Barbara Schimpl (left), with the Sunrise Grief Retreat Society, and Laurel Keating discuss how the retreat helped Keating after she lost two of her sons. (Jennifer Smith/Morning Star)

Barbara Schimpl (left), with the Sunrise Grief Retreat Society, and Laurel Keating discuss how the retreat helped Keating after she lost two of her sons. (Jennifer Smith/Morning Star)

Vernon grief retreat renews hope

Applications now being accepted for May 3-7 event

Laurel Keating attended her son Adam’s funeral just two days before Christmas.

Adam was 35-years-old when he died Dec. 13, 2013 to a drug overdose of cocaine, heroin and possibly fentanyl.

See: Adam Keating

Less than four years later, Keating was left to grieve the loss of another son, Corey.

Also 35-years-old, Corey died May 22, 2017, from fentanyl.

See: Cornelius (Corey) Keating

“He died the May long weekend of 2017 and six other people died of the same thing within 24 hours, the coroner told me,” said Keating, a Lumby resident.

“It’s not normal to lose two kids. It’s not normal to lose one kid. It’s not fair.”

While the pain still exists, Keating is forever grateful for the hope she found thanks to the Sunrise Grief Retreat Society.

Keating didn’t know what to expect when she attended one of the retreats in 2017.

“It was amazing, a very small group and we’ve remained friends,” said Keating, who recommends the retreat to anyone who has had a loss.

The groups are kept intimate, between four and eight people, who meet several times a day for sharing, meditation, massage therapy, healing touch, activities and more.

“The most intense one was where we painted our pain with different colours,” recalls Keating, who saw the pain in others and was able to express hers as well. “That exercise was huge. For me, it was like a dagger.”

A team of health care professionals are an integral part in guiding participants down a safe and guided path towards healing and personal growth.

See: Sunrise offers support for the grieving

“I just didn’t want to leave. It was really good, it helped me a lot,” said Keating. “I may not be here to do this interview if I didn’t do the grief retreat.”

“People feel very alone in their grief,” said Barbara Schimpl with the Sunrise Grief Retreat Society, which has seen more than 70 people through the program now.

But bonding with others who have lost, whether it be from a medical condition, accident or age, allows participants to see that they are not alone.

“It gives hope, it gives some tools,” said Schimpl.

Keating agrees: “The grief retreat is that tool I can always hang onto and use, which is every day.”

See: A place to talk and understand

The retreat includes all meals and accommodation and costs $700.

Keating admits the costs initially deterred her.

“When I first heart about this I thought, ‘I can’t afford that.’”

But her union and support from her daughter made it possible for Keating to attend.

And for those who are struggling the society does have financial help.

“If they want to go money should be the last worry on their mind,” said Schimpl.

Pre-counselling sessions are encouraged prior to attending a retreat but not mandatory. There must also be a six-month period of time after a death before anyone can attend.

“People’s grief journeys are very individual so the timing to attend a retreat needs to be the right time,” said Schimpl.

The Society runs retreats twice a year – in the spring and fall. The next session takes place May 3-7 at a private residence on Silver Star mountain. For more information or to request an application form, email, phone 250-307-7850 or visit


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