Ute Amann-Seidel, the mastermind behind Fire & Rain Soul Spa retreats, talks to us about bringing people together and practising self-care when we go through grief and bereavement. We also talk about why it’s incredibly important to remembering loved ones and how mindfulness can help us make the most of our lives.
Well, the story of my business Fire & Rain starts with a devastating life event – the worst thing that ever happened to me: the sudden death of my fiancé. He was a fit young man and we had just celebrated both our 50th birthdays, when he died of an asthma attack, only 4 weeks after we got engaged in Paris. My life fell apart, I felt lost, fragile, hopeless and thought I’d never be able to be happy again.
Many things lost their meaning, including my job as a senior management consultant. However, gradually I did start to feel better and found things that were good for me and helped with healing: yoga, long walks in the beautiful nature here in Scotland, mindfulness and meditation, creative things, reading stories of people who had found happiness again after a similar loss, speaking to people in a similar situation…
The feeling of urgency to leave my job and do something that would be more meaningful to me (where I could help others) became stronger and stronger – until I quit my job and took the plunge – well, and then Fire & Rain was born.
The focus of all soul spa retreats is on self-care and enjoyment, so it’s about re-treating ourselves. We widows often forget to look after ourselves properly.
Everything in the programme is optional and guests can dip in and out of (compassionate) company as they feel like. I’m always amazed by the humour, wisdom and supportive spirit within the group.
We can “just be” – without having to pretend or please anyone. Nobody gets judged and that’s so refreshing! We do talk about the heavy stuff too though. After all, death is what brings people together here. We can talk about anything that’s on our minds...even questions like “what if my husband is now back with his ex-wife in the next world...? What do people do with the ashes? I never thought there would be so much of it! (ashes that is...).
Peer support is a very important aspect of the soul spas – being with people who are going through the same thing. Grief is very personal and every journey is different – but there are many issues and emotions most grievers have in common.
We are their main rememberers. By talking about them we keep them alive and honour their memory.
All Soul Spas are planned and put together with love and much attention to detail. Everything in the programme is optional and there is plenty of time to just drift and relax.
The main ingredients are:
- Nature: walking and just being in nature – the healing effects of being in nature are well recognised – looking at the stunning scenery, listening to the birds or the sound of the waves are just so relaxing and inspiring.
- Time and space to be alone, and just drift....but with the option to dip in and out of warm, compassionate company whenever you feel like it. It’s important to spend time alone and to dare to allow anything that comes up. It takes courage to take time alone and be still. We encourage this and guests feel more comfortable in the “safe space” we offer.
- Exploring a new location with all its local treasures – it’s so inspiring! It’s a very authentic way of discovering places, with lots of insider knowledge.
- Sharing stories (or not) – especially when the death of the partner was some time ago one may feel they can’t talk about their story with others around them anymore because of expectations for them to “move on”. On the retreats we have an atmosphere of really listening and understanding. Tears flow (some of sorrow) but most of laughter.
- Yummy, freshly made food (including cakes and chocolates, of course) – yes, and not over-healthy, clean-eating, but food and drink we can ENJOY – life’s too short (as we know best). And drinks!
- Yoga and mindfulness meditations & exercises – both help to get clarity, inner peace, new sense of perspective. Rather than complicated poses we offer simple exercises guests can build into their daily routines, self-care routines that can easily become new habits. And feedback in our closed facebook group has been that they have been doing this!
- Creative writing – Every guest gets a beautiful journal/ sketchbook where they note down the intention for the day every morning, notes from the writing exercises, drawings and more. It becomes a soul journal they can go back to anytime to remind themselves of the insights from the retreat. This is an opportunity to try new things – don’t be scared or put off by the thought of doing some writing. You’ll be amazed by what will come out!
- Other creative things – drawing, painting, making memory objects from things found on the beach or on our walks.
- Reading by the fire or on the beach – we take along our library of helpful resources; I found it very helpful to read stories of people who’ve been there and survived and thrived. We always build in plenty of time to sit and relax, and literally do nothing.
- Tasteful spaces & environments (that’s one of my personal loves) creating tasteful beautiful spaces, for the extra feelgood effect. That includes putting little surprises in guests’ rooms for their arrival....
The next soul spas coming up are:
15-20 September 2018, Isle of Arran, Scotland
7-12 October 2018, Chateau St Michel in Saint-Lizier, France
People can also sign up for our newsletter to be the first to hear about our latest Soul Spas:
After David died I started going for long walks whenever I could. Preferably on my own as I wouldn’t have to explain myself if I wanted to stop and look at a tree, scan the sky for a sign of a rainbow or listen to a bird singing to me. It made me feel closer to him and I know that many people feel closer to their loved ones in nature. We start seeing things differently after loss…
I’m originally from Germany but have been living in Scotland for over 21 years now. My heart’s in Scotland and I’m homesick for it whenever I’m away. It’s just so beautiful and stunning. I think I don’t need to explain its healing effects once people have been there or seen photos (e.g. of Calgary Beach, the Isle of Iona, any of the standing stones sites).
My mindfulness teacher Avinash (also one of my co-hosts) captures the essence of it in one simple phrase: a kind way of being in the here and now. That’s it, it’s so simple. But we need to keep reminding ourselves to do it.
These retreats don’t end when guests step onto the ferry back to the mainland. We all take things home – our journals filled with precious words, images and treasures; memory objects we’ve created, soul food recipes, lots of photos....but most of all new inspiration for things we can easily build into our lives, and new friends.
Some of the guests from the Hebridean Wildscapes Soul Spa (we have an email group as well as a FB group) have just arranged to spend this Christmas together! Someone compared this new bond to a golden thread that connects us, even if we don’t constantly post or email...it’s just there. Which is a beautiful thing, and it makes me very proud having contributed to it a little bit…
Some guest quotes from the guest book and feedback sessions:
"I feel like I’ve known those people forever!
It was all so relaxed and relaxing. No pressure at all to join in at activities. There was some structure, but everything was just flowing.
I felt so supported and listened to. I could just be – as it says on the website – without getting judged.
This was a life-changing experience for me and I now feel more positive about my future without him.
Thank you to Ute for kindly answering all our questions. We hope you learned more about Soul Spa retreats and how they can help those of you going through grief and bereavement.
More information about Fire & Rain: