The healing power of peer support

I want to share with you an article I recently wrote for Just Breathe magazine. It’s a reminder of what the Soul Spas are about and how helpful peer support can be…

Grief is crippling. Grief is chaos. Grief is unpredictable…and its effects tend to be vastly underestimated by those who haven’t been there.

Grief is also very individual. There is no right or wrong way to grieve…it takes however long it takes. We can’t run away or hide from it. We also don’t get “over” it…it just changes in shape. It is what it is.

Losing the person closest to them, their soulmate and travel companion, can turn even the once most confident travelers into anxious scaredy-cats.

I know because I’ve been one of them. My world fell apart when my fiancé died very suddenly and unexpectedly of an asthma attack, only a few weeks after our engagement. What followed affected me physically and mentally. It felt as if my brain capacity had been reduced to around 40% of its former size and even the smallest tasks took a big effort.

I was increasingly struggling in my demanding job as senior management consultant, especially once people felt I should be “over it” by now. Even the most well-meaning people around me didn’t really understand, and it doesn’t make things easier that we, the widowed people, can be very critical and oversensitive to other people’s attempts to support us, or even just work with us. We’re weird creatures and it’s difficult to get it right…

Fun tasks become painful reminders.

When it came to holiday planning, what used to be a fun task became a painful reminder of what David and I would never be able to do together anymore. All the places we wanted to visit!

So, what to do? Going somewhere completely on my own? Far too scary, feeling so fragile. Going with friends? Being the odd one out among people who still have their “old” life is ok, but can be painful as you get reminded of what you lost. An adventure type group trip? Nah, too stressful, don’t have the energy. A singles’ holiday? – no way, as people may be looking for a new partner which is the last thing on my mind. And what if I cry all the time?

Just before my first Christmas without my beloved man, my sister-in-love (my fiancé’s sister) took me to a Buddhist retreat weekend. It was a good experience and I found the meditations and teachings helpful. We had to drink the wine and eat the chocolates secretly in our room though. On the first morning I had tears rolling down my face at breakfast. When I apologised and stuttered that my fiancé had died, the woman across from me just said “I know how you feel, my husband died two years ago.”

I’ve learned that being in the company of people who really understand – who are in the same situation or have been there – makes such a difference.

What a nice feeling that someone completely understood, without judging me and not just looking in from their “normal” life, pitying me. The woman from the retreat, Alison, has become a close friend and co-host at the project I set up called Fire & Rain Soul Spa®. We organise luxury retreat holidays in Scotland and France for widows and widowers.

I would like to share some of the things that have helped me feel more positive again after loss:

  • Nature: walking and just being in nature
  • Time and space to be alone, and just drift….but with the option to dip in and out of warm, compassionate company whenever you feel like it
  • Exploring a new location with all its local treasures
  • Sharing stories (or not)
  • Yummy, freshly made food (including cakes and chocolates, of course)
  • And drinks
  • Yoga and mindfulness meditations & exercises
  • Creative activities and journaling
  • Reading by the fire or on the beach
  • Tasteful spaces & environments.

Taking a break to just be can be a bit scary, as you can never be sure what will well up inside you. But to sometimes just lean into the discomfort and observe it is so important and healing.

“Courage, dear heart.” {C.S.Lewis}

You can see the article “live” here: 


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