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Spaciousness. The word popped into my mind as I was headed down the N4 towards Old Joe’s Kaia where Marian Cottle and I were going to be facilitating our Journey of Loss Retreat over the weekend. It’s a beautiful drive through the mountains, farmlands and orchards, just 45 minutes from Mbombela where I live.

Where we create and hold space for participants to immerse themselves in their loss. To fully allow the grief, the heartache. To ugly cry if they need to, knowing they will be held, loved and supported.

Spaciousness. It’s an odd word to associate with grief and loss.

Grief often contracts us and our world. We shrink, wanting to hide from the emotional pain and the scrutiny and sympathy of those around us. We minimise our grief so that it fits into the mould society creates for it.  We endeavour to manage the daily routines, all the while suppressing our grief, our heartache. Our heart space and body try to hold it all, this quashed spaciousness.

I let the word float around in my brain, wondering why it had shown up. More thoughts followed as my car wound its way along the road.

We often refuse to allow the immensity of the pain into our life. The spaciousness of grief is the one thing we deny ourselves as we walk our Journey of Loss. Where we want to scream, we whisper. Where we want to yell curses at the world, at God, at life for stealing our joy, our happiness, our planned future, our beloved, we remain silent. Where we want to lash out, our hands remain limply at our sides.

We deny the spaciousness of grief at our peril. The body cannot contain this forever. We need to create space for the spaciousness. Sink into the intense pain. Find the person who will sit beside us, silently. Witnessing the spaciousness of our loss. Without interfering or trying to stop the flow.

It is in allowing the spaciousness of grief that we allow ourselves to begin to heal, to move forward on the Journey of Loss. As I arrived at the gates of  Old Joe’s Kaia I realized I had been given a powerful theme for the coming retreat.
By the end of the weekend we had witnessed how powerful the spaciousness of grief is. It was evidenced by the light in the participants eyes, the softening of the  lines of suffering on their faces and how they spoke of feeling more at peace with their situation.


After the death of her husband and soulmate of 38 years in 2019 and witnessing her own mother struggling to let go and move on, both very different grief processes Di Atherton followed a nudge from the Universe and completed certification with Sacred Dying SA to become a “death doula” (the other end of the spectrum to a birth doula) and end-of-life guide, supporting those having to face end-of-life or suffering bereavement and loss.

She has combined her teaching and healing work into a powerful offering, one where she holds a non-judgemental safe space to process grief, make sense of, and move beyond loss, to reach a place of acceptance, as well as supporting the physical body, which holds all the emotion and trauma that has been experienced. She and Marian Cottle, owner of Old Joe’s Kaia, have created a powerful and profound Journey of Loss Retreat. Di also runs grief workshops and offers one-one-one sessions.

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We need to create space for the spaciousness. Sink into the intense pain. Allow the hot tears to fall, the grief to wash over our body.

Di Atherton

Author Di Atherton

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