WHAT HAPPENS AT A RETREAT?
Click here (January 2023) for a glimpse of the Living with Loss project as filmed for BBC Songs of Praise (If the link is no longer working, drop me a line and I can give you access to another site)
IS THIS RETREAT SUITABLE FOR ME?
Generally, we recommend that by the time of the retreat, it will have been at least four months since your bereavement, although this is not a hard and fast rule.
There is no upward limit; a loss from even decades ago isn’t a barrier.
It is natural to feel nervous before attending a retreat on such personal topics. Please be assured that your privacy will be respected, and all activities are voluntary. If you’d rather step out of the room or skip a session, you are most welcome.
IS THIS ONLY FOR CHRISTIANS?
No, it isn’t essential that you are a Christian, although the retreats are run from a gentle non-denominational Christian perspective, and we find that most participants identify themselves as Christians. However, there is no requirement to be a Christian, and followers of other faiths or those with no faith are most welcome, as long as you are comfortable with some Christian content such as songs, readings and prayers.
WILL I BE THE ONLY ONE WHO…?
Everyone is different and we all have unique life stories, losses and current circumstances. At the same time, one of the benefits of an event such as this is discovering we are not completely alone in how we are feeling. The details of our own lives may be different, but as we meet and talk with other people, we discover we have more in common than we expected. It is common to form lasting friendships during our time together.
WHAT IS THE MOOD OF THE RETREAT? ALL TEARS?
There is a time for everything, a time to mourn and a time to weep, but also a time to laugh… Tears are not uncommon as we explore the sadness of our loss, but we also try to approach some subjects in a lighter way. Not every activity is serious and not everything we do is deep and meaningful. Life is a mixed bag of emotions and experiences, and so are our retreats.
I’M LIVING WITH LOSS! BUT NOT THROUGH BEREAVEMENT. CAN I COME TO THIS RETREAT?
There are so many kinds of losses – such as life-changing injuries or illnesses, loss of home or livelihood, loss of relationships – and these might be part of our life’s journey alongside bereavement. Although we take these other losses into account during our retreats, the focus is primarily on loss through bereavement.
I’M A BIT NERVOUS ABOUT ATTENDING. CAN I BRING A FRIEND?
Space is limited at the retreats; usually everyone who attends is someone who has direct experience of loss. However, if the idea of coming alone is stopping you, then we could consider any requests to bring a companion, whether they are a family member or friend, provided there is room at the retreat. If this is what you would like, then please get in touch with me (Abi) to discuss it (please include your phone number if you would like me to call you or your companion back.) Contact me here
HOW RELIGIOUS IS IT?
As explained above, there are Christian elements to the retreat but it is gentle. There are some Bible-based readings and reflection activities but it is low-key.
If you take a look at my book “A Valley Journal” or browse through my blog at www.avalleyjournal.co.uk, you will be able to catch the tone of the retreat: there is a thread of Christianity throughout, but the focus is on the practical and emotional aspects of our life being lived in the present.
IS THERE ACCESS FOR SOMEONE WITH LIMITED MOBILITY OR OTHER NEEDS?
Every location is different and we recommend you visit their website to find out their access facilities. There has never been a problem catering for different dietary requirements, although this again depends on the location.
ARE ALL RETREATS RESIDENTIAL? DO YOU RUN ANY DAY EVENTS?
We also run non-residential “Living with Loss” Workshop Days, usually over a weekend, and occasionally a weekly course of 6-8 sessions. If your church or social group is interested in this, please get in touch with me about it.
It is also sometimes possible to attend the residential retreats as a day guest. Please contact the host locations to find out about this. Please bear in mind that we do have some evening activities.
WEEKEND OR WEEK – WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
Living with Loss retreats are usually either a week – Monday to Friday – or a weekend. Weekend retreats usually begin at about 5 pm on the Friday and end after lunch or afternoon coffee on Sunday.
At week retreats we have more time which means delving a bit more into the materials, having more time for activities and walks, and the pace is more relaxed. There are more opportunities for one-to-one talks and conversations. Weekends tend to be more intense because we do try to cover the most important topics, at least briefly.
I’M FEELING QUITE ALONE IN MY GRIEF. IS THIS LIKE A SUPPORT GROUP?
Living with Loss retreats are somewhat like a support group, in that you will be alongside others who are grieving, and it does help each one to hear about other people’s experiences. Friendships can grow from this. A number of people have now attended two or more retreats, which speaks for itself.
However, as the retreats are relatively few and far between, and spread geographically around the country, they don’t take the place of a more local support group that you could attend on a more regular basis.
Also, those attending have experienced different types of loss – it could have been a partner, a child, or some other family member, or a combination of losses. Although there is much in common no matter the loss, there can be some differences in the experience of grief. This is another reason that a support group with a focus on your particular loss can be helpful.
WHY IS THERE NO RETREAT IN MY PART OF THE COUNTRY?
The Living with Loss project is founded by Abi May and until recently, the main assistance has been from my husband John. I run the retreats, take care of communications and organising. Now Esther Birtwistle (formerly of Lee Abbey) is assisting in the running of retreats, workshops and day events. But with just so few of us, our capacity is very limited. We’re sorry we can’t do more for more people, but this is the best we have been able to arrange at this point.
As I hope you can see, we try to keep the Living with Loss programme flexible and avoid any barriers that would prevent someone who wishes to from attending.
(page last updated 18/1/23)