I’m just back from a long weekend at the Whitestone Country Inn and I’ve missed all of you! I attended a Grief Recovery Retreat there, along with my siblings and our spouses. If you’re new to the Pretty/Hungry blog, you may not know about the tragedies this year has brought our family. It began with my recent double mastectomy, which I wrote about here. Shortly after that, our family experienced a devastating conflict with our Dad, which I chose not to share on the blog (though many of you have faithfully prayed for me even without knowing the details.) Then, barely a month after that, we lost Dad very suddenly to advanced esophageal cancer. There were only 13 days between his diagnosis and his death. I wrote about that here and here.
You all have lifted me up immensely with you words, prayers, and loving gestures. One such amazing gesture was that many loved ones came together and donated the funds to send all six of us to a Spark of Life retreat.
Since many of you took part in gifting us with this retreat, I brought a camera along with me to capture some of the beauty and the deliciousness we experienced in the mountains of Tennesee this weekend. The pictures don’t nearly do it justice. Whitestone was breathtaking! Truly a peaceful refuge away from the usual hustle and bustle of life.
I want to tell you a bit about Spark of Life Retreats because, if not for my brother, I never would’ve known such a thing as a Grief Recovery Retreat existed! (And it amazed me how the other people at the retreat with us had heard about it… some just looked it up on Google!)
Spark of Life is a foundation that seeks to provide hope for people who have experienced great loss. Though life can never be the same, it can be rich and fulfilling. They offer 3-day intensive retreats designed to surround you with support, dynamic group interaction, tools to guide you toward healing, and plenty of time to reflect in solitude… reading, praying, hiking, & resting.
I confess I did not know what to expect when I signed up to come. I think I envisioned a sort of “group therapy session.” Now, reflecting back, I’d adjust that description slightly. There was a very meaningful element of group interaction and sharing our burdens with others who have experienced their own losses… but our group sessions were a bit more practical than just “talk therapy.” We discussed what grief really is, and what it isn’t. What RECOVERY really is, and what it isn’t, (Hint: Your recovery never looks just like someone else’s. It does not mean life will return to the way it was before. It does not mean you ever forget the loss. And it does not mean that you never have bad days.)
In fact, we were encouraged to come up with a personal definition for what we each (as individuals) believe would constitute a healthy recovery for us.
I said, “I’ll know I’m in a healthy recovery when…
…I’m not consumed with the loss during every non-busy moment.”
…I can pray for others and their needs.”
…I can feel happy for others in their successes/triumphs.”
…I can remember the good times without immediately becoming sad or bitter about the losses.”
Are you grieving a loss in your own life? Have you been holding yourself to someone else’s standard of “recovery”? How would you describe what a healthy recovery would look like in your unique situation? (Please tell me in the comments, if you don’t mind sharing.)
(image credit to www.sparkoflife.org)
Anyway, I certainly don’t want to present all the retreat material to you here… that was just a snippet of what I found extremely helpful (among many other things.) I will also add that I’m definitely glad the retreat was at such a relaxing location… because dealing with your grief is work! That is why so many people stuff those emotions way down deep and refuse to experience them. It is terribly painful. (Grief can often be compounded by other emotions such as guilt or resentment. Resentment was a big one for me!) But one thing is certain. After a loss, you must go to the pit of grief. You cannot go back to where you were before, and you can never move past the pit without going into it first. I feel like this retreat allowed me the time and space to do that. I simply couldn’t muster the strength or set aside the time at home.
Also, I was especially blessed by the precious, precious people we met while we were there. My siblings and I spent the entire (8-hour) car ride home talking about how much we loved those people. Our losses varied widely, and my heart broke for each person as they shared their stories. But being together was healing in and of itself.
And before signing off, how could I NOT talk about the food?
If you live anywhere near Kingston, TN… I cannot recommend Whitestone Country Inn enough! It was so luxurious!
Every meal we had was delicious, and dinner was an especially fancy affair, served at a leisurely pace in multiple courses. But my favorite meal (hands down) was the breakfast! A buffet of amazingly crispy bacon and fried potatoes… biscuits & gravy… bread pudding, cinnamon scones, & muffins… the most perfect oatmeal I’ve ever had, with ALL the fixin’s… fresh fruit, buckwheat waffles, & pancakes… scrambled eggs, scrambled eggs with veggies and cheese… I could go on and on! I couldn’t wait to wake up each morning, seriously.
So if you’re grieving a loss (of any kind), I hope you’ll consider attending a Spark of Life retreat. They are held throughout the year and all over the country, at no cost to you (other than your transportation to get there.) I’m so grateful my family was able to go.
And if you aren’t grieving a loss, bless you. I hope trouble continues to stay far from you! And perhaps you can tuck Whitestone Country Inn into your list of “places to visit” someday. You will love it! (Enjoy at least one gigantic bowl of oatmeal for me while you’re there, please.)
Now that I’m home on this lovely, sunny Monday morning, I must say I did miss the fabulous Whitestone breakfast buffet. But I also have to say that nothing compares to green smoothies in the morning with my little chunklet! It’s good to be home.
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Hope you all have a terrific week!