From the moment I saw the ROL post on my FB wall it felt like serendipity. I clicked the link, read the post and contacted them. I felt such warmth and connection in the emails that followed and was so excited to attend the retreat. As a survivor I had concerns, with PTSD I struggle sometimes with travel and going to a place that I didn’t know with a bunch of strangers gave me butterflies. I was excited with some apprehension as well. All along I had the feeling that it could be life changing – and from the moment I arrived; it was.

The location was beautiful and serene – pristine nature all around me. The location was beautiful; large and luxurious are the words I would use to describe it. Hugs arrived with every introduction and the immediacy of connection upon acquaintance was noticeable to me. It felt profound and pure. That was just the beginning of many inspirational experiences on retreat.

ROL took care of everything for us, every detail was caring and conscientious. The meals were amazing, the environment safe and warm. Together, five women, five strangers formed a bond that I had never experienced. As survivors we healed each other in many ways over three days together. The bond was immediate and secure. ROL gave us the perfect environment and opportunity to simply be ourselves and take care of each other; which we did.

My experiences on ROL retreat have changed my life in the most beautiful ways. The retreat experience both enables me as a survivor and inspires me with my advocacy. Not only do I feel that I experienced elements of healing there, but I formed bonds that will remain forever. When survivors are together, it is powerful how we can naturally support one another in a way that no one else can.

The unique experience that this retreat provided is something that should be available to survivors in this capacity and more. As a survivor and a recipient who benefited from the ROL retreat, I would ask that all agencies, organizations and corporate entities provide resources to support ROL in the community. We need this organization, it has helped me and will help others so very much. Please consider the good that you will do by supporting an organization that supports survivors in the most wonderful and useful ways. You can make a difference and together, we all can.

Walking through the door, I was greeted by Shari; it was like travelling through time and becoming an 8 year old again. I was instantly feeling vulnerable leaving my guards outside the cottage and allowing Shari and Kim in the vortex of this trauma in my mind. I felt the instant emotional hug. Being the first to arrive allowed me to adapt to the others arriving. Before everybody had even arrived, I had already had to chance to discuss some memories and was already in tears, feeling emotions that I had not felt in a long time.

Once the introduction was completed by Shari and Kim we sat down, 5 complete strangers for a wonderful dinner prepared by our hosts before they left. The concept of us being strangers was just a fact, but in reality we were closer to each other than we could even imagine! There were no limits to what we could share with each other; crying, sharing, relaxing, laughing… then crying again, hugging… what a roller coaster of fabulous emotions to finally extract from ourselves. Everybody spoke of their experience and did so with so much emotion; every single one of us connected with what was being shared.

The next morning, we were treated with a yoga session. This allowed me to sink in the relaxed environment and connect with myself even more. We also did an art exercise geared to open our minds.

In our separate rooms we were offered, amongst other things, a book and a pen. This was one of my favorite things about this experience. I wrote a lot of memories that weekend as I had the time to do so. While sharing my experiences, more of my memories came to me and it made it easier for me to capture these in writing. Thank you for that.

The hardest part, but also the best was leaving each other; learning so many beautiful things about 4 other women that were not dealt great cards in life was more than life changing. There are so many beautiful qualities in these ladies; some are artistic, some our positively spiritual, others have so much life experience…. so amazing to put that all together.

With this experience, Rae of Light gives a chance to an individual to hold on to what is good and allows the trauma to be a trauma in your life not a life of trauma. We, 5 strangers, were able to give (even for a glimpse of time) hope to the others that life was not only about our traumas. There were beautiful memories to remember and new ones to be created.

After giving many hugs to each and every one there, I sat in my car. Watching the others leave was the saddest moment; that is the moment you realize the there was a strong bound created with these ladies, something to be understood only by us. I left second last and kept on looking in my rear view mirror to not loose visual of the last moment, the last car. Once I did, I cried and sobbed for a good half hour regretting to not have stopped for one last round of hugs before they were out of sight.

This experience is something that I hope to recreate with the ladies I met that weekend; It was both refreshing and therapeutic to feel supported, understood and to just simply have some ears to talk to about our experience. This is certainly the beginning of a beautiful and rewarding idea from Rae of Light. My words cannot express the level of appreciation I have for having the privilege to participate. It was well organized, very relaxing and in a great safe environment to allow us to share freely.

Thank you to Shari and Kim for the strength you have; for having the ability to reach out to the ones that are hurting in the hopes of giving them, at the very least or even for just a weekend, a little glimpse of happiness and self-worth.

Overall, it was a wonderful experience. I observed a lot of bonding and sharing. Providing people who have shared similar trauma an opportunity to spend time together in a safe environment is powerful. The survivor is reminded that they are not alone. For me that was one of the biggest learnings in my early recovery. Being with others who can even come close to understanding how you relate to yourself and the worlds around you is very healing.

The food was amazing and plentiful. It was interesting to watch the ‘roles’ each person took on – preparing, setting tables, cleaning up etc etc. It was a natural evolution and collaboration. It was homey and comforting and safe.

The accommodations were exceptional – honestly can not believe how awesome that place was!!

Yoga and painting were great activities and even though it rained it did not matter – we had room and an opportunity to share silent space which I feel is so important in healing. Being comfortable in silence around others and going deep together is powerful.

The gifts in our rooms were so thoughtful. Until it broke – I wore my necklace almost daily and always in times I felt I needed to draw on the energy of that shared experience. I have it on my dresser and hold the pendant and look at it when I need it. The journal has more chapters of my book in it:) Really, everything made us feel so special.