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Below is the Grief to Grace website which provides retreats for victims of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. Testimonials follow the message from the founders of Grief to Grace.
A message from the founders of Grief to Grace:
Grief to Grace: Healing the Wounds of Abuse is a psychological and spiritual program for anyone who has suffered degradation or violation through physical, emotional, sexual, or spiritual abuse. It is appropriate for those who have endured sexual abuse, rape, incest, neglect, or other forms of traumatic violation in childhood, adolescence, or as an adult. It is also suitable for those who have suffered abuse by a minister or a member of the clergy.
Grief to Grace is a process for helping victims of abuse to discover spiritual healing and transformation. This program was created to end the isolation and secrets of abuse within a retreat process that is fully centered upon the person and presence of Jesus Christ, the Divine Physician. By entering into an intimate and powerful journey through the Sorrowful Mysteries, participants are gently invited to unite their own suffering with the passion of Jesus. By traveling the paschal mystery of their own lives, they will also share in the new life of His resurrection.
Grief to Grace is a journey of Faith. The Living Scriptures, together with journaling, group activities, therapeutic facilitation, cognitive restructuring, discussions and grief work, offer an effective healing process grounded in Jesus Christ, the Word of God, and the Sacraments. Grief to Grace is a powerful psychological and spiritual journey providing safety and hope in the midst of emotional chaos. It is a pilgrimage to discover the love, tenderness, belonging, safety, joy, and peace that are often missing from the stories of abuse victims."
-Dr. Theresa Burke, PhD
Grief to Grace retreat participant testimonials:
My Grief to Grace Testimony, May 31, 2019
“We have escaped like a bird from the hunters trap. The trap has been broken and we have escaped.” Ps.124:7
It has been 20 years since I escaped a broken abusive man that I called husband. I had traveled an immeasurable distance emotionally since my divorce. Through the urging of a dear friend I decided to attend the retreat. I knew deep down I still had work to do but felt apprehensive as the days drew near to the retreat. I wasn’t sure I wanted to stir up all those old memories and deep seated buried emotions.
The word ineffable comes to mind when I try to explain to someone what went on throughout the week of the Grief to Grace Retreat. The experience is profound! The living scriptures take you into the wounds of our savior and into our own wounds and the wounds of the other participants. I began to see in a new light who I was. I saw how I had often times been afraid to be vulnerable because of the false belief that who I was wasn’t good enough. The invisible hang over of some of the shame from those years still shadowed me. The anger work we did regarding our perpetrator helped clear out my archive of oppressive thoughts of un-forgiveness that hung on from the past. The scripture “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities: the punishment that brought us peace was on him and by His wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5 takes on a very personal new meaning.
Dear Grief to Grace, April, 2019
After years of "Working" and learning to forgive those who assaulted me and my family, Grief to Grace offered a deeper healing that can only come from the Lord.
During the retreat I was able to face the shame I still buried deep within - to gain understanding of the shame and grief that the Lord experienced on the cross - to grieve the loss of the life that Jesus truly wanted for me.
I was able to sit with my Blessed Mother and be comforted by her - to just cry and give it all and not have to hold it together.
Although everyday life is still full of "Work" to do, I now have a joy and a new confidence that allows me to walk in the light of His presence without shame. To reclaim the family He has blest me with as a "Holy Family".
All Praise to God.
Dear Margaret, November, 2018
When Dr. Theresa Burke asked me to make my own Grief to Grace retreat, I wholeheartedly said, “Yes, I’d love to go to Minneapolis and do the retreat.” "However,” I had to add, “I also have to tell you that I don’t have the money to pay for it.”
As a Rachel’s Vineyard leader I do know the requirement to make a personal Grief to Grace retreat before one can work on the team. Yet, to begin with, I saw my little role in Grief to Grace as simply helping jump-start a team in Austria, so they could implement the basics for their own site. I had no intention to be heavily involved in the works. That, though, was not God’s plan. He threw me into the water and told me to swim, against all odds. There was no way around doing my own retreat first, despite having absolutely no money in my account to pay for it. My family had just been through pure hell with a failing business and our savings were wiped out. We lived on a very tight budget. So, I prayed, “Lord, if this is your will, you know where the money is, and you need to find it for me to pay for this retreat.”
He did. The money turned up, but I had no idea how. Only later I learned that a chunk of it was coming from To Bear Witness, which makes me smile. The name of my donors is so fitting because bearing witness comes easy after a Grief to Grace retreat. One cannot help but praise God for what he has done for each of the participants who sought healing of their emotional, psychological, and spiritual hurts.
I entered the retreat half-trainee, half-participant. On one hand, I needed to learn how such retreat is properly run, on the other to experience the retreat just like my fellow participants who came seeking healing from abuse. Learning, I did. And, surprisingly, great healing I received too. The Lord led me to hidden places in my soul that were hurting so much and healed my heart-crushing wounds in a most loving, miraculous way, with a tenderness only HE can provide. It was a retreat of healing and restoration for me, and at the same time an amazing experience to witness the transformation gradually taking place in the other group members. God showed us miracles of transformation which people might not believe possible within a short week. Yet, He is our mighty healer and faithful to people who so desperately seek the touch of his healing hand.
Since the retreat, I am prepared to tackle the tasks God set before me. I can do this because I was healed by his unconditional love in a very personal, awe-inspiring way. The healing of suffering souls is a gift that people of all races and all backgrounds deserve. A Grief to Grace retreat provides the wonderful platform to let Jesus’ love flow freely to each participant.
Well-prepared and equipped to help implement the program in Austria, and hopefully later in Germany, I feel that the money donated to me by To Bear Witness for “my” retreat will reach out further and spread its fruit to Europe.
Thank you so much, dear Margaret, from the bottom of my heart. Without your scholarship it would not have been possible. Let me also thank you on behalf of the Austrian volunteers who will benefit from what I experienced and learnt, and whom I can teach now to do the same for others.
May God bless you, and may He keep you and your work always immersed in His abundant love,
Dear Annie's Place, November, 2018
When I first heard about Grief to Grace Retreats, I knew immediately that it was just what I needed. For years I had been carrying a burden of “something” but I did not know what. I was afraid to confront it for fear of some unexpected awful part of me. I also knew I needed to face it and get rid of it in order to move on with my life.
My first marriage was a disaster from the beginning, with pornography and sexually inappropriate behaviors initiated by my husband. When our teenage daughter reported to county officials that he had been approaching her in totally wrong ways, my first reaction was, “Thankfully he will finally receive the help he needs.” But that was only the beginning of a long yucky journey that included a lot of un-helpful counseling, and ended in my divorcing him.
A few years later I met and married a wonderful God-loving man who was perfect for me. Our marriage was so good, even when he had Parkinson’s Disease and Lewy Body Dementia, and passed away. Since he died, I have come to realize that now I am in a period of my life when I can take care of ME. Then I learned of Grief to Grace.
I decided to attend the retreat with an open mind, and accept that the leaders knew what we needed to do to progress through our problems. There were a couple times when I was not so sure I wanted to participate in their activities, but I stayed with it and am very glad I did. The exercises and activities were so carefully planned that they gently led me out of my fear to face the reality of how much my first husband had hurt me and our family, as well as my jealousy that my daughter seemed to be healed or had closure about the abuse while I had not. That explained why I kept giving her little jabs and reminders of what had happened over thirty years ago. By the end of the retreat, I felt free, like a butterfly out of its cocoon. I no longer needed to hurt my daughter with reminders, and I no longer needed to dwell on the pain of that first marriage. It was gone, nailed to the cross, and Jesus was with me all the way.
Since the retreat, I have apologized to my daughter and she accepted it well. I don’t find myself thinking about the abuse as often, and when I do, I put it aside, reminding myself that Jesus has it now so I do not need to carry that burden any longer. I am free of the unknown fear and can move on with my life in a healthier manner. I have recommended the Grief to Grace Retreat to many people. I made a huge difference in my life..Praise be to Jesus, my Savior and Redeemer.
Dear Annie’s Place, September, 2017
I am writing to thank you for the partial scholarship for the Grief to Grace retreat. I can’t tell you how helpful the retreat has been to me. In the five days, I spent on the retreat, I made more progress in healing than I had in five years of counseling. I feel as though a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. My husband is very grateful too to have a happier, energetic wife.
On the retreat, I was able to clear out the trauma that had been with me for years. Margaret can testify to the anger that I poured out on the cardboard box: My back hurt for two days afterward. Most important though, through it all I was able to connect with myself and God in a new way. I loved the meditations on the retreat. I loved being able to pray again.
I cannot thank you enough for your support to me in attending this retreat. I cannot thank you enough for caring enough about my healing and others on the retreat so as to pledge such concrete, helpful support. You are truly carrying on Christ’s ministry of healing.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for being a part of Christ’s healing love in His Church.
Annie’s Place, September, 2017
Abuse happens: physical; mental; emotional; sexual. What do you do with those episodes, those experiences, woven into the fabric of your life? You hide it, bury it, or refuse to believe it happened to you. You move on with your life not realizing the damaging effects of abuse are coloring and sabotaging your behavior and relationships. Eventually, you look back and see a trail of brokenness and destruction. Unconsciously, I became my own abuser by being highly critical of myself and unable to receive love from other people or God. I struggled with depression and suicide.
The Grief to Grace retreat gave me a safe place, a loving healing place, to process and bring out of the darkness my pain, grief, and shame that resulted from being treated in such an unloving and degrading way. Together with Jesus, fellow retreatants, and our companion guides, who also knew the tragedy of abuse, we walked through the memories of our abuse. We received healing, comfort, and validation. We were no longer powerless victims of abuse but deeply loved and valued children of God restored to our original purity. We explored how the trauma of abuse can form patterns of behavior that are unhealthy ways of coping and how to form healthy ways of living free. We worked through the anger and emotional by products of abuse. We walked with Jesus through the suffering and death joining our suffering with His and nailing it to the cross. We also rose with Him on the third day to a new life.
I feel like a dark veil has been lifted off of me and I can now see and experience the light and love God has always had for me. Each day I must choose to believe in my God given dignity and worth and embrace the love God continually offers to me. I am deeply grateful.
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