Page 7 - 2017 Spring-Summer Issue
P. 7

It had already been my privilege to meet Chuck and Kathy This year, 2017, will be my eighth national conference.

Collins, the chairpersons of the 2010 National Conference. It will be my fifth conference as a workshop presenter. I

Through them, I learned that Senator Gordon Smith would will be a facilitator for sharing sessions. I will attend the

deliver the keynote address at the opening ceremony. I         luncheon and the banquet. I will participate in the Walk

was aware that Senator Smith had lost his son to suicide in to Remember. I will greet enthusiastically many bereaved

2003. I was also aware that his son was adopted, as was my parents and siblings who have become treasured friends.

Jordan. My need to hear what                                           I will embrace the newly

Senator Smith had to say was   I struggled to figure out how to live   bereaved. I will remember
desperate.                                                             and honor my precious son. I

As I wrestled with unbearable       with a heart that hurt so much I   will consider it time devoted
grief, one of my coping             could not comprehend why it still  in tribute to him.
mechanisms was reading,
                                                                       If you contemplate attending
                                    beat. It felt as though my entire a conference as a first timer,
mostly about grief and

loss. I read relentlessly and       existence had been detonated.      I offer these suggestions. Do
compulsively.                                                          what you can do, do what is

A book I found helpful was                                                                         right for you, conserve your
Life after the Death of My Son: What I’m Learning by Dennis    strength, and take breaks when you need them. There is no
Apple. In fact, Dennis’ book was so compelling that I had      obligation to participate in everything that is offered. (There
initiated an email correspondence with him. When he            is not even an obligation to remain in a workshop if you
discovered that I lived in Northern Virginia, he mentioned     find it isn’t a good fit; you’re free to leave.)

that he would be presenting a workshop at the National         If you know others attending this conference who has

Conference. He suggested I attend.                             attended previous conferences, listen to their advice about

Several books I read were written by Gordon Livingston,        which workshops might be most helpful for you. They will
including Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart and Only Spring.        steer you to presenters who may be especially inspirational,
Dr. Livingston had lost two sons, one to suicide and one       affirming or articulate.

to cancer. When the conference materials were circulated, We are all different, we all have different circumstances of

I noticed that Dr. Livingston, a psychiatrist living in        loss and we’re all walking our grief journeys in our own way.

Columbia, MD, was also a workshop presenter.                   What is helpful to one person may not be helpful to another.

I became committed to attending this conference. I thought     Conferences can be an intense experience. Give yourself
I might have to crawl there, I thought I might be wearing      time to process that experience. If it’s possible, take a few
pajamas, but I resolved to attend. So I did.                   days off after the conference to reflect and recover.

I went to Senator Smith’s keynote speech and I attended        Most of all, know this: comforts will be conferred. You will
workshops for as long as my energy allowed. For the most       find comfort in attending a National Conference. I know
part, I spoke to no one except to greet the people there who   I did and I know I continue to find comfort in this sacred
I already knew. I certainly did not seek to meet anyone else.  place: the TCF National Conference.
I sat through presentations as silent as a stone, my crumpled
tissues squeezed in my hands. I did not attend sharing         After adopting two children, Peggi resigned from her corporate career in
sessions. I did not attend the banquet. I did not participate  telecommunications and devoted herself to full time motherhood. When her
in the Walk to Remember. I did what I could. It was enough.    son, Jordan, died by suicide at the age of 19, Peggi, her husband Jeff, and
                                                               her daughter Claire were devastated and dumbfounded. They joined the
Gordon Smith, Dennis Apple and Gordon Livingston were          Arlington, VA Chapter of TCF and Peggi edited the newsletter for six chapters
amazing. Their words and their presence were affirming,        in the Washington, DC area for two years. After her husband’s retirement,
validating, consoling, and encouraging. I felt as though I     they relocated to Charlottesville, VA where they joined the Piedmont, VA TCF
was the recipient of emotional CPR.                            Chapter. Peggi serves as chapter co-leader and edits the chapter newsletter.
                                                               She is also a volunteer for hospice and writes articles for TCF.
I knew then that, if possible, I would never miss another
TCF National Conference.

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