By Jamey Sheesley
The Survivor Sister Retreat is designed for domestic violence survivors. The retreat offers survivors workshops to help encourage effective healing after trauma along with a sisterhood bond with other survivors.
I was invited to join the March 2020 retreat and immediately said yes, but as the time inched closer, I became nervous. I wanted to cancel and thought it might be too much to go through some of the workshops. I have been receiving help from my psychologist for years, so did not see where I could benefit. Let’s be honest, I was trying to think of an excuse not to go because I was scared to face some of those feelings I knew would come up during this retreat.
On the day of the retreat, I went to the airport to pick up two more sisters to join us. Many sisters had already canceled due to the threat of the coronavirus, which had also heightened my own stress level. I was heading into an airport where the virus could be lurking anywhere. As I sat waiting for the first sister, I faced much self-doubt. But as soon as I saw the first sister wearing her BTSADV hoodie, all my fears went out the window; I was glad that I did not cancel. We waited at the airport for around an hour for the next sister and once she arrived, we made our journey to Woodland Park, Colorado. I was born and raised in Colorado, so going to Woodland Park was not a big deal for me but seeing the reaction of my sisters to Colorado’s beauty was astounding. Mountains are symbolic of healing and I saw that through their reactions.
As soon as we got to the retreat, we learned that there would only be six of us since the rest could not make it due to the virus. At first, I will admit, I was upset. I did not think the experience would be full, but within the first night, I knew I was wrong. I knew the six of us would become extremely close.
Our first workshop was powerful and very emotional, but it was empowering. It was empowering to see how many sisters said “me too” to something I experienced. After this intense workshop, Mama Tammy prepared a wonderful meal for us and we were able to talk and get to know each other. I found that all of these sisters had amazing stories of survival and all were incredibly strong. I was nervous going in because I thought there would be judgment, but these sisters had no judgment to give, only love, prayers, and healing.
The next day was full of several insightful workshops and one tough workshop. The hardest workshop of the retreat included burning a letter. It was a spiritual experience to watch the relief in my sisters’ eyes as they watched their letters burn to ash. You could see them letting go of the hurt and trauma. After it was over we enjoyed hot chocolate and talked late into the night, developing deeper bonds.
Saturday brought on even more workshops, some of them again challenging and some of them exhilarating. By the end of Saturday, my soul felt a new sense of peace. I felt more relaxed and connected to the sisters around me. They are all beautiful and inspirational and have so much to give. Each one of those women has been destroyed but they found the courage to build their lives back. Through the trauma, they still have the compassion to find love again and the strength to help others.
“Our Survivor Sister Retreat has been life-changing for me. I met so many strong women [who have] inspired me to live my life to the fullest. These people will stay in my life for a very long time. I left Colorado and went back to my home state feeling stronger and feeling good about myself,” said Survivor Sister Angelica.
“I feel beyond blessed to know these women and be a part of this cause. We are warriors! The retreat proved that coronavirus be dammed! #cozyretreat,” said Survivor Sister Misty.
“Our sister retreat was more than just a four-day experience. I left changed! I learned a lot about myself, my healing and my journey. The women that I met and grew withspoke the same language. I’m sure we will be life-long friends that will continue to encourage and grow with,” said Survivor Sister Audria.
“It was so great to be in a safe place where I could grow and be with women who knew what I was going through without me even having to speak. I was able to overcome so much pain I have been carrying for 12 long years and I finally feel at peace,” said Survivor Sister Amanda.
Through many tears and laughter over silly things, we grew close. By the end of the retreat, I was happy that it was only six of us. I am glad the coronavirus and my own fears did not scare me off. These girls are truly amazing and I am so happy to have met all of them. Thank you to Mama Tammy, Mama Tara, Carolin, and Rosie for making the weekend perfect. All of you are amazing. Not even the coronavirus was able to stop our healing journey.
If you are feeling nervous about attending this retreat, I promise it is worth everything and more. You will come out of this retreat with peace, strength and a sisterhood bond that is stronger than ever. It was the most inspirational and healing experience that I have gone through.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777.
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