My Experiences from the 1st TCF Virtual Conference

Today is the final day of the 2020 Virtual TCF Conference. There are two stories I wanted to share from yesterday about my experience at the virtual conference this year.

I attended a sharing session for seasoned grievers, those of us who have been grieving for more than 5 years. There were about 30 of us in the zoom room and, for most, our videos were turned on. There were grandmothers who had lost grandchildren; there were parents, who had lost children, and there were siblings, who had lost a brother or sister. There were those, who lost a child in his/her service of our country, those who lost children due to a battle with an illness, parents whose children died from suicide or car accidents…..everything you might imagine and more. There were people there who had lost children 5, 10 and more than 20 years ago.

What tied us all together was our loss and that WE were all survivors of that loss. Our loss might be more gentle now, but we still grieve. We all have a hole in our hearts that cannot be repaired. That hole has just formed a scab. With a scab, it can come off from time to time without warning and our grief will come to the surface. A number of people commented that the pandemic has been particularly difficult for them in terms of their grief. Many have been unusually emotional and more bereft than usual during this time due to the isolation. I could identify with these feelings. It was good to hear them verbalize it. No matter how long it’s been, TCF provides an anchor for many of us, even in our seasoned grief.

Which brings me to my second story. While I was attending the candle lighting yesterday, I had my chat screen on, so I could read the comments scrolling by as I watched the program. One of the first comments before the program even began was from one person, who must have been newly bereaved and said, “I have found my people”. That comment has stuck with me and is so true when one is very early in their grief and feeling so alone. Going to a TCF meeting, conference, chat or just having the opportunity to speak with a “peer”, someone who has been through what you are experiencing for some validation of how you are feeling, means so much.

“I have found my people”…… five words that mean so much to those of us who have found The Compassionate Friends. It’s why going to the national conference each year is important to Ronnie and I even now, 10 1/2 years after Raymond died. We don’t really go for the workshops and sessions anymore. We go to be around “our people”, those who have walked in our shoes and now have become like family to us. We go to talk with those who are newly bereaved to give them hope that they can go on with their lives. We go to talk about Raymond non-stop for several days and no one will be uncomfortable or change the subject…… and we listen to their stories about their children, grandchildren and siblings. We laugh together and sometimes still, we even cry together. We are the Compassionate Friends. We never walk alone.

Elaine Plotkin

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