2017 news and 2018 updates

(News and pix)

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Sunset on the Llyn Peninsula, Wales

And so it ends – another year, a mixed bag of joys and sorrows, challenges and monotony, highs and lows that make up daily life.

It was a particularly full year for me. It started with a trip to Malta, then in the following months, while John visited his family in Australia, I went to the Isle of Wight with some other ladies, and then later to Wales by myself. That was the beginning of lots of walking and enjoying better health than previous years.

And then it got really busy. We led 3 retreats in Dorset, Devon and Yorkshire, launched the “Grief Companion” training, and delivered some training sessions. It doesn’t seem so much when you list it like that, but there is a lot involved and it filled our time more completely than I had expected.

Most importantly, we met some lovely people. Each person is so unique (and each one who attended a retreat carried away their own special cup as a reminder of their uniqueness) and each story of loss has its own poignancy as well as courage.  Yes, there were tears and sadness, but we also shared laughter and hope. If any of you are reading this, thank you for taking part. You are in my thoughts and prayers – and I look forward to seeing some of you again in a few months time.

Even though I’m “leading” the retreats, I always learn a lot, and I try to incorporate that learning into the next retreat events and/or into the training. Often once I get home I’ll research a topic further. One area I have delved further into is regarding cultural differences in grief. It was quite shocking to learn about the treatment of widows, for instance, in different cultures and parts of the world, but I don’t think that “we” in the British culture have too much to be proud about either, considering the loneliness that blights so many people’s lives.

Those who have lost children, like I have, have a special place in my heart of course, and I have been privileged to be able to continue assisting The Compassionate Friends (the foremost charity/support network for bereavement parents and siblings – visit here) with the writing, revision and editing of their information leaflets, alongside a great team of other volunteers. Although these leaflets are written specifically for – and by – bereaved parents, they contain a wealth of information and ideas about grief and coping with loss that can apply to almost anyone. So if you haven’t already done so, have a look here.

And now here’s 2018.

We have three “Living with Loss” retreats arranged so far, plus we are starting a new “Living with Loss Part 2” retreat for those who want to continue the journey for a few days together. You can find out more here on the retreats page  (some links still need to be updated, but the dates are there for most places now).

I’ve also got some more appointments for the “Grief Companion” training, both for secular organisations and churches.

Next year I’m hoping to complete a “Living with Loss” book that will follow on from “A Valley Journal” and will more closely reflect what we’re working on in our retreats.

On a more reflective note: I didn’t dream after I lost Catherine that I would ever find a way to continue the journey ahead, and frankly there were a lot of times when I would have been glad not to have bothered. But here I am, almost 7 years since Catherine died, and there has been a path to follow, step by step. I don’t know about the future but I’ve come this far. It’s a mixture of cherishing the memories of Pax and Catherine, trying to find a way to be useful to others, and also enjoying the life I share with John. I don’t always get the balance right, but I’m working on it.

I’d like to end this with a big word of thanks to those (you know who you are!) who are helping me continue on this path – whether through your encouragement, prayers, practical support or friendship.

And finally – to anyone who has actually managed to read to the end of this post, I send you my best wishes for 2018. If you are walking the valley journey of grief or some other sorrow or difficulty, may you find the strength you need to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  If you’re in a happier season of your life, then I hope you long remain so.

A few of our pictures from 2017

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The road ahead

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Malta – The “Azure Window” before its collapse

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Coastline on the Isle of Wight, one of my walking challenges

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Abbotsbury in Dorset

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Carpets of colour in Bodnant Gardens, North Wales

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On Chesil Beach

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A favourite corner of the Peak District

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Ladybower Reservoir in the Peak District. Another scenic walk

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Sunrise in Malta

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