It hard to explain just how special the The Compassionate Friends Annual National Conference is. What makes it So Hard To Explain is that words can’t adequately, can’t possibly convey all of the emotion, the fellowship, the shared hugs, the relationships made. For three days, it is like being wrapped up in a Cocoon of Caring. We proudly wear our child, our sibling, our grandchild’s name on our name badges. We get to Talk About Them….To Share their Life Stories, as well as their Death Stories. Others WANT TO HEAR about them; and feel honored when we share our stories, instead of running from them.
The first night of the very first conference that Jim and I attended, 18 months after Robyn’s death, I met a dad in the Facebook Friends Sharing Session. He said how he, his wife and their surviving child attend the Conference every year because it is as if their were all a family, intact, vacationing together. He described it as the one place that their deceased daughter could still travel with them, where they are all together.
That resonated with me and I realized that I needed a place where Robyn would still be accepted; where I could feel her and talk about her, and even talk to her. Most of all, I wanted a place to take Robbie where she would be Welcomed.
The Compassionate Friends National Conference welcomes all bereaved parents, grandparents and siblings.
There are 114 workshops, 6 keynote speakers, local entertainment and day trips, sharing sessions, hospitality rooms, memory boards, a book store, a boutique, optional banquets and, of course, The Walk To Remember- a two mile walk with upwards of 1,500 bereaved individuals carrying the names of over 15,000 of our loved ones gone too soon.
Anytime anyone is feeling emotionally overwhelmed or just needs to “get way” for a while, there is a Reflection Room, to soothe the spirit and just “be quiet” within your memories.
The only “negative” I have experienced having to leave The Conference and reenter the civilian world. For several days exchanging hugs is the norm. For several days, no one looks at you uncomfortably when your deceased child’s name is spoken. For several days you are totally surrounded by those who “get it”, who offer constant support, caring and understanding. You’ve been surrounded by love and compassion and leaving that is Hard.
Truly, attending The Conference is a financial hardship for Jim and I. (Though Boston is going to be much easier than the Conferences in California and Minnesota the past couple of years) but it is worth every cent. Being a part of The Conference has provided a Foundation for helping me To Continue….to continue living. I have met people who have a very direct relationship in preparing me to, once again, become an intentional survivor, instead of a collateral victim of my daughter’s death.
I don’t believe that there is anything such thing as it being TOO SOON to attend The Conference after a death; just as I don’t believe that TOO MANY YEARS could pass where attending could be of great value.
What I do believe is that attending The Compassionate Friends National Conference is one of the most important things that you can do for yourself in your grief and in your mourning. Among all of the hugs that you will receive from others, it is a hug that you can give yourself.
On June 1, the lower fee registration ends.