It has been two weeks since we hosted the 2015 Bluebonnet Council at The WARM Place. And as the song says, we’re just now “coming back down to earth.” It was truly a great and gratifying experience.
The Bluebonnet Council is a once-a-year gathering of Texas agencies that work with grieving children. Each gathering is held in July, lasts a day and a half, and is located in a host city somewhere in Texas.
The Bluebonnet Council began as an idea tossed around for several years at national conferences, agency visits, and incidental meetings of people who worked with grieving children in Texas. At one conference of the Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC), I remember a casual conversation among several people around the state, in which Laura Olague from El Paso said, “You know, Kathy, if you have it, people will come.”
That comment stayed with me, and in 2010 we e-mailed agencies around the state to check for interest level. I got very enthusiastic replies that boiled down to “What a great idea!” and “You should also invite… They work with grieving children.” What started as “The Texas Gathering” became the more inclusive “Bluebonnet Council” at the suggestion of Shirley Bowen. The first gathering, hosted by The WARM Place, had about a dozen participants, and several agencies volunteered to host the following year. With that, the ball started rolling and has been rolling ever since.
Our goal: to allow people working with grieving children to meet and share ideas, trade experiences, and encourage one another. My own vision is that we all gather “in one room” so everyone can hear the same information. To me, that is crucial for understanding one another across agencies and within agencies. The participants set the agenda for the Bluebonnet Council and share what works for them. The host agency provides refreshments, a gathering place, and a topical speaker.
To date there have been six Bluebonnet Councils held in Fort Worth, Midland, Houston, San Antonio, Austin, and then again in Fort Worth.
The most recent one, hosted by The WARM Place on July 16-17, was attended by more than 40 men and women from agencies throughout the state. There was even a delegation from Fort Wayne, Indiana, who wanted to see how our Council worked so they could start one of their own.
This year’s guest speaker was John Scott, who talked about grief and forgiveness. There are many reasons for grieving persons to feel angry or resentful, and it can be challenging to guide our clients to a point where they can work through the hurt. Another highlight was a visit by comfort dogs and their handlers. The dogs are trained to be a quiet, healing presence that The WARM Place has used recently in children’s groups. We also shared innovative ideas about family nights, social media, and fund-raising.
As always, it was a joy to see so many wonderful colleagues meet one another and exchange ideas across county lines. The energy level was inspiring. Next stop for the Bluebonnet Council: Houston in 2016!
By: Kathy Telger, LPC-S