Five Things 1,700 Grievers Have Taught Us

1) You Can Own, Take Charge, and Claim a Healthy Recovery 

The other 4, to be discussed in subsequent articles and videos, are: 

2) RAW Honesty Helps

3) Gratitude, Daily Expressed, is Secret Sauce # 1

4) Purpose, Which is Focused on Others, is Secret Sauce # 2

5) There is Always Hope

It was 2010, a Thursday night, at an early Spark of Life Grief Retreat.  Deb and I and our co-hosts, Rusty and Nancy, were stunned as we listened to 16 grievers’ stories. 

The first 4-5 people shared their horrific losses from a loved one’s suicide – one had lost a husband, another a sister, and then another, a teenage son. 

As each shared with deep tears and anguish, the darkness surrounding us felt so heavy that I honestly felt like bolting. I found out later that evening that Deb, Nancy, and Rusty felt the same thing. 

When everyone finally left the room that night, the four of us basically said this: “What are we doing here? We are incapable of helping these people. Why did we start this work? Are we nuts attempting this?”

Then I said those infamous words my wife has begged me never to say again:

“I feel so helpless and feel like running naked through the woods.” 

That was Thursday. On Friday, we began the “meat” of the retreat. No, we did not bolt, and no, I did not bolt through the woods with no clothes.

Our basic fundamental point we make on Friday is ‘Permission.’ Give yourself permission to grieve, and in the same breath, permission to recover.

Our goal at each retreat is for our participants to assume ownership of their recovery – that THEY have the power within them to decide to recover in a healthy way. That feeling of helplessness and hopelessness does not mean you are hopeless and helpless.

Assuming ‘Ownership’ means that you do not let others set time frames for you. It means that though often others say hurtful and insensitive things to you, you can decide how to respond or not respond to them, and forge forward.

When we are saddled with grief, can hardly breathe, and at times do not even know if we want to breathe, ‘give up’ may indeed be lurking. 

But when I know it is OK to feel those ‘give up’ emotions, and give myself permission to have those emotions, I am actually empowering myself, and setting myself up for a healthy recovery. 

So as the weekend progressed at the retreat we mentioned above, we saw a few smiles. Darkness appeared every now and then, but the light kept knocking on the door.

And the strange thing was, those who were so devastated on Thursday night, 16 of them, kept getting up and opening that door, and light began to make its way in. And at times, one would open that door for another one, who just couldn’t do it then. 

When Sunday came, as it always does, I almost had to wear sunglasses, the light was so bright.

We saw others encouraging others.

When everyone hugged and said goodbye, the four of us loaded up and got in the car to drive back home. And the sentiment was the same:  “How can we NOT do this work.”

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