Since last January, when Jett Travolta died suddenly of a seizure at the age of 16 while vacationing with his family in the Bahamas, his parents, Kelly Preston and John Travolta, have grieved in private. But in October, Preston, 46, will be speaking publicly for the first time about her loss at the California Governor’s Conference for Women, the event’s host Maria Shriver tells PEOPLE.
“If she can empower one other woman who feels like they can t get out of bed, or get through the day, whatever the loss, it’ll be worthwhile sharing her story,” says Shriver.
Preston will be joined on a panel titled “Grief & Resilience” by Elizabeth Edwards and actress Susan St. James – two other prominent women who have lost sons. “Their goal is, ‘If I can help one other woman through this then it will be worth it,’ ” says Shriver.
Preston gave the invite a lot of thought before making a commitment to speak. “She has been thinking about this for a couple of months,” Shriver says of Preston. “I asked her to speak and she knew about the conference and decided if she was only going to speak once, it would be here. She wants the conversation to be about more than just her.”
All three panelists will be talking about the different stages of grief and how to continue on in life with a loss. Though these women lost children, Shriver feels there’s an overlap with losses women face in their lives, such as the end of a marriage or losing a job. “These are subjects we all experience and no one wants to talk about,” Shriver says.
Other participants in the conference, to be held in Long Beach Oct. 26-27, include Cindy and Meghan McCain, who will speak out on how to raise a self-confident child, Caroline Kennedy, Alicia Keys, Madeleine Albright, Annie Leibovitz, Danica Patrick – and, at the urging of Shriver’s daughters, reality show star Kate Gosselin.
“I invited her 4 to 5 months ago before all this other stuff happened,” Shriver says of Gosselin, who recently announced that she and her husband will divorce. “My daughters are enamored with her show. They said, ‘Invite her, she has 8 kids and the show so interesting.” And Shriver agrees. “Nobody can prepare anyone for what she has gone through. I’m happy to have her.”