Jeff Pruyne admired and loved his mother. She enjoyed singing, dining out and spending time with family. She also led a pioneering career in the health field.
“My mother laid the path for women. She traveled around the country and taught and broke down barriers around Alzheimer’s,” Pruyne shared during a group circle at our recent Healing Day Retreat for Survivors of Loss in Clearwater.
His mom became sick with cancer. She moved into assisted living and he relocated to the area to help care for her. He spun into darkness when she died four years ago.
“I cherished every moment that I had with her. My dad had died previously and that was hard. When she passed away I was devastated. After a week, my friends didn’t call. I couldn’t bring myself to work,” he expressed.
He has sought comfort through our bereavement (grief) counseling and support groups. A new member of his family also brought new joy.
He shared, “My granddaughter was born. She was that light.”
Twenty-four survivors came to the retreat for support for their grief and heartache. Facilitators were bereavement and spiritual care staff and volunteers of Suncoast Hospice.
The retreat was based on New York Times best-selling book, “Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy” by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and psychologist Adam Grant. The book explores Sandberg’s personal story of pain and growth after her young husband’s sudden death and other stories of overcoming hardship and adversity.
The day featured group circles, lunch, an Option B video and book, as well as various activities including meditation, journaling, music, Reiki, creating gratitude jars and more. Attendees appreciated the opportunity to dive deeper into the grief process, relax, reflect and express feelings.
Like Pruyne, Susan Rouslin also lost her mother.
“There are a lot of things I miss about her. I miss her lemon bars and cooking. I miss her smell,” shared Rouslin with the group.
She has participated in our counseling, support groups and special education about PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), which have helped comfort her.
“I don’t cry as much. I do feel better. I don’t know how that works,” she said.
Helping to guide and encourage the group was Tracy Horn, a Suncoast Hospice bereavement counselor.
Horn shared, “We’re hearing the resiliency in all of you. It’s amazing how we are hard-wired to recover.”
Going on with Life
Ruth Austin and her young daughter also were among the group. They have experienced multiple deaths in the family.
“I lost both of my mothers – my biological mom and my adopted mom. I also lost my brother – my best friend. I was a caregiver. I have accepted that my heart’s broken. I don’t know how to live. I don’t know what to do with my life,” Austin shared.
She has participated in our counseling and hopes to heal and become a support for her family.
She added, “We’re here because as a mom I know we had to start the process. Honestly, I just want help for my kids. I’m here to learn how to connect with my loved ones spiritually.”
Horn noted how the journey ahead may bring on many difficult emotions.
“Life continues forward. There is pervasiveness when you connect with other parts of your life. You may feel terribly guilty because you have had moments of joy,” Horn explained.
Through all of these feelings, it’s important to take moments to breathe, she says.
“We all feel waves of grief. It comes and it goes. We did meditation this morning. When you have those negative feelings, focus on your breath, allow it to be your raft and float through it until it subsides.”
Are you grieving?