Reflections on a weekend retreat for veterans couples

At the beginning of November, CVN and the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) co-sponsored a weekend retreat designed for veterans and their partners at the Silver Spur Ranch outside of Bandera, TX.  The retreat was designed to help couples cope, heal, and support each other, particularly in the face of grief and loss.  Seven couples from across the country attended the 3-day event, which was led by highly experienced TAPS grief and family counselors.

The weekend was a mixture of difficult conversations and inspiring stories.  Through education, storytelling, and peer support, couples spoke candidly with each other, with other couples, and with counselors about the power of forgiveness, the difficulty of self-expression, and the pain of loss.  The transformation of the couples over the course of the weekend was profound, as was the strength of the connections that were made between couples and with the counselors.

Not only were the conversations important, but the activities and surroundings at the secluded and serene ranch helped to create an environment of reflection and care.  Couples took time to hike through the Texas Hill Country.  Many rode horses together.  An afternoon hayride took everyone into a large herd of majestic longhorns who posed for many photos.  Evenings were spent at the campfire, eating s’mores and laughing at stories about first dates, weddings, and children.

At the end of the retreat, couples provided feedback on their experiences and what they learned throughout the weekend.

Some reflections were:

Being able to share my problems and what we have done to recover was really helpful. It was great to know we are not alone, and to hear what others have done to recover.

 Learning that grief, loss or guilt are main reasons behind anger, isolation, etc. was most helpful. Allowing time for couples to connect alone or when given activities, to complete and then discuss in a group were helpful too.

 I learned to give my spouse space at times he is angry – I am not the only person going through such things and there are people who care.

These statements after a time of healing and connection are so important, particularly as we enter this week of Thanksgiving.  No matter what you and your loved ones may be coping with, it is crucial to remember that you are not alone.  That there are others who have walked in very similar shoes.  And that there are so many people who care.

From those of us at Cohen Veterans Network, we wish you and your loved ones a warm, safe, and peaceful Thanksgiving.

By Caitlin Thompson, Ph.D.
CVN Vice President, Community Partnerships