Saturday 20 September 2008

Spiritual Retreat...

Yesterday I went on a Spiritual Retreat Day, organised by Helen House Hospice, where I belong to a bereaved parents group. The day was made possible by the generous offer by a lady who, I believe, is a benefactor of the hospice. She kindly allowed us to use her beautiful home, set in the Oxfordshire countryside. The day was facilitated by Mark, the chaplain at the hospice and he put together a programme that was loosely structured into group presentations, that we were under no obligation to take part in, and free time to spend in any way we wished for reflection.

The first group presentation was focused on Michelangelo's Pieta sculpture. Mark talked about this image and how it represented loss. I found it incredibly powerful to see Mary cradling the body of Jesus in her arms. It resonated with me in a way that words cannot describe. I think the image will stay with me forever.

Mark talked about a sense of holding on and letting go. It is a feeling that I am aware of now in my life, as I move on into territory that is new and challenging. Territory that I wouldn't have been entering had my darling boy not left me. I would be lying if I said I wasn't nervous. I would be lying if I said I wasn't dreading the conversations that are going to be inevitable about how many children I have (I still haven't formulated the response that I find comfortable...) It is proof that life continues and I can only hope that Tom's spirit is holding me up and pushing me forwards. It comes very easily to me to feel guilty that I am moving on without him, but when I get the chance for some dedicated time to focus on my grief, such as the time I spend at Helen House, it allows me to see that, actually, my grief is still there, just under the surface, and I find this a huge comfort to let my tears flow freely and without any fear. It affirms to me that the decision I made after Tom passed away, that I would not try to get over losing him, but instead learn to live with losing him, was the right decision to make.

We were blessed with a glorious September day and the gardens at the house were perfect for spending time either alone or with friends that I have made. They were filled with birdsong and butterflies. I discovered the most amazing walled kitchen garden and swings hidden in oak trees. I was drawn to this bench, flanked by agapanthus and looking down towards rolling hills beyond immaculate beds and perfectly cut lawn.

I proved to myself that I am not a shameless blogger, armed with a camera, photographing everything! I think I behaved in an appropriate manner, without taking advantage of the family's privacy and limited my images to just three as a reminder of a lovely day...


  1. ((((Tracy)))) ... a lovely, moving post.

    I live not far from Helen & Douglas house, and regularly shop at their Charity Shop in a nearby town. It's a wonderful charity.

    I couldn't agree more with your assertion over the difference between living with loss, as opposed to trying to overcome loss. I'm not sure it can be overcome - not in any healthy way, anyway.

    Thinking of you. xxx

  2. I can't quite find the words but thank you for sharing this, Tom was a lucky boy to have a mother who loves him so much, he'll always be with you.

    Julia xx

  3. That sculpture is amazing.

    I'm impressed your group is still meeting up, and obviously still going on a journey together and gaining support from one another. How great is that!

    The moving forward to do new things and meet new people is a courageous but exciting thing for you to do. I look forward to hearing more about it all very soon.

    Good wishes,
    N. xx

  4. The retreat sounds like a good move, T. (the venue doesn't suck, either!) You are articulate and sensible. You're doing good, mate.

  5. Holding on and letting go. That's a tough one.

    Your photos have such a sense of peace about them. I'm sure the house owners would be glad to give that gift to you.

  6. Beautifully written, and generous to share something so private. I think you're write about learning to live with your don't 'get over' it, in time you learn to accommodate it. Thinking of you, Tracy.
    D x

  7. I don't know what to say, because I think you already said everything so beautifully. I so admire your bravery, strength, and honesty. Thinking of you and hoping we'll be able to get together soon. K x

  8. Hello Tracy
    Greif is a powerful river which takes courage to raft. You are right to honour it and brave to talk about it. I'm glad you had good weather for your weekend and in such a beautiful place too. x

  9. Lovely lady, darn it, you made me cry again!
    I've never seen the scuplture before but can see why you wouldn't forget it. It really is breath taking.
    I'm not very good at dealing with grief, especially at the moment, but you are an inspiration to me.
    Look after yourself x

  10. What an immensely moving post. It is a privilege to share this special place with you.

    Don't ever feel that you have to explain - I have always said 'my son is 18 and my daughter is 16 - what is left unsaid does not diminish love.

  11. My dear, dear friend. I know how dificult it is to carry on but we must do it.
    I lost my grandmother five years ago. She was like a mother to me and I couldn't believe that I could live without her but here I am.
    I know that loosing a son it's worse that loosing a grandmother (already aged) but I suffered so much and I still do. I never talked about this in any blog. As Alice said in a comment, "what is left unsaid does not diminish love."
    I lost two children in miscarriages but, because they lived with me only for such short time, it was not like when I lost my grandmother. But, even so, it's the first time I talk about this in blogosphere.
    Time helps and teaches us to let go.
    Your post helped me a lot. I needed to say something about my loss and I was not able before.
    Now I feel relieved. Thank you.

  12. Such a very brave post.

    Thank you for sharing this with us, I can't begin to imagine how you much feel.

    Racheal x

  13. what a beautiful post, you have such a way of describing things Tracy, and some day you will find a way to describe your family that you are comfortable with. xx

  14. A lovely post, Tracy. Sending much love and lots of hugs to you, and I am happy you were able to visit the house and find some peace. Will be thinking of you, especially next Sunday night/Monday morning ...

  15. You are on a healing journey...great loss is never easy to overcome. The spirits of those we have lost are always with us, always aiding us, always there to comfort us. Tom is most certainly with you every step of the way :o) And what a beautiful place to have taken a for the mind, body and spirit. ((HUGS))

  16. I wanted to comment but now I don't know what to say other than my heart goes out to you. x

  17. My daughters were collecting little white feathers on Monday in the grounds of Wilton House. I thought of Tom and what you had said in a previous post about his angel wings....You write so openly and so beautifully.
    Learning to cope with the grief you must feel must be so difficult I can't even begin to imagine, but having somewhere so wonderful to openly share and express what you feel is wonderful. It looks such a beautiful and tranquil place.
    Jane. x

  18. Tracy, you are such an inspiration and a generous spirit to share your experiences with us. Your words about learning to live with loss rather than trying to get over it have such wisdom and grace about them.


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