HOPE Heals

Sept. 11-17, 2003
HOPE Heals
By Karen Kukla/ SUN contributing writer
Workshop empowers people coping with death

Nationally-known bereavement educator Darcie Sims will host a variety of workshops at the HOPE for Bereaved 18th annual Bereavement Conference of HOPE, which will be held Sept. 21-23 at the Stella Maris Retreat and Conference Center in Skaneateles. The 25th anniversary event also includes a one-night special presentation on Tuesday, Sept. 23, that is free of charge and open to the public. From 7 p.m.-9 p.m., Sims will present “How to Live with What You’ve Got Instead of What you Wanted,” an evening that offers in a warm and humorous way suggestions for coping. The free presentation is being held at the conclusion of the annual conference at CABLExpress Technologies, 5404 S. Bay Road, North Syracuse. This workshop is open to anyone who is coping with stress, not only from the death of a loved one but also from divorce or job loss as well, said volunteer coordinator Pat Kriesel. Support groups are encouraged to attend together. This is the second time Sims will speak in the Central New York area, Kriesel said. The first time she spoke, more than 200 people attended. “We’re offering this for free because we think it’s such a good program because the speaker is so inspiring and helps people get a sense of hope,” Kriesel said.

The free event comes at the conclusion of the organization’s annual three-day conference. According to HOPE for Bereaved Executive Director Therese Schoeneck, the annual bereavement conference is a time for caregivers and those who are grieving to relax and re-energize while they learn tips and techniques for overcoming the challenges of grief. HOPE for Bereaved began 25 years ago under the umbrella of the Syracuse Diocese when Schoeneck worked for the Catholic Diocese Family Life ministry. Today, HOPE is an independent, non-denominational organization located on Onondaga Boulevard that offers support to adults and children who have experienced the death of a loved one. HOPE also offers training to community educators, clergy, support group facilitators and other caregivers.

“There is so much about grief that wears you down and drags you down,” Schoeneck said. “Because grief is so pain-filled, we want this conference to offer some kind of brightness. For caregivers it’s very important for them to take time for themselves because they can’t help others if their own reservoir is empty.” The conference will focus on topics such as recognizing different coping styles, dealing with burnout, addressing stress and other pitfalls of grief. This year, the event includes a dinner cruise on Skaneateles Lake so participants can further benefit from the tranquility of the surroundings.

Besides people who are grieving, the conference is designed to benefit bereavement caregivers, community educators, clergy and religious staff, youth staff, Hospice personnel, support group facilitators, crisis intervention team members and health care and mental health professionals. It does qualify for ADEC continuing education credits, Schoeneck said. The early bird registration rate of $255 will be offered through Sept. 15.

Keynote speaker Darcie Sims, who lives in Indiana, is a nationally certified grief counselor and grief management specialist. She has written numerous books on the topic of grieving, including Why are the Casseroles Always Tuna?, Footsteps through the Valley, Finding Your Way through Grief, and The Other Side of Grief. She also co-authored, with her daughter, a book to help children cope with death and has written and produced several videos. She is an internationally recognized speaker and director of the American Grief Academy in Louisville, Ky. She is also a bereaved parent. On Sunday and Monday, she will talk about caregiving, stress, burnout and coping. Her workshops are titled “Are you a caregiver or caretaker?,” “Expectations of self and others,” “Taming the tornado,” “First aid for burnout” and “Does one size fit anyone?”

Also presenting this year is leadership professional Chris Novak of Marcellus, who is a human resources consultant and published author who addresses the topic of grief from personal experience. In 1998, his wife was killed when a man under the influence of marijuana ran a stop sign and slammed into her car as she drove home for work. She was seven months pregnant with their second child at the time. Both mother and baby died, and in an instant Novak and his 9-year-old son were left to pick up the shattered pieces of their lives. Novak uses the experience to offer others a message of hope, courage and strength to inspire people to move forward through adversity, crisis and tragedy. His workshops are titled “Six keys of personal leadership,” and a two-part session entitled “Hero Quest — Keys to Unleashing the Inner Champion.” To learn more about the HOPE for Bereaved annual conference or the special one-time event, call (315) 475-9675 or visit their web site at www.hopeforbereaved.com

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