It was the famed English writer and scholar, J.R.R. Tolkien who said, “I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.”
Indeed, our fast-paced Americanized society prefers the things of instant gratification and in many cases, skipping lightly over loss. Yet, what Ted Wiard, director and co-founder of Golden Willow Retreat, understands to his core is that grief and loss aren’t things to be glossed over.
When, in a three-year span, Wiard was hit with unfathomable loss, a little bit of him died too. He knows what it feels like to lose the people and things that defined him. He understands the feelings of hopelessness and can relate to those who aren’t sure they can survive the devastation. He also knows that in life the proverbial rug can be pulled from underneath us and we can find a way to keep standing.
According to Wiard, whose smile and affable nature are all but contagious, Golden Willow Retreat was established 20 years ago to promote a healthy grieving experience and to offer people as he explained, “a place to be collectively held and supported during their time of loss.”
Wiard is a living, breathing example that grief and loss can not only be overcome but can also offer a path to acceptance and the peace – and smiles – that can follow.
“Loss happens anytime our foundation or reality has been rocked. And loss isn’t limited to the death of loved ones. It can include retirement, divorce, job loss and so much more. Golden Willow Retreat allows people to come, stay, and be held in a safe space while they learn to bridge the gap from grief to healing,” explained Wiard.
Loss and grief are part of the human condition – we all experience it at one time or another and society has not always recognized the need for time and space to adjust to the challenges that can be thrust upon us.
Golden Willow Retreat and its staff have been nationally recognized for their ability to meet people where they are and provide them with the healing space they need. The residential sanctuary is located on five acres in the village of Arroyo Hondo, surrounded by the mystique and healing powers of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
Residents typically spend one week at Golden Willow Retreat, although that can be adjusted as needed. Individualized programs can last from three days to two weeks for one person or a family.
“Everyone experiences loss; we all have that in common to some extent, yet everyone’s experience is individualized. It is important that the time for healing is individualized as well. The one-size-fits-all approach isn’t suitable for overcoming personal trauma and loss,” noted Wiard.
Golden Willow Retreat has a broad appeal and people have visited from Mexico, Canada and all over the United States. The sanctuary is also involved with the local community to support and provide opportunities for healing and understanding.
One example of that understanding is Wiard’s weekly column in the Taos News. Wiard responds to questions posed by those striving to understand the nuances of loss and the process that begins with grief and ends in healing. Topics range from family dynamics and codependency to the challenges of living during a pandemic and the importance of self-care.
Golden Willow Retreat also hosts weekly grief workshops on Zoom as well as in-person group sessions and weekend events. Golden Willow Counseling, with locations in Taos and Raton, is an additional resource that provides behavioral health support for the community’s mental wellness.