Mothers who had lost a child in death found comfort in speaking openly to one another of their beloved children, their grief and their possibility of hope at the 14th year of the Weavings weekend-long retreat, held annually in the fall. Professional grief counselors and volunteers from BJC Hospice encouraged sharing and healing and led activities of celebration and remembrance for each child.
“We had moms at the retreat honoring kids ranging in age from just 30 minutes old to 51 years old, who died due to suicide, cancer and other illnesses, overdoses, car accidents, homicide, and aneurysm,” says Andrea Tritinger, BJC Hospice bereavement supervisor. “And the moms came from all over the St. Louis metropolitan area.”
The accommodations, activities and meals for the weekend were all offered at no cost to participants because of generous donations from the communities BJC Hospice serves.
“The moms at the retreat came from different backgrounds and different losses,” says Tritinger. “But they connected with each other and supported one another unconditionally.
“There is always this deeper level of understanding among the moms at the retreat, because they all get what it truly means to lose a child,” Tritinger adds.
During the retreat, the moms had a chance to speak their child’s name openly and hear their child’s name spoken to them. They met in small groups to have more intimate discussions about their feelings and experiences, and they did a “Weavings” project this year led by Susie McGaughey, a volunteer art therapist.
McGaughey led them through a guided meditation and the creation of a small weaving for them to take home, representing themself, their child and their relationship.
“It was beautiful and well received,” says Sandy Dillon, BJC Hospice bereavement specialist. “Some people made pillows with their weavings, another woman made a purse and others will use them as a candle holder or wall hanging.”
“There were many tears throughout the weekend, but there was also more and more laughter and lightness as the weekend went on,” says Tritinger. “The moms so beautifully supported and encouraged one another, and it truly felt like some lasting connections were made. The volunteers and staff who were there with the moms all weekend were compassionate, patient guides who created a safe and sacred space that allowed these moms to trust the process and be open to the whole experience.
“Although they never would have imagined needing to come to a retreat like this, they form a community to help each other move forward,” Tritinger adds. “And so many moms tell us how much they appreciate knowing that they aren’t alone in this experience.”
Next year’s Weavings retreat will be held the weekend of Oct. 23-25 at the Pallottine Center in Florissant, Missouri. Early registration is recommended. For more information or to register, email [email protected], call 314-953-1676 or visit bjchospice.org.
In Weavings participants’ own words:
- I went to Weavings a very broken person. I left with a happy heart and pride of being the mother of my beautiful Jill. And made a great bond with the seven other women in our group. I loved every minute and it helped change my life and outlook. And thank you BJC. What a wonderful thing you do for us mothers. For BJC to see the need and work to over-fill it, is so magnanimous on their part. They are a blessing as are all of you who work in bereavement and hospice. Thank you again, so much. I'm a different person today!
- I wanted to take some time out this evening to thank you and the rest of the staff at BJC/Weavings. It was a very insightful weekend of sharing, learning and bonding. I gained some new friends as well in the process! The atmosphere was very welcoming, the accommodations more than adequate and the food good. It afforded me an opportunity to do some introspection as well as listen to others share their grief experiences. I came away a different person emotionally, as I no longer focus on the grief itself so much as the healing processes. Life will always be different without “my Ron,” but I think I am ready to move into a more positive realm. I am usually a very positive person anyway, but grief did take its toll on my perspective. However, I feel that I have made great strides in this past year and will continue to put one foot in front of the other.
- This was such a meaningful weekend. I hadn’t laughed in 6 months since my son died, but now I can laugh again.
- I was able to find myself here. I didn’t realize that I have been walking around in a cloud all this time. I feel released and free … no longer bound.
- This weekend helped me teach myself to cry again, so I can let my grief out before it consumes me.
- I was anxious at first, but it ended up being so amazing and life-changing for me. I highly recommend this.
- My batteries are recharged.
- I found out I’m not alone.
BJC Hospice will offer a grief camp and grief retreat in 2020 at no cost to participants:
- Labyrinth, a grief retreat for teenagers grieving the loss of a loved one – June 6, 2020 – Forest Park Visitor Center, St. Louis.
- Stepping Stones Camp, a three-day bereavement camp for children, ages 6-12, who have lost a loved one – Aug. 7-9, 2020 – Camp Wyman, Eureka, Missouri.
For more information, call 314-953-1676, email [email protected] or visit bjchospice.org.