Last week's post introduced the idea of grieving as self-care and how one might make space for a "grief retreat." Dr. Barbara Steffens, founder of the partner trauma model for wives/partners of sex addicts, talks about "remembering and grieving" as the second stage of our (often non-linear) healing process.
That means the idea of a grief retreat may not resonate with you (yet) if you are still in the earlier phase (safety and stabilization) or if you have moved on to the final phase of healing: reconnecting.
Nevertheless, it's always possible we (or someone we know) will find we have "trouble in this life" that requires we go through a process of mourning. When that's the case it's good to consider, that while our Western culture often fails to support those in mourning (see more in the recent post: Surviving Trauma Through Community), we can still pursue what we need to regain health.
Last week I gave you a list of items you might want to consider taking with you on your grief retreat. Some of these items (e.g. kleenex) require no explanation. However, others (your journalling, and art supplies) are a bit more open. If you would like some ideas, see below.
Letting God Lead
As you begin your grief retreat, invite God to lead in this process. Wait for a reply. While a counselor, coach or book can give you ideas for grieving exercises, the lover of your soul knows precisely what and how you need to grieve.
If letting God lead feels unsafe, consider talking to Him about this, and perhaps inviting Him to walk alongside you as you grieve.
After this: give yourself grace and space. In other words, try not to get too caught up in "doing" on this retreat. That said, if you want to spark some helpful processing, you may wish to consider journaling on the following:
- What would my life, including my spiritual life, be like today if it had not been for my husband’s addiction and the resulting trauma?
- What normal adult life experiences have I been robbed of?
- What life opportunities have been stolen from me?
- How would my life be different without his addiction?
- What parts of me have had to be buried or underdeveloped because of the addiction/the trauma?
- What relationships have I lost?
- What life dreams have I given up or put on hold?
- What have I lost spiritually?
- How much trust, faith, or hope has been drained from me by the addiction/trauma?
- How would my relationship with God be different now?
- To what degree have I, for now, lost my ability to feel valued and loved by God?
- How has the addiction/ trauma affected my relationship with prayer, worship or church communities?
- What have the addiction and resulting trauma taken from my life-vision and sense of personal life-purpose?
Write down your answers quickly — stream of consciousness — no worrying about how you say it, just get it out there. Try to take no more than half an hour. Next, go over the list and pick out the 10 most impactful or painful losses. Over the next two days you might want to bring those into a solo Immanuel Prayer process.
Another potentially helpful exercise is to write a lament. Read Psalm 13 and see if you can follow the pattern of the psalmist. Take as much time as you need to write this lament. Next, consider making it into a song... perhaps a song and an accompanying expressive dance. If you are more inclined to draw/paint etc., consider how you might visually represent your lament.
Understand that grieving comes in waves… you will not be “forever done with all of it” because you went on this retreat. In fact, the retreat may simply make you realize that you’re going to need help getting past some of this— and that’s where you go to your support community.
Nevertheless, it’s my hope that you find (as I did) that after this process you are considerably further along in your healing from trauma.