Another friend runs women’s retreats in different locations around the country and around the world. The wife is driving around town crying as usual and her retreat friend calls and says You need to come on this trip, it will change your life, and she’s thinking she’s had about enough life change for one year. She doesn’t honestly think anything is going to get her from sad to not sad at this point. She knows being in Italy with her friend would not suck. But this trip is less than a month away, and she begins to list all the reasons she can’t go, starting and ending with no money, and retreat friend is like We can work it out, and she’s like I don’t have it, and retreat friend is like Could you get airfare, and she’s like I’d still have to pay for a dog-sitter, the husband is being weird about dog-sitting now, and retreat friend is like Just ask him and call me back, and so she asks him and he says Sure no problem and she calls retreat friend back and says I guess I’m coming to Italy. This person is giving her a very big gift. It’s overwhelming. It’s income her friend could be earning to give away this slot. But it’s what she does. Retreat friend is all about giving, listening, making space for people, and connecting them.
On her first night in Italy, at an eight-hundred-year-old stone villa in a field of lavender in Tuscany, retreat friend hands out delicate silver bracelets to each of the women that say I got you. They all put them on and they all leave them on.
There are twenty-five women at this retreat, five who are here on a scholarship. Retreat friend raises money for women to come who have recently suffered some type of serious loss. Loss here meaning death of a close loved one, not meaning their husband had a midlife crisis and left. It is not a grief retreat, but once they all start meditating, doing yoga, writing exercises, grief emerges as an overarching theme. The wife understands that she’s grieving the marriage, and she knows other kinds of loss too. But she hasn’t lost a partner, or a child, or both. So she feels a bit self-conscious about being raw in the way that she is, among these women. For about five minutes. These women, funny, joyful, and heartbroken, fully understand that grief isn’t one thing. These women are present in their lives and their feelings. These women share their stories with the wife and when the wife shares her story they tell her about their own divorces. They know. You’re grieving, this is normal.
By the end of the week the wife is in love with twenty-five women and a border collie covered in burrs. She’s still in her grief when she leaves. She’s still in her grief now. She doesn’t go from sad to not sad. She just goes.