“Look on the bright side.”
“See the glass half-full.”
“Count your blessings.”
“Get over it.”
In the midst of mourning or depression, these cliches are annoying platitudes. A solo retreat gives you time away from those who would rush you through the necessary down time. You can live in the present and fully explore each stage of your grief or the reasons for your depression. Ecclesiastes 3:4 acknowledges “a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.” In fact, these times mingle with each other, and in the midst of weeping there can be laughter.
I remember writing a gratitude list after my parents’ car accident. It was heart-wrenching to glean anything positive, but I began with the fact that my mother survived and went from there. Nine years later I can add that I came to know and admire my mother’s strength and determination in ways I would never have done otherwise. Losing a parent also made me see myself, at age 40, as a capable adult. A lawsuit brought resources for education and travel for my family. I was able to stay home to raise my daughter and indulge my passions for music, writing, languages, and medieval history while still sending my sons to college. I also found a community at the Unitarian Universalist church which allowed me to develop my own unorthodox spirituality.
Small joys happen randomly. Catch yourself smiling and keep a running gratitude list; it’s easier than sitting down with a piece of paper and trying to list everything all at once. You’ll find yourself looking for moments to list, and that intention will help create them.
When you feel the shift from grieving to letting go, you may want to create a ceremony. Jennifer Louden has an excellent ceremony in The Woman’s Retreat Book, which you can adapt to your own spiritual beliefs. She uses the universal symbol of fire to bless and release grief.
“A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them”
My sister Patricia and I are often in tune despite the distance between us. In April, I attended a workshop on labyrinths. The next day I received an email from her, suggesting that we build a labyrinth near our cabin. We spent a morning last month finding a site, and after I left, Patricia and her husband cleared the space and began placing stones. I’ll continue the work when I return. Walking the labyrinth will be a ceremony of release for us, a new beginning on the spot where the fire came closest to our cabin.
With no one else watching me, I may even dance!