Grief Retreats: Why Focusing on our Grief Can Be Healing

July 13, 2018, Counseling & Support, Grief

Gilchrist now offers day-long grief retreats for individuals seeking to recharge themselves and learn new ways to relate to their grief.

A grief retreat may seem counterintuitive at first: why would someone want to spend a day focusing on what is most troubling and painful? Wouldn’t it be better to stay busy and distracted, keeping our minds and our hearts away from the pain we feel?

But by taking time to be present with the changes and challenges we face, in a supportive and nurturing environment, we can develop a deeper ability to manage the most difficult emotional experiences in life. That’s why a retreat can be so helpful to someone who is grieving.

The journey through grief is long and arduous, but it is also necessary and natural. In a world of busyness and distraction, taking an entire day to stay present with the experience of grief, to explore it and feel it, allows individuals an opportunity to deepen their own capacity to grieve.

A Holistic Exploration of Grief

Gilchrist’s day-long retreats provide a holistic exploration of grief that blends grief education, mindfulness, and chair yoga together into one experience. The retreat is modeled after the theory that in the journey through grief, we must venture through four “territories”: Acceptance, Difficult Feelings, Adaptation, and Integration. For each of these territories of grief, participants are given mental, emotional and physical tools to help them on their journey.

Finding a New Perspective

This integrated approach is crucial to the grief process because grief is an experience that can dominate a person’s mind, body and heart. By learning new ways of thinking about grief, and precise language to describe and process experiences, bereaved people can find better perspectives that avoid mental traps that increase their suffering.

Chair Yoga

By engaging their body in physical postures derived from yoga they can also learn to cultivate energy when they feel exhausted, relaxation when they feel anxious, or simply open their hearts to difficult emotions through good posture and deep breathing.


Finally, mindfulness practices help participants develop a deeper awareness of their emotions and experience the fundamental paradox of grief: although we initially may fear that “going into” our emotions may amplify them, we discover that in fact the more we engage courageously and skillfully with difficult emotions the more we are able to calm the distress we feel.

An Atmosphere of Mutual Support

All of this can be experienced individually, but the real power of the retreat comes from experiencing the curriculum in the intentional and supportive company of other people who are grieving. Throughout the day the stories, insights and support of others complement the professional instruction to create an atmosphere of mutual support during a grief journey that is often isolating and lonely. It also doesn’t hurt that we share a healthy and delicious lunch and take breaks to walk in the beautiful environment that surrounds our building in Towson.

Join us in an upcoming grief retreat at Gilchrist Center Towson. Due to growing demand, we now offer grief retreats the first Friday of each month. If you are interested in attending, please call 443-849-8251 or check out our grief registration page for upcoming dates. 

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