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No one can really prepare you for the intense emotional tsunami that comes with the loss of a loved one. Sure, we learn how to adapt to assorted other losses and disappointments that come our way in life, but loss due to death is in a league of its own. This is the one area that you may need some extra support, such as is found at specialized retreats for grief and loss. These retreats are designed solely for the purpose of guiding broken hearts back to wholeness, offering solace as well as introducing purposeful actions that can help someone manage the fallout of loss.
The truth is, losing a loved one is excruciatingly painful. It sears deep into your heart and soul, reminding you at quite unpredictable moments that you have lost someone dear. No matter how kind and compassionate your friends and family members are, or how many self-help books about managing grief you might be handed, obtaining some special attention and support during this difficult chapter is warranted.
The Possible Consequences of Unaddressed Grief
Allowing unprocessed grief to fester can lead to unexpected complications. At times, the emotional pain becomes so hard to manage that it is not uncommon to lean on alcohol or sedatives to help ease the pain. Over time, as tolerance to the substance increases, consumption levels increase right along with tolerance. Not only could this lead to weight gain, sleep disruption, and enhanced symptoms of depression, but the reliance on a substance to self-medicate the pain away can evolve into a secondary dependency issue that will only compound the suffering.
There are other unexpected consequences of getting stuck in the grief. Workplace-related issues could begin to crop up. These might include diminished performance on the job, or interpersonal problems with coworkers who struggle to understand the effects of the grief in the workplace. Relationships with significant others may suffer as well, as they grapple with the mood swings and feel they must walk on eggshells in your presence.
While there is a natural timeline for grieving that is unique to each person’s personal experience—whether there was trauma involved in the loss, the significance of the person to the bereaved, or a diagnosis of clinical depression—at some point getting additional psychological support may be appropriate.
What Are Retreats for Grief and Loss?
Retreats for grief and loss come in a variety of formats. There are short-term or long-term retreat programs that vary in intensity and approach. Some of the retreats are located in stunning geographical locations that can help soothe the soul and spirit, such as a ranch in a mountain setting or bungalows on the beach. Some retreats may be set in a hotel or conference center, with a workshop style format that lasts two or three days. Some grief programs are included as part of a residential mental health program.
At retreats for grief and loss the focus is squarely on providing a safe, supportive, compassionate space for healing and grief recovery. The programs vary in scope, but share a common mission of facilitating emotional healing within a peaceful non-judgmental space. Through the use of traditional methods, such as psychotherapy and group therapy, as well as holistic and experiential activities, the retreat offers a condensed therapeutic experience.
What Can I Expect at Retreats for Grief and Loss?
Grief and loss retreats define their programs in many different ways. Some retreats will focus on mindfulness, yoga, and massage therapy to augment group work or individual therapy sessions. Some retreats will be activity oriented, with horseback riding, river rafting, hiking, or cycling that is compliments the therapy. Some retreats feature guest speakers and then break into small groups for intensive discussions. The list is endless.
Because the focus of these grief and loss-focused retreats is to provide a transformational experience, the activities will often include both traditional and innovative techniques to accomplish this goal. For example, a conventional therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy might be augmented by art projects, drama therapy, writing assignments, and journaling.
Generally, grief and loss retreats will have a staff-to-participant ratio that allows for very individualized attention. Participants are usually free to adjust their level of engagement according to what they feel up to managing, as grief work can be strenuous, especially in the early phase of grief. Fellowship among participants offers a sense of peer support that can allow for open sharing of experiences and emotions, and providing each other support.
Activities That Help in Processing Grief
Healing after experiencing a loss is a very individual experience that no one should attempt to shape or dictate. Therapists will provide the tools, inspiration, and circumstances that can allow for the processing of grief and loss, and the participant can pick and choose which to utilize for their own particular needs. As no two people experience loss the same way, each participant may respond differently to a given activity.
Retreats that focus on healing from grief and loss often have a milieu of activities available, such as:
- Yoga classes. These may come in many different forms, including hatha, Kundalini, Ashtanga, and hot yoga.
- Integrative breathwork. Learning to use the breathing process to release stress, sorrow, anger, and fear is a powerful tool that can be incorporated into meditation, mindfulness, and yoga.
- Tai chi. A Chinese martial arts featuring fluid, relaxed movement that integrates control, breathwork, and mindfulness that relates to the forces of yin and yang.
- Art, music, drama therapy. Using the arts as a means of expressing emotions can compliment the traditional psychotherapy.
Mending a broken heart takes time, but when you feel stuck in the grief and find this causing impairment in functioning consider a retreat designed to assist with the grieving process.
Mental Health Hope Online Resource for Retreats for Grief and Loss
Mental Health Hope is an online provider of help and guidance for individuals enduring a difficult mental health event, such as grief and loss. Our compassionate mental health specialists will provide a free, confidential telephone assessment, information pertaining to the specific mental health issue, and mental health retreat options. If you are struggling with the aftermath of losing a significant person in your life, reach out to our team at Mental Health Hope today at (877) 967-9274.