Sunday, July 17, 2016

39th TCF Conference in Scottsdale

I recently attended the 39th annual Compassionate Friends Conference in Scottsdale, AZ, with over 1,200 people participating, and I’m coming away with meeting many interesting people, speakers and attending many workshops. This year, many new special programs were added in addition to the 100 or so workshops.

For the next few weeks I will be telling you about some of the workshops and some of the interesting people I met at them. But this week I’d like to highlight some of the special programs and events that were held.

A special performance by Olivia Newton-John, Beth Nielsen Chapman and Amy Sky and a meet and greet with a photographer were on hand afterwards to take pictures with these lovely women, who sang songs from their new CD about working your way through the maze of grief and loss.

A trip to the Butterfly Wonderland to discover the amazing life of the butterfly from caterpillar to chrysalis to the moment it spreads its wings for the first time and takes flight into the world was viewed. It is the largest indoor rain forest atrium in the U.S. More than 3,000 butterflies from around the world are among lush tropical plants and flowers. It is one of the most amazing butterfly conservatories in the world.

For the first time, a Spanish workshop was designed to include the grief and bereavement process after the loss of a child, cultural aspects, diversity with the Latino community, how these bereaved parents feel when they are not surrounded by their families at the moment of their loss, the importance of the surviving siblings and their bereavement process, couples’ grief, the importance of communication and understanding of their individual grieving process. The atmosphere was filled with songs, poems and imagery.

A discussion about finding meaning and hope in synchronistic events in “whispers and dream visits” involving our children, siblings and loved ones who have died was held. Carla Blowey and Mitch Carmody believe that synchronicity (a meaningful coincidence) in whispers and dreams serve as a message of healing for the individual and the community. Participants were invited to share how synchronicity has inspired them to live a more conscious and hopeful life.

There was a “paint night”, a Love in Motion signing choir, a crafty corner, a hug station and a performance by the internationally renowned “Yellow Bird Dancers” (members of the San Carlos Apache Tribe.

The Healing Haven was an area of respite, relaxation and inner healing for attendees. With all the chaos of grief, there is always the need to find greater balance within. They offered chair massage, Reiki, yoga, meditation, breathing techniques and other aspects of healing.

The more than 100 workshops included both popular repeated sessions and new ones never given before. They included topics such as a candid conversation between a bereaved parent and a bereaved sibling, the impact of traumatic grief on the family structure, step-parents grief, dealing with grief bullies, the power of vulnerability (who am I as a griever), grieving with a spouse who did not raise my child, healing when faith is not an option, digital memory archive of your child, child dying from a medical error, learning to laugh after loss, and military and public safety loss.

Keynote speakers included Barry Kluger, who is trying to get passed the Farley-Kluger Initiative to allow grieving parents up to 12 weeks of leave from their jobs (now it is only 5 days); Nivia Vazquez, from Puerto Rico and Steve Fugate, who crossed America eight times (43,000 miles), walking all the way with a message of  “to mend the broken heart while it is yet beating.”

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