and what they could do for others.

In addition to all this, they wrote a book, “Finding Hope…After the Devastating loss of Beloved Children.”

In another sketch they showed the difference between how men and women grieve and that they couldn’t agree on anything during much of their grief journey. For example, BJ would camp anywhere there was a condo, while Doug loved camping outdoors. There were also differences in parenting issues. And BJ wanted to talk about Jay after his death, but Doug did not.

In a video BJ went through exercises as Jay silently looked on, hands folded on his chest as his mother did the exercises all wrong; a cute funny video.

BJ also told a story that one night she woke up and heard her son's voice saying he hoped she was happy and wanted her to buy some earings she saw the day before. "The money is in the closet in an old briefcase," Jay said to her. Sure enough, the money was in the old briefcase; the exact amount she needed.

The last song done in sign language expressed the optimism that the Jensens feel. “As long as we have music in our life, our spirit will set us free, ending with their mantra—less weeping, more laughter in your life.”