When families and friends come together it is often a time to remember, to share, to laugh and to cry. When more than 115 friends, acquaintances and strangers who understand what it is to lose a child come together, it is also a time to remember, to share, to laugh and to cry.

In February, CURE Childhood Cancer hosted our annual Weekend of Hope and Healing which was attended by an amazing group of moms and dads who come together and offer support, hope and genuine concern for each other. As participants arrived on Saturday morning, one mom shared that this weekend for her and her husband “is like a big family reunion.”  She said, “It is sad to see the new folks each year… But the good news is there is this conference to help them with the healing process.”

CURE’s hope for this weekend is to provide support and comfort as well as encourage and educate grieving parents. Parents who attended the weekend were invited to choose two of four dynamic break-out sessions which not only provided support and encouragement, but gave the participants real life tools to use in their personal journeys of grief. Sessions included Siblings: Am I Still a Sister, The Power of Resilience, Lessons in Grieving and Writing the Heartache. A special thanks to our wonderful facilitators, Karen McCarthy, Johnnathan Ward, Bruce and Janet Street, and Alice Wisler who gave freely of their time and talents to be with our families.

Alice Wisler, bereaved parent and author of Getting Out of Bed in the Morning encourages parents to express their grief through writing. Her program, Writing the Heartache, was well received.  One sweet mom shared with Alice, “We (my husband and I) read and talked about the first 5 chapters of your book on Saturday night and feel the emotion and blessings that you are conveying. Thanks for this tool in helping us and others.”

Saturday afternoon families took part in a special candlelight ceremony, which included a slideshow of the precious children we remembered. As the child’s name was read, parents lit a candle which had been decorated in remembrance of the child. Once again, families shared tears and laughter as 66 beautiful faces, who left this earth much too early, reminded us all why we must find a cure for childhood cancer.

On Sunday morning, Jenny Wilkins, who lost her daughter Catie on January 19, 2007, shared her journey. She spoke candidly about her most difficult days as well as the days of peace and comfort which followed Catie’s death. Jenny reminded the families that everyone there shared a similar but different journey in life and the same is true in their grief. What worked for her to survive her unimaginable grief might not work for anyone else, but the key is to continue to strive to discover what works for each person as he and she continue on the path of hope and healing.

At the conclusion of the workshop on Sunday afternoon as old and new friends shared hugs, emails, and sweet smiles, one mom’s words spoke volumes.

“I am so grateful to have had this chance to get away and retreat to a safe place to grieve with so much support. And the support was of so much authentic empathy.  Other families know our struggles and the journey we are on. This was a safe haven and I am a little sad to leave.”

CURE is grateful and humbled to share a small part of this journey with these special families during our annual Weekend of Hope and Healing.

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