Walking the journey of grief

Barb Schimpl, left, and Andrea Hoye are board members of the Sunrise Grief Retreat Society (formerly the Mara Station Retreat Society), which holds its spring retreat April 27-May 1. - Cara Brady/Morning Star
Barb Schimpl, left, and Andrea Hoye are board members of the Sunrise Grief Retreat Society (formerly the Mara Station Retreat Society), which holds its spring retreat April 27-May 1.
— image credit: Cara Brady/Morning Star

The journey of grief is part of the journey of life.

“Each grief journey has its own timing and pace and the process is different for each person,” said Andrea Hoye, president of the Sunrise Grief Retreat Society.

The Sunrise Grief Retreat Society continues the work of the Mara Station Retreat Society with the focus on grief retreats.

“We know that there are people who have never been able to deal fully with their grief and need to move on to the next step in the process. Sometimes a recent loss brings up other losses that have not been dealt with,” said Barb Schimpl, vice-president of the Sunrise Grief Retreat Society.

“Grief changes a person but they can come to accept it.”

Schimpl, retired RN, with a background in mental health and private practice counseling, and Hoye, RN, who has home care nursing and palliative care experience, were both active in the formation of the Hospice Society in the 1980s. They want to continue to use their knowledge and experience to help the community.

“We know that if people don’t do the grief work, either with the support of family and friends, or through individual counseling and groups, it can sit there and turn into physical or emotional illness. We have to feel those feelings in order to heal. It’s rewarding to see people feel more peaceful and move through their journey at the retreats,” said Hoye.

The grief retreats provide a safe place to share, think, and try alternate healing modalities. The day starts with qi gong or guided meditation and includes group sessions, quiet individual time and private sessions for massage, healing touch and counseling.

“Telling your story is a huge piece of healing. The retreats are a place to be heard and not be judged,” said Schimpl. “People find that trying other kinds of body work can give them insights into things they had not thought about. It is very inspiring to see how people experience the retreats. It doesn’t mean their grief is over but they can see a way.”

A former participant wrote, “I highly recommend this grief retreat. The facilitators attended to our mental, physical and emotional needs through a balance of information, sharing, opportunities for artistic expression, body work and great food. I was able to understand where I’d been stuck and come to a more hopeful place in my grief journey.”

Hoye and Schimpl reconnected through The Morning Star. An article on a previous retreat was in the same edition of the paper as a letter to the editor from Schimpl about the importance of funerals as a chance to honour a loved one.

“I looked at the letter and thought, ‘Oh, Barb. She’d be a great board member,’” said Hoye.

Schimpl said, “I saw the article and called Andrea to volunteer.”

The Sunrise Grief Retreat Society spring retreat takes place April 27 to May 1 at the Deep Creek Retreat House in a quiet rural setting. The society is non-profit and the retreat facilitators are volunteers but there is a charge of $550 per person which covers everything, including meals and accommodation. There is some financial assistance possible for people who cannot pay the total cost.

For more information and pre-registration (by April 15), e-mail or see



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