Surviving Parents Return to C.O.P.S. Grief Retreat after 12 Years
It’s been twelve years since Ellie and Joel Peney of Blairsville, Georgia, attended a Concerns of Police Survivors’ (C.O.P.S.) Parents’ Retreat. The Peneys lost their son, Officer Bryant Peney, Fort Lauderdale (FL) Police Department, when he was shot during a foot pursuit on January 6, 1996. They attended their first C.O.P.S. Parents’ Retreat in 1997.
The 2009 Parents’ Retreat was held at the C.A. Vines Arkansas 4-H Center in Little Rock, Arkansas, on October 30- November 2 with a total of 196 parents from all across the nation attending. Parents’ Retreat is held every year because surviving parents of fallen law enforcement officers have their own special grief needs; the counseling provided helps the parents resolve their individual and family grief issues that resulted from the line-of-duty death of their adult child.
With a huge grin on her face, Ellie Peney said, “Wow, what a heart-warming experience we had returning to this Retreat. Even though it had been twelve years since we last attended, we still rekindled some of our friendships that we made back then. It goes to show that survivors need C.O.P.S. many years after their loss.”
“We had great, open conversations with other surviving parents. We saw them laugh again and yet be able to share their loss with us. To hear of the difficult times many have gone through with family issues and legal issues makes you realize how incredible these people are. The pain from these issues was intense; yet there were times when laughter was so intense our sides were hurting. To see people who are hurting so terribly laugh so intently is a beautiful thing,” added Joel, who is retired from the Fort Lauderdale Police Department.
At the retreat, parents attend grief seminars, debriefing sessions, and participate in outdoor activities. Ellie said, “The entire event was well organized and there were so many things for everyone to do. Relaxing to the point where you could share and listen to events that happened in other parents’ lives was exceptionally rewarding. We were up early for breakfast every day and sat with other surviving parents from all over the United States. We attended seminar sessions and then could fish, canoe, take a nature walk, and learn about nature photography or just chill out in the afternoons.” Many of the provided outdoor activities were presented by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. The afternoon activities help survivors to learn new outdoor skills and rebuild self-esteem. Archery, fishing, nature photography, shooting sports, laser shooting sports, canoeing, outdoor/indoor climbing towers, and a wildlife hike helped participants deal with the difficulties they are experiencing from the death of their child and pushed the survivors to expand their comfort level by learning new skills.
When asked if Ellie and Joel would attend the retreat again they quickly responded, “Yes. We feel that no matter where we are today with our loss, C.O.P.S.’ programs will help us continue to heal and perhaps we can help the newer survivors to understand what they can expect on the difficult road ahead.”
Concerns of Police Survivors was founded in 1984 and is dedicated to helping more than 15,000 surviving families of law enforcement officers rebuild their shattered lives through hands-on programs based on strong peer support… survivors helping survivors. C.O.P.S. helps the survivors by providing emotional support and healing programs needed to cope with a sudden, often violent, death. In addition to the Parents’ Retreat, C.O.P.S. hosts a C.O.P.S. Kids summer camp for surviving children ages 6-14, an Outward Bound® experience for surviving teens ages 15-20, an adult children’s retreat, a surviving spouses’ getaway, a siblings’ retreat, an in-laws’ retreat, and a two-day grief conference in Washington, DC, during National Police Week.
“Our sincere thanks to all the volunteers, counselors and staff for making this retreat the success it was,” concluded the Peneys.
To learn more about C.O.P.S. and the programs offered, visit www.nationalcops.org.