TCF National Conference Experience

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.

Jeanne Thornbury


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Comments (4)

  • Jeanne, you describe exactly how I felt when I attended my first TCF Conference back in 1994 in Seattle. I was in my second year of grief after my son died. Walking my way through that conference was the best gift I could have given myself. My walk into that hotel was so hard, but after those three wonderful days of love and encouragement by everyone I met, I was so glad I took that walk. After so many years on this never ending journey I have learn so much about grieving the loss of a child. I am going to be attending the 2018 conference. The walk in is going to be so different from 1994. The support I was given then is going to be return to those newer to this journey we walk.

  • Beautifully said. that was my cry for today.
    Our first Conference, we walked in to register late, the room was mostly empty, my cries echoed in it.
    Now, I look forward to getting together with my Loss to cancer friends, where we can feel “normal” together, understanding each other as if we’ve been friends forever, brought together by our beautiful children.
    My son has been gone for almost four years, this will be our third conference, I was not in my right mind to be able to do anything that first year. Now, we can’t wait to go, and plan to every year.

  • “Life saving” is how I describe TCF. The nationals, and my local chapter, breathed life into an emotionally dead man. Truly, without TCF, who knows. Presenting at 4 nationals was my way of giving away the love I have (not had) for my son, Brendon. ❤️ Grief, when confronted head on, teaches us what it is, giving us the opportunity to learn how to loosen its grip. Grief = Love. We grieve so intensely because we love so immensely. We will forever grieve because we will forever love. The grief I can live with; the love I can’t live without.

    By immersing ourselves in our grief, we’re tellng death, “You did not win. You did not take all. My child lives in many powerful and wonderful ways.”

    Sadness will always be our companion, no way around that. But if we allow sadness to be the driving force in our lives, the joy from the life of our child will disappear. No one wants that. Keep fighting, keep reaching out. After all, “We need not walk alone.” ❤️

  • Hi everyone , forgive me as I know no other way …. except to just jump in here and pray someone tells me something .

    My son passed Jan 2018. He was a adult of 41. However, he was my baby no matter how old. He had been divorced for 3 years. We had gotten so much closer again. We kept his 3 yr old for both of them. He caught the flu and was traveling all over for his job and just couldn’t fight it off. They say he had a heart attack. He was beyond handsome (I used to tell him he was just pretty, no other word for it). And the kindest hearted young man. This just isn’t Mama opinions. So much was told at his service, we never knew he what he did and paid for others.

    Ok please if you ever meet me,I won’t talk about him. I have mixed feelings towards so many people that took him, because he was just a nice young man. I know I have to let it go.

    Anyways, I looked my my local chapter (as this is my very first step to asking for help) they have meetings from Sept – May so I missed that. I don’t mean to sound disrespectful, however is that what they do? Are there others meetings? Something?

    Thank you all so much for your stories. I pray one day I also can be happy or at least happy looking forward to going to a meeting like you folks are. God Bless you all Deb

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