Niemi suffered grief-fuelled panic attack after Swayze’s death

Dancer Niemi, who was married to Swayze for 34 years, was at the Women’s Conference 2009 in Long Beach, California on Tuesday (27Oct09) to discuss the topic of grief in front of thousands of women in her first public appearance since the actor lost his battle with cancer.

Niemi explained how her husband’s death left her feeling like a different person – and insists she is only getting through the pain thanks to the support of friends.

She said, “When the grief takes you, it’s like your body is not your own. I’m just going with the flow. I know I have to go through it.

“I have a few girlfriends that are just amazing. They have made themselves available to me 24/7. They say, ‘We don’t care if it’s two in the morning, call me.’

“I was in the middle of a full-blown panic attack one evening… and I picked up the phone and called one, which is really hard for me to do because I’m used to being so self-sufficient and taking care of myself, but the very act of picking the phone up to call someone helped to calm me.”

The event’s moderator, California’s First Lady, Maria Shriver, also told the audience how the loss of her mother Eunice Shriver and uncle Ted Kennedy this year (09) had hit her like a “tsunami of grief”.

She added, “I tell all of those close to me, ‘Don’t worry, I’m fine, really, I am…’ The real truth is I’m not fine. The real truth is that my mother’s death has brought me to my knees.”

John Travolta’s wife Kelly Preston was also expected to attend the conference to discuss the death of her son Jett earlier this year (09) but was still too upset to publicly talk about her loss.