Sunday, August 3, 2014

Overview of TCF Conference

The 37th National Conference of Compassionate Friends was held last month in Chicago, IL with the theme “Miles of Compassion Through the Winds of Hope.” As always, I attended, along with 1,500 others to listen to others speak and to give of myself at my own workshop to try to help those in need. For the next few weeks, I will be telling you about some of the workshops I attended, what I got from them and what I think might be of help to some of you.

Some of the highlights included new executive director Alan Pedersen giving the opening speech (highlights will be on this blog next week), orientation for first-time attendees and siblings, over 100 workshops and sharing sessions each night, keynote speakers, silent auction and raffle, the bookstore with many older and newer books, the walk to remember, a butterfly boutique and picture buttons of your loved one.

The keynote speakers included Eric Hipple, former NFL quarterback for the Detroit Lion, whose son committed suicide; Dianne Gray, author and president of Hospice and Healthcare communications, whose son died in 2005; and Alicia Franklin, daughter of Darcie Sims and president of Grief International.

Darcie Sims received the Simon Stephens Award posthumously. It is given to a person who has made significant contributions that have fostered and furthered the philosophy of TCF by practicing or promoting its mission and goals. Darcie brought healing, hope and love to grieving people around the world with her special gift of communicating with hurting people from all walks of life. Darcie was founder of Grief, Inc., a grief consulting business in Seattle, WA, along with being a nationally certified thanatologist, a grief management specialist and a licensed hypnotherapist.

There was a bookstore with all the latest grief books, a silent auction and raffle, a butterfly boutique, hospitality rooms, a reflection room and memory boards with all the children's pictures. If you brought a picture of your child, you could get a button made to wear for free.

Workshop sessions ranged from The Bereaved Parent-Five Years Later and Confronting the Shadow of Loss with Creative Arts to Finding Hope after Miscarriage and Stillbirth to Death from Addiction. Those with no surviving children also had specific workshops as did the siblings and grandparents.

I did three workshops: Dealing With Difficult Situations as a Bereaved Parent, Setting Up Foundations and a panel on Step-parents and Another Marriage. In the first one, I had everyone sit in a circle and we discussed topics such as how do you answer the question about how many children do you have?" Other  topics in that workshop dealt with no one remembering your child or talking about them, others avoiding you and who will take care of you when you're older if your only child has died. For the foundations workshop, I explained how to start one and it's benefits and in the step-parent workshop, we talked about dealing with problems as a step-parent in another marriage, both good and bad p conditions.

The conference had something for everyone and I would encourage anyone who has lost a child or grandchild or who is a sibling to attend next year. 

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