This is the second in a series of three posts from AMF chapter leaders who attended the Association for Death and Education Counseling (ADEC)’s annual conference in April 2013. Alex Low, chapter leader of Lewis University’s AMF chapter, shares her experiences below.
Being a part of ADEC this semester is something that I never thought I would get the chance to do. When filling out the application for the conference, I knew I was moving out of my comfort zone, but I didn’t know what to expect. I definitely underestimated what my week had in store, and went away with new friendships and new perspectives on death and bereavement. Even though I was the youngest person at the conference, age didn’t define my experience. During one workshop, the speaker asked, “how many of you have lost a loved one”, and without surprise, everyone in the room raised their hand. This response was a testament to the fact that despite the age gap, I was able to connect with other individuals at the conference. Death doesn’t discriminate against whom it affects.
After many workshops and speakers, there were a few sessions that really left its impact on how I viewed my own experience. In an impermanence experiment, we were given twenty-five cards and asked to write down our most prized possessions, people, roles, places, and relationships, and to rank the top ten. After picking the most important aspects of my life, we put the cards back in the entire mix, where they would ‘experience’ different aspects of life. After different unexpected events, I had to personally remove some cards, while some were taken from my possession, out of my control. Although these were just cards, they resembled our most prized possessions. While some people handled their cards being taken from them calmly, others couldn’t bear the idea of symbolically losing their family. From this experiment, lingering grief became apparent for many of us. One woman said, “I don’t cope, I adapt.” This powerful statement was so true for all the participants because loss will always be a part of a person’s life and a hard thing to accept. The biggest accomplishment is being able to adjust to the unexpected events of our lives and be able to respond in a positive way.
Furthermore, the conference consisted of hundreds of thanatology professionals; however, there was still a friendly place for students like myself to take away means to deal with my own grief and to bring to our Lewis chapter. Healing is a process, and I was able to expand my own knowledge by taking another big step in my journey. “Grief does not have a good language”, but being able to hear what the experts have to say, and the opinions of my other AMF chapter leaders, I was able to talk with others and find comfort in how I grieve.