The first time I booked myself into an annual SoBS weekend retreat I was nervous but excited. I am someone who needs time to become relaxed with others, so the experience of a weekend, allowing my complex bereavement to gently unwind, was an unbelievable luxury. Mentally, physically, and spiritually it was a warm embrace.
Sometimes it takes me weeks, months, or years to find the right words. Talking doesn’t suit everyone. A group was not something I searched for, though I had found support in other avenues, such as during my training in counselling, and on retreats publicised by the Retreat Association. For myself, I needed a certain kind of space… this was the 3rd significant suicide in my life. I had been struck dumb, speechless. As an artist and writer, my thoughts and feelings take a long time to germinate. I know I’m not unusual in this. Having worked as a professional art therapist in my earlier life, I know how effective the use of art tools are, not only to enable our creative selves to crawl out of the shell, but to help us deal with intense pain.
I have spent many years ‘processing’ my grief from suicide. I was 21 when my cousin died, 41 when my son’s father died, and 13 years later when my sister, Eva, died my life became one endless stream of ‘searching’ for the language to express this amount of grief from suicide. I wrote poems, or rather, scribbled on many sheets of paper. The seeds of grief have a way of sprouting into gentle seedlings of inspiration. My art exhibition, called 4eva, 4 years after my sister died, was one way of telling the outside world how it felt. Then I wrote a book about it all; ‘Carry a Whisper’; mourning a suicide, finding a language for loss and a searching for ‘healing’. (Published in association with Yew Tree Press)
On a weekend retreat, there is time, and options; to talk, take part in a creative workshop, go for walks, be social, or enjoy silence. Someone wrote that silence is the canvas onto which we paint our lives. I need that special silence sometimes. I have discovered, through my own experience of being on 5 Gloucester SoBS retreats, how precious is that kind of solace unheard of in the busy outside world – a relaxing time to exchange a little of our story without that weight of stigma which often accompanies the mention of suicide.
So we have a new team organising the retreat this year, with a strong basis to work from by the previous hard working team. I live in Stroud, and each of us are from different parts of the south west, working towards this next retreat to be held at Launde Abbey in October.
For info about this year’s retreat please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org