Speakers covered myriad of topics

Duane Hicks

Self-care and healing were the focus of an all-day women’s holistic health retreat held Saturday at the Copper River Inn here.
Hosted by the Rainy River District Women’s Shelter of Hope, the successful inaugural event featured a full slate of presenters, including keynote speaker Patti Phillips of Explore Life Coaching, who spoke on opening up the conversation about grief and healing one’s heart.
“We live in a culture that tend to avoid that topic and [yet] every human being has experienced grief, especially if you broaden the definition beyond death and divorce,” the Winnipeg-based grief recovery specialist told the Times.
“It can include things like kids leaving home [“the empty nest”], change in job, change in finances,” she noted.
“Aging is a grieving experience,” she added.
Simply put: if we can’t talk about grief, we can’t heal from it.
Phillips compared every grief experience to being like a brick.
“If we put a brick our backpack, we can carry on or we can choose not to put the brick in our backpack,” she remarked.
“Not putting a brick in the backpack is like dealing with the grief experience; avoiding it, like we typically do in our culture, means it goes in our backpack.
“And the backpack keeps getting filled up and it’s really, really heavy–to the point we can’t even live our lives,” she explained.
If we don’t know how to deal with grief, we have this fear–and it’s a reality–that we will experience grief again in the future,” Phillips added.
“But having this fear, and not knowing how to deal with inevitable grief, means that we don’t invest in life fully, meaning we miss out on new relationships, activities, or other opportunities, she stressed.
Phillips said there’s five steps to overcoming grief. The first is having awareness; to be able to identify something as a grief experience and not slough it off as something else.
The second step is acceptance of all of the feelings attached to the grief, accepting responsibility for our responses to that grief, and not judging ourselves for being not strong enough to push it away.
Phillips noted grief usually is not black-and-white but instead tied to a complicated mix of emotions.
For example, her mother had dementia and Phillips experienced “five years of losing her” before she passed away.
But when she died, Phillips experienced sadness, as well as relief in that her mother wasn’t suffering anymore and neither was she suffering seeing her mother suffer.
The third step is forgiveness. This does not mean we must forget what happened but rather we let go of the pain attached to it.
“Forgiveness and condoning are completely different,” Phillips noted. “Forgiveness is letting go of the resentment but not holding someone accountable for the behaviours.”
She clarified that forgiveness doesn’t get said out loud to the person you’re forgiving; you should have no expectation of the person to accept or apologize.
When you do that, you’re giving your power away. Forgiveness is an internal choice.
The fourth step is recovery, which includes taking the step of saying, “I forgive” and having it witnessed by another human being–but again, not by the person who is being forgiven.
The witness must know the expectation to not fix, judge, analyze, or evaluate you; they simply need to hear you and acknowledge you.
This step also includes apology (you taking responsibility for the hard things in a relationship) and gratitude (be grateful for the things you might not have ever said before).
Finally, the fifth step is maintenance, which means using the above tools on an ongoing basis “as losses and shifts in our life happen,” said Phillips.
Speaking more generally about women’s retreats, Phillips said the most important aspect of such a gathering is to create a sense of safety and trust, and she definitely felt it at Saturday’s event here.
“When that exists, women can speak freely about their emotions and what is true to them as opposed to hiding things,” she reasoned.
“When you can be true to yourself, and feel like you’re accepted, it makes a world of difference for moving forward,” she added.
“Women come to events like this and know that they’re not alone.”
Other presenters included April Labbé of Heart and Hustle personal training. The mother of four is a national bikini competitor in both the U.S. and Canada.
Labbé works with people to achieve a healthy lifestyle with the motivation that when you feel good, you are more able to helps others feel the same.
Jessica Wilson, of the Fort Frances Tribal Area Health Services (FFTAHS), spoke on the local anti-sex trafficking initiative.
Sex trafficking is happening here in town and the community must work together to stop it.
Interested parties can contact FFTAHS to have Wilson do a presentation.
Local art therapist Lindsay Hamilton, meanwhile, spoke on self-compassion and how to enhance it through creativity, and conducted a creative exercise.
Allene Perusse and Cheri Tolton Whatley then did a presentation on mindfulness and meditation, and closed the afternoon with a meditation session.
The event also featured several vendors and professional services, such as Jolee Nick of Pure Bliss and Beyond Organics Spa, Pamela Murray from Reiki White Rose Holistic Healing, Mary Kay rep Farrah Flinders, and Pam Edwards of Essential Oils.
Musical entertainment was provided by Piper Lidkea, Callahan Wiedenhoeft, and Cassandra Armstrong.