What a wonderful, beautiful, hopeful and healing day it was! With a crowd close to 50 bereaved participants, the energy and love that filled the room was palpable. All were there to see A Day with Mitch and Alan and gain knowledge and tools that would help them through the most difficult journey they are on; not only surviving, but trying to thrive once again in a world after the loss of a child, grandchild, sibling, father, mother husband or wife. The day was opened with a very heartfelt reading of an original poem by The Bridgeport Chapters Compassionate Friends Chrissy Smuniewski. She wrote the poem after her first meeting which she attended with her mom shortly after losing both her twin brother and her dad in just one year. Chrissy is very talented, passionate and kind. She has a lot to offer not only parents, but siblings grieving the loss of a sibling. She has also performed at our candle lighting this past december and is looking forward to becoming more involved in the community! A very special surprise from Chrissy is at the end of the page -a poem about the day with Mitch and Alan!
The Tony Brown foundation also recognized Maryann Trocchio, the recipient of the scholarship to attend The Compassionate Friends National Conference this year! She shared her story of loss and hope and will be attending the conference in Costa Mesa, Ca to gain knowledge, support, and hope that will carry her through the grieving process also providing her with tools to share with fellow bereaved families.
Then the gift of Alan and Mitch! This was my first time attending A Day with Mitch and Alan. The foundation had hosted Angels Across The USA in October of 2011 with great response from attendees so it seemed a natural progression to host A Day With Mitch and Alan. I heard comments like “Can they please just stay longer?” , “I can’t believe how well they know what I feel”, “I have never experienced such a healing”, “this workshop has changed me for the better” and mostly-”when are they coming back?”.
Alan opened with a beautiful song which was signed by Mitch. The two shared stories, ideas, and made everyone feel as if they were talking to each of us individually. Grief is very powerful, it connects the bereaved in a way no other emotion can. They explained the “new” stages of grief. Alan bounced between song, story and a hint of comedy! He shared his fried chicken, coors light, remote control remedy for grief which was his coping mechanism used in the beginning of his journey-something we all could relate to, although slightly different versions. Alan taught the group about resilience, hope and legacy!
Mitch shared his journey of grief starting when he was 15 and his dad died, then his twin sister and two nephews when he was 28 and years later his 9 year old son to cancer. He talked about desperation, healing and proactive grieving. He gave us his remarkable artistic rendering of the twenty faces of grief, which you may see on his website-www.heartlightstudios.net. A very powerful tool used to identify all the emotions of the grieving process! Mitch offered more hope by sharing how signs from our loved ones are always around us. That they surround us every day and it is up to us to recognize these signs and connections from our loved ones. He talks much more about this in his book -”Letters To My Son-Turning loss into legacy”. The hope and energy that filled the room was amazing.
Mitch and Alan gave us all solid insight. They reminded us to be gentle with ourselves and each other, to take one day at a time, to be grateful for what we have, to cry, grieve, mourn and educate others about our needs. They opened the door to the idea that love and pain reside together, that pain and laughter can be neighbors once again. That like it or not, we are walking a path we did not choose to go down and it is up to us what we do while we are on it!
One woman who attended the conference told me that she now realizes just how important it is for parents of children who have died to know that their child will live on and not be forgotten! Something this Grandma had heard before but did not quite understand. She walked away knowing her child was completely ”normal” in her grief behavior, that she was doing the best she could and actually reached out to a friend who lost a daughter and told her what she learned! A positive step, because even though she made this mom sad for the moment, she knew she also made her day by talking with her about her daughter! A VERY important lesson, learned and shared because of A Day With Mitch and Alan!
The day had a few breaks where we were encourage to mingle and share the life story of our loved one. The emphasis being on “life story”. The shared how the typical question is “How did they die?” instead of “How did they live?”. That was the message, celebrate the life shared, and lived. Celebrate the fact that they were here. Turn loss into legacy! There was breakfast provided by the foundation, snacks, homemade cupcakes and brownies (one of Tony’s Favorite things).
A delicious lunch of specialty sandwiches and a salad was generously donated by Downtown Two Steps Grille in Danbury. Our volunteers, Sue Kerigan and Mary Lynn Ragonese worked very hard throughout the day refilling waters, coffee and replenishing the food so as the need arose, they could be met! Krista Lee manned her normal position at our registration table smiling the whole time. They were gracious, kind, helpful and gave up a beautiful Saturday to share the day with us.
The Tony Brown Foundation looks forward to sharing many more healing events with you! If there is something your heart needs, please send us an e-mail and we will try to help you hela along your journey! As always, we welcome email sharing your child or loved one with us- we love to hear their name and their story!
A Day with Mitch and Alan was made possible from the following sponsors. Please support them!
If anyone would like to help sponsor Chrissy attend the Compassionate Friends Conference so she may share here passion, talent and pain with the sibling group. PLEASE EMAIL ME HERE AT ANNE@THE TONYBROWNFOUNDATION.ORG and help send outstanding talent to the conference. Chrissy will take the sibs by storm!
Thanks for listening and sharing and we look forward to hosting many more healing events in the future! If there is something you would like to see presented, discussed, or acknowledged, just let us know and we will try to work it in!