Almost three years after losing my almost 18-year-old son Brayden, I am still searching. I was skeptical about attending a TCF Conference but went anyway. I don’t like crowds or big hotels but I was in one. I didn’t want to see Bray’s picture with the 1200+ pictures that loving parents wore in memory of their cherished children. Not wanting him to be left out, I wore it anyway. It was surreal walking down the long hallway of the hotel in the morning to catch the elevator to attend classes to learn how to live again because Brayden had died. My legs felt similar to the first steps I took after Bray passed away; weightless, weak, like I was floating. But I kept walking and breathing and it got better.
I attended helping sessions put on mostly by parents who had lost children themselves and wanted to help me and others in dealing with this monster called grief. One session gave me research and proven suggestions on how to heal. Another gave me hope that my child is alive in spirit. Another taught it is okay to be angry but it’s what I do with the anger that matters. One session of a panel of siblings that had lost a brother or sister confirmed that I was doing the right things with my surviving son Daniel. Yeah! One reminded us of how guilt can “zap our energy/strength” and “empty our tank” if we let it and by sitting with and listening to others we can help them and ourselves.
I totally related to a father giving a session called Love, Laughter, and Power Grieving because both of our sons had loved to play football. He caught my attention immediately and everything he said resonated with me…feeling guilty because we are still here. Everything his younger child does his deceased son will miss. We will never “get over it.” He suggested taking some power back, that tears = love and are good. His tears were sorrowful but now flow from acts of love for his son/people remembering him. He said to find something that “will allow you to build and be creative.” He works as a comedian and said his humor has saved him. I believe it!
My heart broke many times over as I cried for strangers as I looked into their eyes and listened to their stories. I met loving, supportive and inspirational people. A mother and her daughter walked me to a classroom, another asked me to join her table at lunch, another told me I was doing well. We are all searching for what we lost/loved but can’t have. We will ALWAYS love our children and we have to find purpose again or we will literally die. Not truly living is dying too. The Compassionate Friends lets us know we are worthy and deserving of life/love and having a future; even if we never fully feel that way or believe it ourselves.
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