‘Healing the Wounds of Abuse’ – Grief to Grace program commences in Tasmania

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‘Healing the Wounds of Abuse’ – Grief to Grace program commences in Tasmania

By asking for help and undertaking a spiritual journey towards healing, abuse victims attending Tasmania’s first Grief to Grace retreat have embraced the journey of reclaiming the gift of their human dignity.

Led by Dr Theresa Burke, and arranged locally by Anne Sherston, the Grief to Grace retreat assisted attendees who had suffered from abuse, by combining Living Scripture with a number of therapeutic methods and group activities, to help heal those wounds.

“I wanted to do something to light a candle in the darkness and help heal,” explains Dr Burke who founded the Grief to Grace retreat program for Christians who have suffered from abuse.

“I know that with abuse people have had so many boundaries violated and Jesus will never violate our boundaries. He is not going to press in and push himself on anybody. I believe living scriptures give you an opportunity to experience him and then make a movement toward him.”

This unique program developed following the success of Dr Burke’s Rachel’s Vineyard retreats, which support healing after abortion. While the Rachel’s Vineyard retreats have been offered locally for a number of years, the March Grief to Grace retreat was the first time that this healing pathway had been offered in Tasmania. Seventeen retreatants attended the six-day program from throughout Australia.

“I have been around Rachel’s Vineyard for 12 years now, come May. In all that time, whether the retreats were here or overseas or at another site, you always hear stories of abuse and usually the history of someone who has experienced abortion and so we didn’t have anything here for them,” explained Mrs Sherston.

“Grief to Grace isn’t just for sexual abuse victims, but it’s for people that have been abused in any way, domestic violence, physical, emotional, and clergy abuse.

“Hopefully we will have one [Tasmanian Grief to Grace retreat] a year,” said Mrs Sherston.

Fr Dominic Allain, International Pastoral Director of Grief to Grace, also attended the retreat and explained how Christianity is central to this specific healing pathway.

“In focusing on the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus, at each stage they [retreatants] are encouraged to reflect on their own suffering to unite with that… to hear the story of an innocent, good man who for no reason is being brutalised, tortured, scourged and betrayed, even at the level of just an ordinary human level as it were, is a way of drawing sympathy and allowing them to feel sympathy for that part of themselves that was harmed,” he explained.

“This isn’t just like some kind of cute psychology. This is a beautiful integration of a whole Christian tradition. I came and I did the retreat. It was like balm for the soul, because it allowed me to show that part to Jesus for Jesus to heal… It was the most profound experience of healing,” said Fr Dominic.

Archbishop Julian has supported the establishment of Grief to Grace in Tasmania, and spoke to attendees at the retreat about their courage in asking for help. 

“You have been willing to open your lives to each other and to the Lord. You have taken a great leap of trust. You have decided not to keep the hurt and pain you have experienced locked away inside.

“The Lord urged us to ask for what we need: “ask and you will receive; seek and you will find…” I am sure we are very aware of this teaching. However, we are often so slow to ask, especially for deep personal matters. But you have taken this step on this retreat,” said His Grace.
 

Photo: L-R Fr Dominic Allain, Dr Theresa Burke, and Mrs Anne Sherston who led the Grief to Grace retreat in Hobart in March.