Monday, August 01, 2011

The First Sacred Journey Retreat - A Success!

Not only has The Grief Project (TGP) launched, we had our first widowed retreat July 23-34 and it surpassed every expectation.

Here are some of the reactions of retreat participants:

"What stands out the most is how "Spirit-led" the entire experience felt. Quakers call such times "gathered meetings" where mysteriously, and mystically, Spirit seems to be present and all feel that presence together. It is as though something greater than all of us is brought into being by our collective longings and love.

I felt the sense of expectancy in the participants immediately when I arrived. I could feel their need to have a meaningful experience and to find some solace for their pain. Talking about how we experience grief in all the different areas of our lives was a wonderful way to begin the retreat, a safe way to ease into the topic and to also begin to immediately feel how much everyone had in common. All of the activities seemed to just flow naturally one into the other, the participants, myself included, being gently prompted towards more and more intimacy through feeling safer and safer as the day progressed. The depth and joy of the labyrinth experience was palpable."

"This weekend of coming together has been the most incredible satisfying experience. It has surpassed all my expectations and is exactly what I’ve been searching for. I lost my husband less than a year ago and have struggled to find a gathering of widowed people. I feel I’ve made some forever friends traveling this same journey. I’ve experienced peace, sadness, loneliness, and AHA moments! Every piece of this retreat was planned with incredible passion & caring. There was time to cry, reflect, learn and laugh. Although we are “strangers” to each other we have developed a bond as close as family. I have learned how to take care of myself and how to continue on…. Hopefully this group will continue to meet and our friendship grow. Suzann, Joan, Lisa, Jean and Kathy and all involved are truly angels sent to comfort others. Suzann & Joan – you have truly made a difference paying it forward is a gift I will cherish and remember forever. My experience learning and using labyrinth is something I will use and remember forever. It is so powerful! Bless you all! Love to you all."

"This retreat was very well worth the time. It was very well organized with amazing content and presenters. I especially enjoyed the labyrinth and learning about them and more about myself. I would enjoy to attend a second one of these with the same people, to build on the relationships and progress. Thank You!"

"Really enjoyed the value brought through the journaling through grief workshop & packing your toolbox. Mind-body & spirit topics, which are all important to healing. Personally I loved the labyrinth work, so peaceful & moving experience. Thank you for so generously giving to the bereaved. A blessing.

The setting was perfect – it was a great start to lasting friendships & connections!! I want to see more with the same group. I look forward to continued renewal & healing! Thank you so much for all your spirit & hard work making this happen!"

"I am so appreciative of all who worked so hard to organize this retreat. I felt the location was wonderful – so much beauty & peace in nature to observe. I liked the size of the group… The pace of the retreat…. The music… the food… and especially the people. While it is sad to hear of so many losses it also gives me hope for life. I hope we can continue interacting on some level as I know our journeys will continue for many years. Blessing to all of you!"

"As the time came closer to attend the retreat I felt more conflicted in whether or not I wanted to attend. It has only been 4 mos. Since my husband death and I was afraid I’d make a fool of myself in front of others. Sometimes the tears start and I think they will never end. I walked into the room and was greeted immediately by Joan with beautiful music playing I the background. I knew immediately that this was exactly where I was meant to be. The weekend brought me a sense of peace, I felt “secure” and it was due to the fact that I was coming among people “who got it”. I have not had this feeling since my husband passed away. The wonderful women who brought this weekend to us were true leaders, their compassion and love could fill an auditorium. I want to stay and never leave! All the workshops were extremely relevant to what I needed. I had no ideas what I needed as I feel most of the time I’m in some type of fog. I will use the tools in the future which will absolutely help me down this path no one wanted or asked for. I feel a depth of gratitude to these extraordinary women who have reached out to us in this time of incredible need and sorrow. I hope and look forward to possible future retreats and get together with “our group”. Thank you from the bottom of my heart."

Highlights from the retreat included an interactive workshop about how grief affects us in areas such as physical, social, emotional, spiritual, and mental followed by a "Journaling your Way through Grief" session. After lunch we reconvened for two sessions.

"Packing your Toolkit" provided information about holistic healing and therapies to access to help people move through through their grief journey. It featured practical, hands-on, natural tools to use everyday to balance mind, body and spirit.

"Telling your Story" gave participants an opportunity to tell their stories, helping to give weight to each journey, to the ongoing experience.

Our dear Lucy Starshadow was in attendance providing a soft presence for everyone - here are photos of Lucy loving the Retreat.

The weekend was heart-centered and spirit led. It was everything we dreamed and so much more. Each participant brought their whole selves and freely shared their hopes, fears, pain and widowed journey.

After five years of dreaming and planning to have this opportunity to be present to others' pain - to be a companion - to bring some light into that dark, dark place - such a blessing. The participants were of every age from 30's to 60's - there were those whose widow journey began 17 years ago and those who lost their spouse a mere 3 months ago. It mattered little. We hand-built a trusting space together - we became a family in two days time. Everyone is looking forward to another gathering with "their group"!

Now we will begin to plan the next gathering - probably in the Twin Cities later in September - an opportunity to come together for more enriching support and ask people to help us plan the next steps of The Grief Project. There is so much more to come..........