Here we are in Costa Mesa, California at The Compassionate Friends International Conference. The sun is beautifully setting outside my window in the most amazing color orange you can imagine. I can't say enough wonderful things about this conference and for those of you who are unfamiliar with TCF, it is an organization of people who have lost a child, grandchild or sibling and who find comfort and support by sharing their grief experiences with one another. Last year was our first time at one of these and it was amazing and very healing in a lot of ways. First of all, last year it was in Minneapolis, near The Mall of America, which btw is the reason Chelsey joined us....it turned out she was doing us a favor by coming with us (aside the fact that Chel does love to shop) and when we got to the conference the "Siblings" or better known as the "Sibs" took her under their wing and basically we didn't see very much of her. This year she is the one who asked to come to CA for the Conference....she has made so many new and wonderful friends who all have one thing in common. They have all experienced the loss of a sibling.....
There are 100 workshops...speakers....dinners....sharing sessions....people who walk around and talk to one another not ever having met one another and feeling so connected it's truly amazing! The people who meet here once a year are some of the friendliest people I have ever met.
What I have just experienced this past weekend was difficult to describe. It is hard to express the gratitude to the fact that TCF is here for us. Being at our second conference of The Compassionate Friends is so special because it’s kind of like you are here with us again. It brings you to the forefront and we get to talk about you a lot.
All of the children/siblings of the bereaved families who have left us too soon are discussed on a daily basis…it allows us to share stories, talk about the reasons why you are no longer here and people listen….and we listen… Everyone walks around with lanyards and photo buttons of their loved ones….and everyone has a different story of how their child died. It’s not uncommon for a stranger to walk up to you or be waiting in line and just say, “ So, tell me about your daughter” . We are all so different yet brought together by one similar component. You can be in an elevator, or at the pool or at a Workshop and its an automatic conversation, not like in the real world at all. The difference between day to day life and being at the conference is that when we live our lives in society we don’t get the opportunity to talk about you very much, because a lot of the time it makes people feel uncomfortable….I tend to talk about you a lot anyways…whether people like it or not.
We did meet a friend of Chelsey’s there who was sharing her feelings and said to us, “ My brother would think we were crazy for being here, he would probably laugh at us”. I understand what she means because I have thought that myself at times. I think you would laugh too, but also understand that we are just doing what feels good for us…..since not having you here feels so bad.
The 2014 Conference will be held in Chicago and someone suggested that I head one of the workshops perhaps regarding something to do with eating disorders. I need to really think about that. I need to think of things which may help people cope with the loss of someone who suffered from an eating disorder. I do feel the need to help in some way…if anyone has any ideas or suggestions of what to include in a workshop to help people deal with the effects of losing a loved one to an eating disorder, I would be eternally grateful!
When people have asked me in the past for help or suggestions when they see people whom they love, going down that ED path. I always used to say that I am well versed in the world of Anorexia, and deeply understand the disease and it’s intricacies, but was never able to help my own child try to find the ideal recovery solutions so how can I help others.
I can only say that I was there for you in the best way I knew how.
We are on our last leg of our Seattle/California and are now heading home. I almost freaked out a while ago because I couldn’t wake up Chel up from her little nap…those drugs work really well when you take an abundance of them.
I truly wish that you were here with us and that we never ever had to be in the secret club that nobody wants to be a member of...................but since we are..... I am glad it exists!