This is the first 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. Meghan Kubric, chapter leader of Northwestern’s AMF chapter, shares her experiences below.

First of all, thank you to Students of AMF and ADEC for giving me the opportunity to attend this conference. I had a great time, and I met so many interesting people. I also learned much about death, grief, and dying, and I’m able to incorporate my new knowledge both within my own personal experience and within my future career as a doctor. It was liberating to be in an environment in which talking about death and dying was not inhibited—it was encouraged. Normally, I discuss grief within a support group setting, and those conversations have been central to my own healing process. However, this was the first time I had discussed grief in an academic setting, and I discovered that that too, has opened up new avenues of healing. It allowed me to look at the experience of my mother’s death from a more objective standpoint, and in doing that, I was able to understand my experience from a different perspective. This has been and will continue to be, invaluable to the development of my character and my identity.
I attended many lectures while at the conference, some more interesting than others, but I can honestly say I learned something new at each and every one. However, one of the most important lectures was a talk entitled “Remember Conversations with the Dying and the Bereaved” by Lorraine Hedtke, PhD. In this talk, Dr. Hedtke posited that death ends a life, not a relationship. Until this lecture, I had not even considered the possibility that I still have a relationship with my mother—the relationship did not die along with the person. Dr. Hedtke also introduced the concept of “re-membering” to describe the ways in which people tell stories and construct narratives about the deceased in order to maintain that relationship. This is important because these stories enable loved ones to grieve in a healthy way, and they enable loved ones to feel emotions other than sadness and loss while grieving. These narratives introduce a positive aspect to what is typically (and erroneously) considered a sad, depressing, and debilitating phenomenon.   As one attendee stated, using the techniques of “re-membering” allowed him the “opportunity to say how much he [the deceased] means to me.”
I will never forget this: that death ends a life, not a relationship. It is a great way to summarize grief. After all, what is it that we are really grieving? What is it that we have lost? It is the relationship. It is that connection to another human being that was so central to our lives and in some cases, even to our identities. While grief is often difficult to put into words, I believe this is it. This is what I have been feeling. This is what I have been missing. And this is what I have been longing for. The relationship. I feel I now have a much better understanding, and I am much better able to help others through their own personal process, both through AMF and during my future career as a doctor.