Not one of us will come through this life without experiencing the devastating pain of loss.
Be it a parent, a lover, a child, a friend or even a pet, losing someone we love changes who we are to the core. Very quickly, a loss like this puts your entire life into perspective.
If you've lost someone, you know that processing this loss doesn't stop at the memorial service. It is a lifetime of remembering, unpacking feelings and meaning, and having new understandings that creates the salve for this wound.
The practice of retreating can help this process. Here are 3 ways how:
ATTENTION TO THE DETAILS
In my new book YOU SHOULD LEAVE NOW, I discuss the 9 Elements of Retreat to include on every retreat. One of these Elements is SOLITUDE. In order to get the most from your retreat, you must have ample time alone.
One of the most painful parts of loss is how quickly the rest of the world goes on, business as usual, while you're left feeling shattered.
One of the most healing exercises to do when processing a loss is to remember the details in the final days or moments of your loved one's life. Every last one.
It can sound dark to recount this time. But thinking it through or writing it out allows you to move these heavy feelings and images from inside your body, to outside on a page or into space.
Few people want to talk through every last, painful detail with you. Especially after it's come and gone. But you can do this for yourself while retreating. You don't need to carry this burden alone any longer.
And know that it's not too late to process a loss that happened decades ago. You can do it on your next retreat. This technique can be used also for other levels of loss -- breakups, identity or career loss, etc.
I assure you, you'll be amazed how much lighter you feel just allowing yourself the time to walk through, and release it all.
SAFE SPACE TO HURT
No loss is easy, and all loss causes emotional pain. But what if your loss is traumatic? What can be done about this?
In some sense, every loss is a trauma, no matter how you process it. This means that whether or not you are conscious of it, some of this coding lives in your body. It stays there until you do the work of letting go.
But the truth is, many of us don't live lives that hold space for this critical kind of releasing. We spend a lifetime hanging on to our past pains, unconsciously. If not released, these pains shape who we are, how we think, and even how we move in the world.
As the wise Jay-Z once said: "You can't heal what you don't reveal."
Retreat is the space to touch the hurt. It is the place to feel what's been shoved down, avoided, or projected. It may come in the quiet of meditation. It may come while on a solo hike. It may show up during a meaningful conversation with a partner.
But it will come.
And the only way to clear this hurt is to let it come. The somatic practices we do in ceremony on our PURIFY Retreat trigger this kind of release. But you can do it on your own, too. So long as you give yourself safe space to let these waves move through you.
FORGE A NEW CONNECTION
One of my favorite books about loss is called Signs by Laura Lynne Jackson. In it, she discusses ways to forge a new and non-physical connection with your deceased loved one.
If you believe what Einstein asserts, that energy is neither created, nor destroyed, there must be a way to connect, again, with the energy of your loved one. Even if it is not in the physical.
If this feels like a stretch, start small. While on your retreat....
Have a conversation in your head with the one you've lost
Remember what you loved about them, at least 5 things
Reflect on how you've grown since losing your loved one
or deeper still...
Ask your loved one to show you a sign while on your retreat
Visualize yourself with this person again, what would you say to them? Say it there.
Make a pact to "talk" to this person at regular intervals (their birthday, a favorite holiday)
You may be amazed at what signs, messages and feelings you experience as a result of making space for these essential practices. There are so many ways to connect with those who have gone before us.
Retreats are restorative, but they can also be healing. Begin to use them for your own lightness of spirit.
Brie Doyle is the author of YOU SHOULD LEAVE NOW: Going on Retreat to Find Your Way Back to Yourself and the founder of She Glows Retreats, hosting transformational retreats in the US and abroad. She specializes in developing mental and emotional wellness curriculum. But most thankfully, she’s a loving wife and mom to 3 children. @WellBeingByBrie