They told us at the conference that re-entry back into the world would be difficult, and they were right. Sometimes something would just stop me in my tracks and I never heard another word for the rest of the presentation, just lost in the discovery and validation that I wasn’t crazy, irrational, or not “doing well.” I wanted to stay in that cocoon of love and support as we had ventured into some very dark places of grief. With great reluctance, I removed my name badge with the butterfly sticker that let everyone know this was our first conference and stuffed it in my purse as a remembrance.
So, in no particular order, here is what I gleaned from my first national conference of The Compassionate Friends:
I think the greatest moment of revelation I had was when one presenter acknowledged that we had experienced a great trauma; the death of our child was traumatic.
At the orientation for first-time Conference attendees, the presenter reassured us that if we went to a workshop and it wasn’t working for us, we could leave. She said that we weren’t there to stroke the egos of the presenters; that this was about us and finding out what we needed. So no worries about getting up and leaving and slipping into another workshop.
Every presenter, whether they had multiple letters after their names, introduced themselves by their first name, and that they were their child’s mom or dad, their sibling’s sister or brother, or their grandchild’s grandparent. Complete humility, an absolute level playing field, and there were no strangers; only recognition that the pain in their eyes matched ours. Perhaps the shortest distance between two hearts is a grief shared.
We hope to attend next year’s TCF national conference. I wish we had found TCF sooner. Why it is not part of every bereavement care package, I’ll never know. We never did receive one locally. I did my own research, and it was the hardest thing in the world to reach out and ask for materials. It was practically impossible to attend our first meeting. Attending the conference was scary, coming out of the hotel room was scary, but it turned out to be a lifeline, truly a safe harbor.
There is much more, but I am struggling to bring order to my brain. The weekend was a fire hydrant, and I need just an eyedropper full, slowly, a drop at a time. We are still in early grief, the “terrible twos” of grief; still easily tired and needing naps. We learned that we don’t have to feel hopeful, we don’t have to have hope; it is enough to know that hope is there.
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