[Note: Originally published in November, 2009, this post was updated on March 17, 2013]
Billed as “the largest and most dynamic gathering of women in the nation,” the California Women’s Conference launched its website in July 2009, as a way to extend the power and reach of the conference. The 2009 conference included very moving talks by Katie Couric on Resilience and Maria Shriver on Grieving, as well as a Panel on Grief, Healing and Resilience.
Katie Couric's husband died in 1997 after a 9-month battle with colon cancer; her sister died four years after that. In her presentation, she described how she managed to find meaning after both these devastating losses, along with her struggles to "make it" in a man's world of broadcast journalism, all the while relying on her father's advice simply to "do your best."
When this conference was held in 2009, Maria Shriver was California's First Lady, wife of Governor Arnold Schwartzenager, and producer of the conference. She presented herself a bereaved daughter and niece, as both her mother (Eunice Shriver) and her uncle (Teddy Kennedy) had died within a few months of this event. She spoke vividly and movingly about her grief ("Every moment of every day I can feel my broken heart") and the pain of losing her mother ("My mother's death has brought me to my knees. Life without my mother is unimaginable to me.")
Moderated by Maria Shriver, the panel featured bereaved parents Elizabeth Edwards (now deceased ex-wife of Senator John Edwards), Susan St. James (actress and wife of NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol) and Lisa Niemi (widow of Patrick Swazye). Topics ranged from coping with anticipatory grief, letting go, feelings of disloyalty and guilt, grief triggers, and dealing with the insensitivity of others, to finding hope and making meaning out of loss. Their stories were powerful, compelling, uplifting and filled with hope. Watch Good Morning America’s brief overview of the panel presentation on YouTube: Women Dealing with Grief.