I’ve been on two retreats recently, both in Sardinia. The first one, just after Steve died, helped so much. A year later I returned to the same place for more healing. When I went on my first retreat in May 2017, I wasn’t sure I was ready to talk about my grief but I managed to and that turned out to be one of the best things I did that year.
The retreat was at Annalisa Grova’s house in Putzu Idu, a quiet non-tourist region on the West coast of Sardinia. I had my own apartment and time to myself during the day. We started each day with a poem, often it was one of Rumi’s poems. This quiet time gave me space to reflect, to set my intent for the day.
Annalisa had arranged a programme which included physical activities like hikes along the coast and a natural spa treatment on one of the beaches. Annalisa used to have her own beauty spa in New York so she knows about beauty and healthy living.
The cove we chose for our spa treatment was deserted. We sat down to meditate, concentrating on how we were sitting, listening to the sound of the waves and feeling the gentle breeze on our skins. I started to cry and Annalisa told me that Steve was all around me, kissing away my tears. That image made me smile but the tears continued to spill.
To begin the natural spa treatment we collected grey clay from the crumbling cliffs and moulded the clay into balls, making it easier to rub the clay over our bodies. Next, we lay in the sun to bake for 15 minutes, we looked like a pair of grey Egyptian mummies. Taking handfuls of fine grey sand we exfoliated our bodies to remove the clay. Conveniently, the beach supplied piles of moisture-rich seaweed to wash the sand off our bodies. Toxins within the body had been drawn to the surface by the clay masks, the nutrients from the seaweed had replenished our skin. The final step was to enter the water, a kind of rebirth and regeneration.
As we slowly walked out into the turquoise green sea, I felt a weight lift off my body. I spent 15 minutes in the water enjoying the wonderfully warm sea, I felt alive. Once we were dry, Annalisa cut open a leaf from an aloe vera plant that grows in her garden. The cool soft juice moisturised our skins. It was an incredible experience.
Annalisa’s Facebook page is called Tiramisu for the Soul and during her retreats, she likes to show her guests how to make the Italian dessert, Tiramisu. We made enough for 10 people which meant I was eating tiramisu every day, what indulgence.
I loved our time together, sharing thoughts and ideas but also having time to myself to prepare simple salads, enjoy a glass of red wine whilst listening to the swallows flying overhead.
After 7 days on this beautiful island, I knew the healing process had started.
But there was more, I also learned to trust others. One afternoon we went out with Annalisa’s friend on his 10 metre RIB, a lightweight speedboat. I’d never been on one before. As we pulled out of the harbour, it was breezy but the water was calm, but beyond the harbour the water changed. Kiko, Annalisa’s friend and boat owner, picked up speed as we headed out to sea, leaving the calm coastal waters behind us. Faster and faster we went, driving into the waves which were crashing over the boat.
I was terrified. I thought I was going to die, dramatic, I know.
I thought about Steve and how he would hold my hand and reassure me. I had to make a decision there and then, to put my trust in this crazy thrill seeking Italian or let the fear overwhelm. I chose to trust and for the first time in my life, I trusted someone else.
As soon as I did that, the experience changed, I let myself scream with exhilarated excitement. It was one of those life-changing moments when you can choose how to react. I chose to trust and had an amazing time. After 2 hours on the boat, a visit to a deserted beach and an attempt to fish off the boat, Kiko drove us safely back into the harbour.
Give it a Try
I’d only ever trusted one person in my life, so I had to learn to trust others, to open myself up to others. I didn’t find it easy, to begin with.
Meet a friend who’s good at listening, share how you’re feeling.
Sharing and confiding in others is an important part of the healing journey. Who do you know who's great at listening?