Writing Through Grief: Finding the Words that Live in Loss

When talking about loss, the language of “move on” paints a visual for me. One that is abrupt. One where something sacred is bypassed. One where the process looks hurried and incomplete. I see a brush kissing a canvas and then drying out mid stroke. I see an impotent pen unable to touch a page.

When you find yourself in the wilderness of loss, it takes courage to walk through the forest of grief instead of quickly running back into the busy streets searching for what can no longer be found.

Your story is different now. Your precious canvas has a hole in it. May you have the courage to be with the paint and ink of your feelings as you travel through. You might feel destroyed. I know. You are being recreated.”

–Octavia Raheem, Pause, Rest, Be

We’ve been living with a heightened sense of grief and loss over the past two years as we collectively navigated a global public health pandemic. Add to that our individual, personal experiences of sorrow, and the loss may feel overwhelming, even unbearable. As writers, we find solace in claiming and recording our stories. Words are different now, changed and purified by experience. We are different now, recreated by journeying through the deep forest of grief. Still, we write, and what is written is set free. What is written is honored in light.

The intention for this retreat is to create a mindfulness-based supported space to work with and write about feelings of loss. We’ll gather together for four workshops, but there will also be private time for writing, resting, contemplating, and walking our trails.

Note: Though this is a weekend intended for reflection and healing, the subject of grief can be intense. The facilitators for this retreat are writers and teachers, not therapists or counselors. Please consider whether you are emotionally healthy enough to participate before registering.

Cost: $450.00 per person (includes 2 nights in a private suite, 5 meals, snacks, 4 workshops, and plenty of private time for writing)

Date: Friday, November 4 (Check-in: 4:00-6:00 pm) to Sunday, November 6, 2022 (Check-out: 11:00 am)

Place: Rockvale Writers’ Colony, 6994 Giles Hill Road, College Grove, TN

The Schedule (tentative)

Friday, November 4, 2022:

4:00 to 6:00 p.m. – Check-in and settle in. You’ll be given a short tour and we’ll show you to your assigned room.

6:00 p.m. – Dinner

7:00 p.m. – Welcome and Overview of Retreat

7:15 p.m. – Writing Workshop: “Lamentation”

9:00 p.m. – Free Time / Bedtime

Saturday, November 5, 2022:

6:30 a.m. – Coffee Ready!

7:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – Breakfast is available. Come anytime you’re ready

8:30 a.m. – Writing Workshop: “The Sacred Space”

9:45 a.m. – Free Time for Writing

12:00 p.m. – Lunch

1:00 p.m. – Free Time for Writing

6:00 p.m. – Dinner

7:00 p.m. – Writing Workshop: “The Labyrinth of Loss”

8:30 p.m. – Reading / Share your Writing – Sharing is optional; however, we ask that you attend whether you read or not, in order to support other writers.

10:00 p.m. – Free Time / Bedtime

Sunday, November 6, 2022:

6:30 a.m. – Coffee Ready!

7:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – Breakfast is available. Come any time you’re ready

8:30 a.m. – Writing Workshop: “The Journey”

9:45 a.m. – Free Time for Writing

11:00 a.m. – Checkout and Goodbye

Facilitators: Sandy Coomer and Jill Carnell

Sandy Coomer is a poet, artist, Ironman athlete, and social entrepreneur from Nashville, TN. Her poetry has been published in numerous journals and she is the author of three poetry chapbooks and two full-length collections, Available Light (Iris Press, 2019) and The Broken Places, (Saddle Road Press, 2021). Sandy co-hosts two monthly events, Black Dog Poetry Open Mic and Rockvale Poetry Book Club, both now enjoyed via Zoom with poets from across the country. She is a three-time poetry mentor in the AWP Writer to Writer Mentorship Program, the founding editor of the online journal Rockvale Review, and the founder and director of Rockvale Writers’ Colony in College Grove, TN. Sandy established the “Believe Fellowship” for CNF writers exploring serious illness after the death of her mother in January 2020 from CNS Lymphoma. Her favorite word is “believe.”

Jill Carnell is the Cofounder & Chief Contemplative Officer of Thought Kitchen, a consulting and coaching firm headquartered in central Indiana. A lawyer working in state and local government for over 15 years, Jill experienced the Full Catastrophe in 2016 when her beloved dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. This diagnosis was the catalyst for Jill’s journey to lead a more contemplative life.

In January 2019, she began the Master of Arts in Mindfulness Studies program at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. During her study, she was immersed in emerging research regarding the impact of mindfulness practices on stress reduction, enhanced brain function, emotional regulation, and our innate capacity for compassion. Her thesis, An Introduction to the Brahmavihāras: For Lawyers, Law Students, & Judicial Officers, was published in September 2021.

Jill lives in Mooresville, Indiana, with her husband, Mark, and a whole bunch of cats. Mark and Jill are the proud parents of Patrick, their adult son.