HOPE. It’s the word that draws me in, the one that makes me click the Twitter link on National Grief and Hope Convention. I have attended presentations on loss and grief locally and investigated options throughout the country, but there always is something missing – now this title speaks to me personally.
As a nurse, caregiver and widow, I know firsthand that without hope, losses are devastating to our body, mind and spirit. I also know that each one of our stories is unique and that those who hang on to even a shred of hope, come out of the darkness stronger.
I gather information about the convention in Indianapolis and learn that high-profile speakers will share their stories of loss and their road back to life. I find followers on Twitter who will be in attendance and look forward to meeting them in person.
Ten years ago I met Suzanne, a young widow whose husband died suddenly while on a business trip. Our pastor brought us together, since I was widowed fifteen years before. We have been friends ever since, and Suzanne is the person I ask to join me on my trip to Indianapolis.
I find it difficult to articulate all the emotions bubbling up during the weekend as we meet parents who have lost children, spouses now alone and those who have lost multiple family members or friends.
Tears flow freely, crying is audible and yet through all the pain laughter is heard, new friendships made and stories of survival and hope shared.
As I listen to each speaker – Sybrina Fulton, Dr. Bernice King and Tanya Brown, I am surprised that their stories are not political nor focused on the well-known publicized details. Rather, they share the personal details of their journey through the darkness and the ways in which they found the light and decided to live despite their losses.
If I take one thing away from their messages, it is that when a loss occurs, grief arrives. It doesn’t care what you do, who you know, where you work, what your skin color is or the amount of money in your wallet.
Grief demands the same attention from all of us, challenging each of us to look it squarely in the eye. If we don’t do the hard work that grief requires, it can destroy even the strongest among us and leave us a skeleton devoid of spirit.
I felt so honored to be among greatness this past weekend – not greatness that comes from a powerful legacy or credentials behind a name, but greatness that grows out of adversity.
There are so many people who need help after loss and if I could give them one gift, I would share the stories I heard at the convention. Stories of foundations, non-profits and scholarships set up to honor loved ones, stories about the books written, blogs started and laws changed by the very people whose hearts are broken. I would share the stories of resiliency and life triumphing over death and darkness, and I would tell them that each of our stories end with Hope.