Saturday, 19 November 2022 21:43

Healing Retreat

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“I think everyone should attend a grief retreat at least once in their lives,” I told my friend asking me how the experience of attending a loss and transformation retreat was. “It should be required for navigating tough times.”

As humans, grief is an inevitable part of life. When we open ourselves up to love, we risk losing it. In October of 2022, I went on a life-changing trip to Bolinas, CA to a house of hope and healing called Commonweal. There, I delved deeper into the grief over my mother’s death and my marriage’s failure. During the course of six days, I met wonderful women from all over the country, from all walks of life, and who were experiencing their own personal loss and seeking the same things as me: to feel loved, to be heard, to squelch the loneliness, and to heal.

The place is used as a retreat center for cancer victims, but also any victims of loss, sadness, and grief. It was sacred, comfortable and peaceful (seriously, there was no signal so no emails or notifications could bombard us). We were just human beings again, connecting and communicating like generations did before us.

Commonweal was just minutes walking distance from the astonishing cliffside overlooking the Pacific Ocean, where I peered out on the sparkling water and listened to the powerful waves crash in upon themselves.

As I sat on a boulder overlooking the chilly Pacific waters, I asked a question out loud, “What do I want to let go of in this moment?” And just as quickly as the last word left my mouth, the answer appeared in my head.

I had been harboring some subtle, distant hope of reconciling with my former husband. But in that moment on top of the cliffs, with nothing but the wind and the waves for company, I finally admitted to myself that I must stop hoping of reconciliation. Once I let that thought go, I opened like an oyster to reveal the shiny pearl that had been inside of me all along. I just didn’t have the right tools to extract it.

We wrote, we talked, we listened to poems and podcasts and to one another. We knew each other’s pain. We cried, laughed, bonded, and came away with tools to ease the pain of our losses.

The retreat helped all of us realize that we are definitely not alone. I gave myself permission to share with others what I had been going through regardless of how long ago it happened or how common place it seemed. Grief is grief. No grief is superior to another.

The retreat reinforced the reason I started this website. I want to share my story and encourage others to share theirs. I want to be a safe space to hold their stories so it remains sacred and respected.

I can’t go back in time and have a redo. But I can decide how I am going to use the past as a lesson to move forward into the future. It has taken a long time to get to that state of mind. I struggled with wishing to go back and change things I can see so clearly now. I did lots of soul-searching, confronting of the past, and had hard conversations with people, either real or imagined.

Something did shift within me and helped me see the repressed individual inside was not inhibited by any other person, but by my own inner critic. It’s a fledgling feeling, unsteady in my mind and body, but with more time, it will get its bearings and stand up on solid feet. That is what healing and time can do.

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