Love Lives On

Thinking I would learn how to help others with their trauma, in July of 2021 I attended a five day trauma healing retreat called Grief to Grace. I had no idea how it would rock my world. It gave me clarity concerning my previously baffling thoughts and behaviors and how they were connected to specific wounds from childhood.

Over the course of a few days, a shift took place opening a new perspective to every encounter with humans and nature. It’s not an exaggeration to say that I’m more compassionate toward others, more grateful for and receptive of all creation, and kinder toward myself. I am able to recognize and express previously inaccessible emotions, including anger. I can own my opinions and preferences, my thoughts, ideas and decisions, not perfectly, of course; but I’m slowly growing. I learned how to break free from negative self-talk and the imagined thoughts of others.

The team, including lay volunteers, therapists, and priests, sat among us and unobtrusively guided retreat activities.

Community formed quickly. We were gently instructed to listen without comment when someone shared, providing a safe place for each of us to be completely honest about our own feelings, experiences, and memories. Nobody dismissed, placated, manipulated, or coerced us at anytime. If someone was upset, team members asked questions to identify what the person needed and to empower them to decide what to do about it.

We listened to passages from the Bible about Jesus. Each narrative was also re-told to aid our imaginations and bring the story to life. As we shared individual responses, each was honored by thoughtful listening so we benefited from the insights of each other.

From the difficult emotional work I began on the retreat I gained more confidence in my identity as a beloved daughter of God.

As long as it is in my power to do so, I will celebrate the Life, Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ as my story. I finally know what it means to die with Christ and rise to new life. Like the woman at the well, I want everyone to know the One who “told me everything I’ve ever done!”

Now I can see how this experience was essential to prepare me to navigate the grief journey we are currently making. Soon after I returned from the retreat, Evan and I talked about it.

With something akin to relief, he affirmed the goodness of my experience. He kept saying, “I’m so happy for you, Mama!”

He later shared with me instances of abuse he suffered in his childhood and I asked his forgiveness both for the ways I wounded him and the ways I failed to protect him. Freely, without reserve Evan forgave me.

What inestimable treasures are mine in those reconciling words and tears and hugs. It does my heart good to return to such memories and be assured that the love between us was not extinguished by betrayals or wounds while he was with us. Nor can his death now extinguish the love we share. No. Love is infinitely stronger than pain and death.

Love lives on.

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