"Thousands of women in the arena quietly wept as Maria described her ongoing and deeply painful walk through grief from the death of her beloved mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, eight weeks ago, followed by the death of her larger-than-life uncle, Senator Ted Kennedy.When Shriver finished, she introduced the rest of the “grief panel” to the audience. Susan St. James, actress and entrepreneur, lost her son in a plane accident. He was 14 years old. Elizabeth Edwards, senior fellow, Center for American Progress, lost her son in a car accident. He was 16. And Lisa Niemi, widow of actor Patrick Swayze, recently lost her husband and best friend of 34 years to pancreatic cancer, less than two months ago. "
"The conversation flowed as each woman offered simple, but profound descriptions of their journey through grief. Susan St. James said she wondered if she would always think of herself as “the mother of a dead child.” Lisa Niemi described her sadness as being on a cellular level. Elizabeth Edwards noted that it was important for people to talk about her son and to keep his memory alive. “He didn’t just disappear from the Earth.” "
"Describing her feelings about their deaths and the "tsunami of grief" that has followed, Shriver told the crowd: "Grief cracks your heart into little pieces and that hurts, big time, big time. It's hard to concentrate, it's hard to see, its hard to feel, it's even hard to breathe." Despite how put-together she may appear on the outside, Shriver said, "Every minute of every day I can feel my broken heart. I tell all of those close to me, 'Don't worry, I'm fine, really, I am.' ... The real truth is, I'm not fine. The real truth is that my mother's death has brought me to my knees." "
"When the grief takes you, it's like your body is not your own," Niemi, who was married to actor Patrick Swayze for 34 years, said during the round table discussion. "I'm just going with the flow. I know I have to go through it". She said the loss "is like an animal all of its own" and the sadness could be felt "on a cellular level."
"Though she kept telling him, "I love you, I love you," and never left his side, Lisa admits, "I've spent two thirds of my life with him ... My regret is that I didn't tell him that I loved him enough over that entire 34 years."
"I am so grateful for what I had and my connection to him, and part of me believes that I will see him again," said Niemi, her voice breaking. "And I'm just going to have to go on until then.""
"Kelly (Preston Travolta) called to say it was just too painful for her to talk about Jett," said Shriver. "She said the grief was still too debilitating for her. And I totally understood."
"We all hope that this panel will help the grief-stricken among us to see that there is light at the end of what seems like an endless tunnel," said Shriver. "It is our hope that this conversation will give anyone out there dealing with a broken heart or a shattered soul a sense that you are not alone. Because you are not."
"There was something sobering and cathartic about this afternoon’s session. Yes, it is hard to talk about grief. As Maria Shriver noted in her comments, “In the United States, we are grief illiterate.” Many of us get tongue-tied when we try to offer comfort to someone who has lost a loved one. But through conversation, compassion, and caring, we can help each other through the very darkest of passages that ultimately, each of us will experience."
(From an unidentified blogger who attended the conference.)